- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Concha y Toro, Marques de Casa Concha, Merlot, Rapel Valley, 2002, $16

This is one of the best, if not the very best, under-$20 merlots on the market. It offers softness but at the same time structure, with a depth of nuanced flavor virtually unmatched by wines at this price. Accessibility constitutes merlot’s great allure. The grape displays aromas and flavors much like cabernet, but with a thinner skin and fewer tannins, the wine often feels less astringent, especially when drunk young. Accessibility, however, can render a red wine flabby. And without a firm structure, many merlots, even expensive ones, taste sappy and simple.

This Chilean merlot transcends any such difficulty. Easy to drink, it also has a firm but unobtrusive tannic backbone. And while rich and ripe, it never seems remotely candied. Instead, it offers deep red and black fruit flavors, with secondary notes reminiscent of chocolate and coffee — a wonderfully complex ensemble.

Still very young, Concha y Toro’s 2002 Marques de Casa Concha merlot undoubtedly will improve with a few years of cellaring. It tastes so delicious now, however, that you’ll find it hard to wait. Wine shops and restaurant lists overflow with an ocean of disappointing merlots these days. Here’s a delectable antidote.

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