Wine descriptor: velvet hug

Wines Tasted

  1. Cono Sur, Colchagua Valley, Chile, Pinot Noir, 2013
  2. Cono Sur, Limarí Valley, Chile, Syrah, 2011

After a week of studying Chile for my WSET Diploma it was time to taste. A recent Drinks Business article reviewing the current trends in the Chilean market was fresh in my mind as I walked into my local Watson’s Wine. I selected two wines from Cono Sur, the premium arm of the giant Concha y Toro.

Something I had been reading about in Chile’s evolution as a wine-producing nation was an increased focus on creating wine icons – those wines in the premium category – and Cono Sur fitted the bill. First up was the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Syrah 2011 competitively priced for a premium wine at $185 HKD (approximately $24 USD). The other wine, from the same producer, was a 2012 Pinot Noir – very interesting given Cono Sur started a Pinot Noir project in 1999 with the aim of focusing on techniques used in Burgundy to vinify wines. Cono Sur have a premium expression of Pinot Noir, Ocio and this wine has received numerous awards. Having already selected a premium expression I decided to opt for the other end of the scale and went with their organic Pinot Noir priced at $98 HKD (approximately $13 USD).

Cono Sur began the 20 Barrel portfolio in 1996 with the aim of producing an ultra-premium wine, selecting Pinot Noir as the grape for the first release. Subsequent additions to the portfolio included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with Syrah being the last addition in 2008. As the name implies 20 barrels of the best fruit from a particular vintage are set aside for the production of this particular wine.

Cono Sur 20 Barrels Syrah

The 2011 20 Barrel Limited Edition Syrah is actually a blend of Syrah (94%), Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) and Carmenère (2%) with grapes coming from three different vineyards in Limarí.

Located in the north of Chile the Limarí Valley is part of the Coquimbo wine region and offers sites with brilliant sunshine and cooling breezes rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. The wine was a deep purple colour suggesting the grapes had enjoyed a long ripening period in the sun allowing a depth of colour to develop in the skins. The long hang time would have also contributed to the high alcohol level which came in at 14%.


My notes for the Syrah described the wine as a “velvet hug” (sadly, nowhere to be found on the WSET SAT card of suggested terms!) – it was plush and enveloping. A full-bodied wine with savoury notes of leather, smoked meats, dried herbs and black fruits. It showed some of the pointers I have come to associate with winemaking in Chile; pure, ripe fruit reflecting the pristine growing conditions Chile enjoys and a voluptuous quality to the wine with notes of new oak speaking to the high levels of investment being made in the industry. Toasty oak notes are starting to integrate nicely and the acidity level was high enough to indicate that this wine would age well. It is most definitely a bigger style of wine – full bodied flavours, velvet-textured tannins, some smoky sweet vanilla – if big is your preferred style of wine then this is the wine for you. I enjoyed this immensely on a quiet evening after a very grey wintry day. My only unfavourable note was the warmth from the alcohol and at 14% I would definitely need to keep an eye on how often my glass was refilled!

The next wine was the organic Pinot Noir. It came with an eye-catching label depicting a bicycle which, according to the website, is how employees arrive to the vineyards each day. The wine is 100% pinot noir with the grapes coming from two vineyards in different regions; 85% from the warmer Colchagua Valley Zone located south of the capital city Santiago and 15% from the cooler coastal San Antonio sub-region of Aconcagua. Wines of Chile provide an excellent map of the country’s wine regions here.

Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir

This wine showed good typicity in that on first sniff and taste you could definitely tell it was a Pinot Noir – always a good thing but surprising how often that doesn’t happen. This is a very accessible Pinot Noir showing mostly red fruits and a touch of mineral notes. At $98 HKD it is good value for money, but I found it to be lacking in the middle palate, that is to say the flavours in the wine didn’t get much past the front of my mouth and I also found it a bit thin. I tasted this wine with a group of friends during a dinner and we all agreed that while it wasn’t an unpleasant wine it wasn’t something we had much to say about. Would I recommend it? That’s a tough one – at around $13 USD or $98 HKD I think I would. It delivers what it says on the label – it is clearly a Pinot Noir, it was not unpleasant to drink and what it lacks in complexity and length it makes up for by leaving a few more dollars in the wallet!

All in all this was an interesting and very enjoyable tasting from the biggest producer of wine in South America. These wines are easy to get your hands on which is perfect for that drop-in purchase, but being the Happy Wine Woman at heart it will always be the smaller producers who have a place in my cellar!

Happy Drinking!

Related Happy Wine Woman Posts

Chile: Aresti Wine of ChileMatetic VineyardsLuis Filipe Edwards Wines of Chile

Syrah: Jamsheed Wines, Payten & Jones

Pinot Noir: ArfionBishops Head, Circe Wines, Domaine Serene, Escarpment Vineyard, Hopices de Beaune, John Forrest, Mt. Difficulty


Cono Sur

Wines of Chile

Johnson, H. & Robinson, J. (2007). The World Atlas of Wine. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley.

Robinson, J. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.

Published by Happy Wine Woman

Wine consultant currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

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