Tag Archives: Cono Sur

National disgrace? Chilean is Tour de France wine sponsor

tour de france wineHow angry would Americans be if a British company sponsored the Fourth of July? No doubt a Twitter-pocalypse would result, with much rending of hashtags. So it’s not surprising to see that a group of French winemakers are threatening to disrupt this year’s Tour de France, the greatest bike race in the world, because a Chilean producer is the tour’s wine sponsor.

The Wine Curmudgeon appreciates the winemakers’ grande colere; wine is part of French life in a way those of us here can only imagine, and the tour is almost as important. I used to cover cycling, and there isn’t that much to see. Nevertheless, millions of people line French highways every year to watch for a couple of minutes as the riders flash by.

Somehow, though, the Chilean Cono Sur and its Bicicleta brand is sponsoring the tour. Said one French winemaker from the Languedoc in southern France: “We feel humiliated,” and it’s hard to argue with him. Even the NFL, for all of its faux pas, has the good sense to sell itself to Bud Light instead of a German beer. Even more humiliating, the tour’s sponsor says it sees nothing wrong with the deal, showing that bosses are bosses regardless of nationality.

Which is not to say Cono Sur makes crummy wine. Far from it — the Bicicleta pinot noir is in the $10 Hall of Fame, and the brand finished sixth in last year’s best cheap wine poll. Still, one would think someone at Cono Sur would have suspected that French winemakers, notorious for their protests, would object and that the brand would have to pay the PR consequences.

Finally, given all of cycling’s problems, this controversy is going to make the sport — which is actually quite amazing, given what the riders do and which includes cycling up the side of an Alp — look even sillier. Which, given how silly it looks now, would have seemed impossible just a couple of weeks ago.

Wine of the week: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012

The Cono Sur was the first wine we tasted during our pinot noir extravaganza this month, and it didn ?t do much for me. I thought it was more like the Beaujolais I drank in the 1980s than pinot noir.

Two dozen pinot noirs later, I changed my mind.

It impressed me so much, in fact, that the Cono Sur ($9, sample, 13.5%) overcame my pre-disposition against Chilean pinot noir, which is often overpriced, poorly made, or both, and burdened with cute labels, a rant that regular visitors have read many times. What changed my mind was the aroma, earthy and spicy, and the taste, cherry fruit that wasn ?t too fruity, and surprisingly soft, pinot-like tannins.

Does this wine taste like red Burgundy or top-notch Oregon? Of course not. It doesn ?t even taste like Mark West or its knockoffs, the fruity, low-acid, red wines that have revolutionized pinot nor and made it affordable and accessible.

Instead, it ?s an excellent example of how to make a wine taste like its varietal at this price, using carbonic maceration instead of traditional fermentation (which explains my confusion with Beaujolais, where carbonic maceration is common).

One warning: The Cono Sur, thanks to its screwcap, takes a while to open up. That ?s one reason why it didn ?t impress me when I first tasted it. But give it 15 or 20 minutes, and you ?ll be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame.