A few months ago, I started a “relationship” with Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery of Chile and at the time, I did not know what to expect. I had contacted a few friends and they all spoke very highly of the brand, so I dove right in. Glad I did. While I have yet to peruse many of the higher end wines in their line, I can say without equivocation that I am enamored with the Bicicleta series of wines that Cono Sur produces.
Why? Well, first, there is a bicycle on the label, and while I initially thought that it was just a not so subtle ploy to get gear heads like me to pick up their wines, it turns out that it is both a tribute to their employees (many of whom commute to work by bike), but also a commitment to the environment and sustainable agriculture.
If that were it, I probably would still be at least a closet fan, but what is inside the bottle has far exceeded my expectations. The wine is good. Very good. In fact, I have suggested it to several people from those who are seeking an inexpensive mid-week wine to a few who were looking for solid wines to serve at their wedding (and would not require to take out a loan).
So here are a few of the wines I have tasted thus far. One of these days, I hope to return to Chile and go for a ride–hopefully with some of the employees of Cono Sur.
2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Cabernet Sauvignon Chile: Retail $14. Like many of the wines in the Bicicleta line, each time I open a bottle I have the same thought: “Boy, it is hard to make a good, inexpensive X” and each time I am pleasantly surprised. This wine has plenty of red berry fruit along with tobacco and black pepper. While this is not my favorite Bicicleta, it is a pleasant drinking Cab that would go nicely with a mid-week burger or with a bowl of popcorn and the evening news. Check that. Skip the popcorn if you are going to watch the news–the alcohol will have a quicker effect that way. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2016 Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay Chile: Retail $16. OK, so there is a bike on the label. #Score. It is also a screw-cap. #Score. So even before I crack this puppy open, it is already ahead of the game. By a lot. The wine itself? Pale yellow with a slight green tinge, with lemon rind jumping out of the glass, the palate? I might have to say that this is the best Chard at this price point that I have tried. #Score. Buy this by the case and keep one in the fridge at all times. Seriously. #Score. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2016 Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewürztraminer: Retail $10. I have a long-standing love-hate history with Gewurz. My wine appreciation really started when I was studying abroad my Junior year of college in Strasbourg, France. There, I learned the ins and outs of Alsatian varieties, including Gewurztraminer, and, in my opinion, there is no better expression of the variety than those that are made in the French style. Am I biased? Probably, but my problem with most non-Alsatian Gewurztraminers is that they are either overly sweet, overly spicy, or just too damned floral. For me, this Cono Sur at $10 comes the closest to getting it precisely right. Lychee and pear up front, the right balance of acidity and fruit, and just the right amount of RS (barely noticeable, but it rounds it out just slightly). Bravo. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Cono Sur Pinot Noir Bicicleta, Chile: Retail $9. As I said above, I normally eschew Pinot below $25 (really $30). Why? Well, those cheaper Pinots tend to be thin and vapid with just a trace of flavor and the depth of a single sheet of paper; or worse, they are over-extracted fruity messes that remind you more of your Aunt Bessie’s over-cooked cherry preserves than wine. Well, I am here to tell you that good Pinot exists under that $25 (really $30) ceiling. And this is one of them. Now it will not cause a break-up with Burgundy, rupture with the Russian River, or even a withdrawal from the Willamette, but this is gangbusters at this price: fruit, earth, depth, all under a screw cap. Giddy-up. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc, Chile: Retail $12. Having just returned from a trip to Chile, I found this bottle in the stack of boxes eagerly awaiting my return. As a cyclist, I am usually a sucker for bottles that are adorned by a velocipede, and when I saw that this particular wine was produced in Chile, well…. Virtually clear in the glass with the slightest green tint, citrus elements essentially burst out of the glass, promising plenty of acidity. That promise is fulfilled on the palate with an initial wave of fruit followed by a powerful tartness that coats the mouth. The finish is dominated by lemon rind and pamplemousse with that tartness that both begs for food and for more wine. Excellent. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2016 Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier Chile: Retail $10. Another aromatic white from the folks at Cono Sur, and I remain baffled as to how they can make such fantastic wines that cost so little. Sure, this Viognier is not the best iteration of the variety I have tried, but it is also a fraction of the cost. A bit funky on the nose as the perfumed quality of Viognier battles with an almost meaty component. On the palate, though, it is all Viognier with luscious fruit and ample tartness. I could say that these bicycles could change your life the way real bikes have changed mine. We all know that would be hyperbole. But this wine costs about 0.008% of what my current bike cost, so keep that in mind. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
While I have a financial relationship with Cono Sur, all the opinions expressed here are solely my own.