We have successfully sold Don Melchor, the premier wine of Chile, since its inception in 1988. When our vendor told us the current 2018 vintage was critically acclaimed, we thought, yeah, sure, it always is. It turns out she understated things a bit. James Suckling, one of the most reputable critics, gave the wine 100 points.
So that means it's perfect, right? After reading a half dozen other reviews we think it may be. All of the scores we found were close to 100. Numerical review points are b-llsh-t, by the way, in the same way awards shows are and competitions that judge by purely subjective standards. You either like something or you don't. After reading up on the vintage and knowing this wine the way we do, we think the wine is probably as good as advertised.
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the pre-Phylloxera Puenta Alto vineyards of the northern Maipo Valley appellation. The estate vineyards lie on the north side of the Maipo River, a region that should be considered Chile's Grand Cru.
Concha y Toro is one of the five largest wine companies in the world. Don Melchor is its flagship offering. We think the label originally represented the best wine they could make in a given vintage, kind of like what a lot of California companies piece together as their Meritage wine. Over time the estate has become more closely defined to the point where they have now erected a state of the art winery on the property.
Enrique Tirado has been the Don Melchor winemaker since 1997. As the estate has been more tightly defined so has the viticulture. Against the prevailing wisdom of the modern era, clonal selection of grapes is no longer the practice there. Massal Selection is the propagation of grape vines using the cuttings from older vines in the vineyard. It is the way things were done prior to the improvements out of UC Davis in California. Massal selection assumes the unique individual distinction shown in exemplary old vines will carry over into the budding newly planted offshoots. Since the French wine industry was so successful for so long using this practice, it only makes sense to go with it. Especially if you have pre-Phylloxera vines.
The 2018 Don Melchor is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. The grapes are hand harvested from the estate vineyards including the lower yielding massal selection vines.
In his 100 point review, Suckling uses terms like "stunning, vibrant, energetic, complex aromas and flavors (flowers, black currant, raspberries, peaches), full-bodied, refined, polished, impeccable texture and beauty, lengthy flavors, balance, harmony and transparency." He also advises holding the wine for a few years. All in all, this one's probably pretty good.