Wine Time

Who needs those overpriced California wines? Houston sommeliers embrace Don Melchor alternatives

Who needs overpriced Cali wines? Sommeliers embrace new alternatives

Puente Alto Vineyard in upper Maipo for don Melchor wine
Don Melchor wines are grown in the Puente Alto Vineyard in upper Maipo in Chile. AlexandraCorvo.com
Enrique Tirado of Don Melchor wine
Winemaker Enrique Tirado came to Houston to demonstrate how Don Melchor wines taste as they age. ConchaYToro.com
Don Melchor 2009 cabernet sauvignon wine bottle label
The 2009 is still very fruit forward, but it should mellow over time. ConchaYToro.com
Puente Alto Vineyard in upper Maipo for don Melchor wine
Enrique Tirado of Don Melchor wine
Don Melchor 2009 cabernet sauvignon wine bottle label

Back 1986, businessman Don Melchor Concha y Toro imported French vines from Bordeaux to cultivate high-end wines in Chile. Now, Don Melchor wines are recognized as something of a value among wine connoisseurs even though the current vintage sells for $157 at Americas in River Oaks.

Local wine writer Mike Riccetti argues that they're also very food friendly

At a recent tasting with Don Melchor winemaker Enrique Tirado, wine professionals from across the city had the chance to taste four vintages of the winery's cabernet sauvignon to compare the way the wines have aged over time and better understand why they've become such an appealing alternative to pricier vintages from California.

Of the wines, the 1989 surprised the sommeliers sitting near me with its "youthful" taste and soft tannins that made it more reminiscent of a pinot noir than the heavier cabernet. A vintage from 1993 had more tannins but still drank well despite being 20 years old. Both of these vintages are a testament to the wine's quality and offer hope to collectors that more modern vintages will show similar promise as they age. 

The 2006 vintage emerged as the consensus favorite of the table. Its soft finish and dry, tart tannins paired particularly well with the steak served at Tango & Malbec as part of the lunch. As for the recently released 2009, the group concluded that its fruit-forward flavors and sweet tannins make it a bottle that will go better with food once it ages a bit.