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Casa Lapostolle offers good, inexpensive wines

Apaltawinery

   About 100 miles south of Santiago, in Chile's central valley, is a winery called Casa Lapostolle. The soil, the climate and the vineyard workers are Chilean.

     Everything else is French: the winery, above, the owner, the chief wine consultant, even the grapes, albeit a century or more removed.
   Ninety-seven percent of the wine is exported, to the United States, England, Russia and beyond. Few Chileans ever taste it.
   "Only the wealthy people in Santiago can afford it," says Jérôme Poisson, a French-born winemaker at Casa Lapostolle who is on a U.S.tour this fall.
   "Chile was never a big wine-drinking country like Argentina," Poisson says. "They drink beer or pisco or boxed wines."
   Chile's loss is our gain. Casa Lapostolle wines are great values for the money -- from the crisp and fruity $10 sauvignon blanc to the smooth and powerful $25 Cuvée Alexandre to the shifting, complex, even savory $70 red blend of carmenère, merlot and cabernet sauvignon called Clos Apalta.
   The wines are the products of strong personalities, beginning with "flying winemaker'' consultant Michel Rolland. The Bordeaux winemaker guides more than 100 wineries worldwide -- and sometimes is accused of minimizing the natural differences among their products by his insistence on super-ripe grapes and extensive aging in powerfully flavored French oak barrels.
   "He visits three or four times a year," says Poisson. ‘‘Once before the harvest, then two or three times during blending."
   Blending decisions are made by Rolland, chief winemaker Jacques Begarie and French winery owner Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle.
   "You need a strong personality to work with Michel Rolland," says Poisson. "But she [Alexandra] wants thelast word in blending."
   For example, in the 2006 vintage, the $70-a-bottle Clos Apalta wine wasn't quite up to her standards. Poisson suggested demoting some of its grapes to the $25 Cuvée Alexandre merlot eventhough it would cut Clos Apalta production from 6,000 bottles to 3,000.
   "She said, ‘Go ahead.' Shehas to take a long-term view of creating only the best quality."
   So here’s a tip: If you can score a bottle of the 2006 Cuvée Alexandre Merlot, it'll have some pretty high powered grapes. You read it here first.

Casamerlot_2

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

   • 2008 Casa Sauvi-
gnon Blanc
, Rapel Valley
(90 percent sauvignon blanc,
10 percent semillon): Crisp
and fresh, almost spritzy;
intensely fruity with flavors
of melons and minerals; $10.
2005 Casa Lapos-
tolle Cuvée Alexandre
Merlot,
Apalta Vineyard (85
percent carmenère, 15 per-
cent Merlot): black plums,
mulberries and bitter choco-
late; smooth, ripe, opulent;
long finish; $25.
   • 2004 Casa Lapos-
tolle Clos Apalta
, Rapel
Valley: complex, shifting aro-
mas of tar and roses; flavors
of mulberries and licorice;
big, ripe, smooth tannins;
long finish; $70.

RECOMMENDED
   • 2007 Casa Chardon-
nay,
Casablanca Valley: hint
of oak and mint; tangy tan-
gerines, ripe fruit; tart finish;
$13.
   • 2007 Casa Merlot,
Rapel Valley (85 percent
merlot, 15 percent cabernet
sauvignon): black cherry and
herbal aromas and flavors;
ripe tannins, long finish; $13.
   • 2006 Casa Cabernet
Sauvignon
, Rapel Valley:
aromas of cassis, aged meat,
iodine and oak; flavors of
black cherries and espresso;
firm tannin; good steak wine;
$15.

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Enrique Soto

Dear Mr. Tasker.
In reference to the grapes being French.

The president of Chile is Michelle Bachelet of French ancestry, but Chilean 100%.

Those grapes emigrated from France to Chile many
generations ago(before phylloxera)and all their
offspring have been born in Chile.

I would say they are Chilean grapes of French descent.
Best regards: Enrique Soto

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