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.