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Maipo Valley, Chile
• Suggested retail and availability: $180, at fine wine shops; 50 cases imported to the U.S. (distributed by Heritage Wine Cellars, Niles)
The balance of power, elegance and refreshment earned Chadwick my vote during The Berlin Tasting. Other palates pointed to fresh currant and cassis-like fruit; my notes add sweet spice, tobacco and cigar box complexities. Some tasters found fine tannins, which are powerful and richly textured enough for me. "New World" we all agreed for drinkability. A price tag nearly half that of wines of comparable quality makes a compelling argument to choose Vinedo Chadwick.
Nothing inspires silence among wine professionals - accustomed as we are to noisy dining rooms, delivery dock disputes and the raucous conviviality of the liquor business.
Nothing, except great wine.
No surprise then that the only sounds rising above the white noise whoosh of The Pennisula Hotel's air conditioning were respectful slurps and reverential sighs as Chicago's top palates gathered recently to compare wines of France, Italy and Chile in a re-creation of The Berlin Tasting.
Originally conducted in 2004, The Berlin Tasting gathered international wine professionals to taste blind (i.e. with identity obscured) and rank established classics including Chateaux Lafite and Latour, Tignanello and Sassicaia alongside the relatively unknown wines of Chilean Vina Errazuriz.
In an astounding showing, the top scoring wine was Errazuriz' Vinedo Chadwick.
A fluke? Once, possibly. But over six years, with six subsequent vintages, Errazuriz Proprietor Eduardo Chadwick has traveled the world from Tokyo to Toronto, Sao Paulo to Chicago with concrete results: the finest wines of Chile rank on par with or exceed the quality of the greatest wines of the world.
Chile has charmed world wine lovers with value since the 1990s, but goes largely unnoticed for finesse. "France and Italy have history; California became a critical favorite in the 1960s, but Chile had no ultimate expression of quality," recounts Chadwick.
Then, he met Stephen Spurrier, who organized The Paris Tasting of 1976 (subject of book and film), which compared then unknown California wines favorably to French classics. "The conclusion was not that California wines were better," says Spurrier, "but that they were in the same league."
When Chadwick dared the experiment with Chilean wines, Spurrier recognized Chile's destiny and signed on.
In Chicago, the ballroom swelled with commentary as Spurrier unveiled bottles from their egalitarian brown paper bags. "I knew it was Haute Brion!" crowed one taster. "Not a good Napa vintage," opined another. But as the world's legendary wines were revealed, leaving Errazuriz KAI in the penultimate spot (bested only by Stag's Leap Vineyard Cabernet), the results spoke loud and clear: for exceptional complexity, power and finesse, fine wine lovers may now turn to Chile.
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Contact her at email@example.com.