I am fascinated by brands that evolve and reinvent themselves, whether in fashion or food, cars or wine. The wines of Concha y Toro, the big Chilean producer, were pretty much off my radar screen until a bottle of its Sauvignon Blanc arrived the other day. It turned out to be one of the best Sauvignons I have tried in recent years from Chile—or just about anywhere.
The specific wine was Concha y Toro’s 2003 “Terrunyo” Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley. The idea behind the Terrunyo wines, which were first released in 2000, was to create a collection of high-end, vineyard-specific wines, from within Concha y Toro’s 5,000 acres, that took advantage of specific climate and soil conditions to give them more individuality. (At the risk of telling you more than you need to know, the grapes used in this wine were grown on “Block 30 (hillside), El Triángulo Vineyard.”)
The aim, it seems, was to capitalize on the increasingly popular concept of “terroir” (hence terrunyo). The word has become such a cliché in the wine business that it has lost some of its meaning -- the unique character of a vineyard as expressed in the wine -- and is even used as a marketing tool for some of the most generic wines out there. (How can a wine simply labeled “California,” for example, claim to reflect terroir? I’m sure you see my point.)
Fortunately, this is not the case with the Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc. Far from generic, it is a rich and vibrant Sauvignon with a good deal of complexity. There’s a touch of the racy gooseberry flavor that defines and, to my taste, often overpowers many Sauvignons from the Southern Hemisphere, but this one also has notes of pear, green apple, orange, lemon and lime. There are some minerals in the middle of it all that follow through in the unusually long finish.
In terms of food, some of the obvious matches would include broiled or sautéed fish, shellfish, sushi and grilled chicken. A glass by itself before dinner would also be quite nice.
The price? About $20 and worth it. I would not hesitate to stack it up against Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, France’s Loire Valley or California. With oceans of generic and inexpensive wine still coming out of Chile, Concha y Toro’s Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc demonstrates that Chile can also produce memorable wines with signatures of their own.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at .