Lapostolle and Chile's Continuing Ascent

Lapostolle has made excellent wine for years, and at seemingly every price level, but the standout Chilean producer really grabbed wider attention when, in 2008, their Clos Apalta 2005 was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year. Since then, they have vinified a string of successful wines at all levels of their portfolio--wines that, at their best, can compete with other greats around the world and, even when they’re more humble than that, are pleasurable to drink and represent excellent value. It’s a remarkable feat when you think about it.
I recently tasted two Lapostolle 2010 Carmeneres, and was struck not necessarily by their similarities--Carmenere is a relatively idiosyncratic grape variety, easily identifiable even when tasted blind--but by the differences in their expressions. This is likely a result of their different appellations of origin (the Rapel and Colchagua Valleys) as well as divergent vinification techniques. (Click here for the full details.)
It’s worth nothing that these wines are from the same year as the massive earthquake that shook Chile. Their quality, then, especially given the destruction and trauma that resulted from the disaster, is a real testament to Lapostolle in particular and Chile in general.
And in another boon for the Chilean wine industry, Wine Enthusiast Magazine has included Colchagua Valley in its list of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations for 2012. I’ve never been there--not yet, at least--but it’s high on my list as a wine and travel professional. Here’s hoping this new year gets me there. In the meantime, these two wines--and particularly the Cuvee Alexandre--are excellent stand-ins.
Lapostolle Casa Carmenere 2010, Rapel Valley
The color here is like a deep cherry-juice stain in the glass, and presages aromas of smoky sage and rosemary, cigar tobacco, and mineral. These lead to a palate of savory plum and black cherry, both of which finish with a distinct tar and scorched earth note that linger on, smokily. Very masculine, this wine screams out for a steak, preferably fire-seared on a hot grill.
Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Carmenere 2010, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley
Dark color as well, but more vibrant, more shimmering in the glass. The fruit on the nose is more giving and perfumed, with deep cherry and blueberry notes, as well as a well-calibrated hint of spice. On the palate, sweet, layered fruit mingles with a similar--though less pronounced--savoriness, and combines fruit with smoked branches by a bonfire, a sense of salinity, sage, and cigar tobacco. The complex finish expresses touches of sandalwood, thyme, and cedar, and promises a lovely evolution in the bottle. Drink 2013 - 2020.