One Chilean standout that’s earned repeated accolades from the critics and is available in Maryland, Virginia and the District, sounds more like it comes from Hawaii than Chile. Llai Lai Pinot Noir Bío Bío Valley has generated positive reviews in three straight vintages and is widely available for $12 to $13 a bottle. A rare bargain for Montgomery County wine drinkers, Llai Llai costs just $11.35 at county stores. And that’s not even a sale price.
(As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, pinot noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and thus tends to produce pricier wines than other common grape varieties. So while the threshold for “inexpensive” is about $10 a bottle for most wine types, anything less than about $12 to $15 is considered affordable for good pinot.)
“Translucent light ruby color. Surprising aromas of mint/eucalyptus give way to moderate dark cherry and raspberry fruit,” Wine Lines Online wrote about the 2010 vintage. “In the mouth, sweet, smoky cherry fruit with citrus highlights give it a juicy feel that takes center stage on the palate. Supple and balanced, it finishes with some fine-grained tannins and earth notes. This is an excellent food wine; try duck or mushroom-based dishes.”
“Lively aromas of cranberry mint chutney with a supple dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a tangy, spicy cherry cider, tomato and sandalwood finish with crunchy tannins,” agrees Tastings.com. “A nice table wine that will work well with red meats.”
“A light, earthy red, with notes of underbrush and tobacco framing the modest cherry fruit, which leads to an herb-tinged finish,” is how Nathan Wesley at Wine Spectator described the 2010. While Wine Enthusiast’s Michael Schachner noted, “Cool-climate aromas of rhubarb, red plum and brambly spice,” calling the 2010 a zesty, racy pinot.
“It feels quick and high in acid, with crisp, almost tart flavors of pie cherry and red plum,” Schachner said, adding that it “finishes fresh but short.”
Llai Llai, (pronounced "lie lie") means “strong wind” in the language of the Mapuche people indigenous to the Bio Bio Valley, one of Chile’s southern-most wine-making regions. (And being in the Southern Hemisphere, that’s the equivalent of a more northern climate, which in Europe and the West Coast of the U.S. pinot noir is said to thrive.) The wine is made by Vina Corpora , one of Chile's larger wine producers. But it’s only recently been imported into the U.S. by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits (formerly W.J. Deutsch & Sons), the importer that famously brought the once-obscure Beaujolais wines of Georges Duboeuf to the States 30 years ago.
Despite the cutsie-sounding name, Llai Llai is a perfect light-bodied red to accompany outdoor grilling, with the crispness to hold up to the stifling July and August heat. Don’t let today’s milder temperatures fool you. It’s heading back up into the 90s tomorrow. You might want to pick up a bottle of this one today.
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