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Posted: Thursday February 23, 2012, 11:14 AM
By Joe Iurato of The Record

For the past decade, at least, Chile has been the darling of the wine world and a hotbed for exploration – a prodigy of sorts. Because of its unique geographic location, consistent Mediterranean climate and ability to resist Phylloxera (a louse that feeds on grapevines and has catastrophically destroyed vineyards worldwide), winemakers have flocked to Chile with their vines and hopeful dreams of creating a foundation for the world's next Napa Valley or Bordeaux. With constant, cold mountain air from the Andes to the east, meeting the cool, moist Mediterranean breeze flowing from the Pacific Ocean to the west, the low-lying valleys and exposed hillsides of Chile are fertile playgrounds for grapevines. Even the world's most prominent vintners have rushed to plant themselves in Chilean soil, and rapid development has led to an abundance of quality juice that, for the moment, needs to be affordable in order to stay competitive on the shelves. Lucky us.

* 2010 Los Vascos, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Pale straw color with grapefruit, honeydew, green apple and lime zest on the nose. A clean and crisp sauvignon blanc with a juicy, tropical fruit-filled edge that carries on through the finish.

Pair it with: light, crisp salads, shellfish, or drink as an aperitif

How much: $8.99

Where to buy: widely available

* Root: 1, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile

A deep ruby red wine with dark berries, sweet cherry, chocolate, pepper, black licorice, and earth integrated with smooth, structured tannins. It has all the components of a cab that's three times the price.

Pair it with: grilled meat, pasta with red sauce, semi-hard cheeses

How much: $9.99

Where to buy: widely available

* 2010 Casa Lapostolle, Merlot, Rapel Valley, Chile

Medium bodied with raspberry and black cherry up front, followed by hints of spice and toast. It's an elegantly styled merlot with lingering smooth tannins and a touch of cocoa of the finish.

Pair it with: poultry dishes, grilled sausage, pasta, pizza

How much: $12.99

Where to buy: widely available

* 2008 Anakena "ONA," Syrah, Rapel Valley, Chile

Deep purple-red color. Dark berries and chocolate dominate the nose with undertones of coffee, black pepper and earth. Velvety tannins round out this rich, lip-staining syrah.

Pair it with: grilled meat, ribs, venison, chops

How much: $13.99

Where to buy: widely available

Joe Iurato is a certified sommelier, wine consultant and lecturer, and a working fine artist. For questions and comments, e-mail him at features@northjersey.com.

Need to shop for wine? Total Wine in River Edge has these wines and more from the region.

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