New Kids on the Block

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I have to admit that when I first taste wine from a bag-in-a-box, I do so with some trepidation. A few months ago, I had the misfortune to taste two real killers; a dismal red from France (of all places) and a horrid white wine from somewhere in Italy. It tasted like the kind of thing you’d use to clean the floor of a parrot’s cage.

Now, I am all for wine casks, provided that the wine inside them is actually half decent. There are some reliable ones around, but you need to shop with care. “Caveat emptor”, as they used to say in ancient Rome. The ever-present Mont Clair wines are remarkably cheap and the five-litre cask (just over six-and-a-half bottles) works out at the equivalent of Bt 160 a bottle. Better quality, though of course more expensive, are the three-litre casks (four bottles) from Cedar Creek (Australia), Bodegas Centenarios (Chile) and Pearly Bay (South Africa). If you stay with those, you won’t go far wrong if you want a cheap everyday wine at under Bt. 200 a bottle.

Oscar Salas: Chief Winemaker at Terra Andina. Oscar Salas: Chief Winemaker at Terra Andina.

But here are two relatively new ones. They’re both red, so if you are one of those people who can drink only white wine, you can skip to the next page and read what that Miss Terry has been gorging herself on recently.

Caminos Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot 2010 (red), Chile (Friendship Bt. 785, 3 litres)

The Terra Andina Company (it means “Andean Lands”) is part of the Claro Wine Group and is an innovator in the Chilean wine industry. By blending grapes from different valleys with contrasting micro-climates and soil conditions, the company takes full advantage of the richness and diversity of Chile’s different wine growing regions.

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is a rich, dark red. You’ll probably detect a pleasing aroma of strawberry jam and some oaky vanilla. Attractive dry spices emerge when you give the glass a swirl. This, by the way, is why you need really big wine glasses – ideally around 425ml. You can then fill the glass about a third full, which will be enough for several decent swigs but more important, it will allow you to swirl the wine around without the risk of spilling it. This brings out the aromas quite dramatically.

The wine is very soft and fruity on the palate with hardly any tannin. Well, there’s just a little bit, but unless you are a tannin enthusiast you’ll probably not notice it. As a bonus, there’s a long dry finish. It’s just 12.5% alcohol content and is such an easy drinker that at this price it would make a great party wine. It would go well with beef dishes, stews or several kinds of cheese. It’s off-dry, light-to-medium bodied and at the equivalent of Bt. 196 a bottle, it’s splendid value.

Corbett Canyon Merlot (red), Chile (Friendship Bt. 745, 3 litres)

Corbett Canyon is not actually in Chile, but in Ripon, California. However, the grapes are sourced from Chile’s famous Valle Central, giving the wine a good concentration of flavors. It’s blended in California by innovative wine maker John Willumsun, who produces a Merlot of classic style.

This dark and inviting-looking wine has a delightful aroma of black and red berry fruit, a delicate touch of spice and a faint suggestion of mint. You might also pick up some oakiness on the aroma too. It’s medium-bodied with an attractive freshness, a very soft mouth-feel and hardly any tannins to speak of, though you might detect a hint of tannin on the long and pleasing finish. There’s plenty of fruit up-front too and at around 12.5% alcohol content this wine proves to be a smooth, easy drinker.

You could of course, just knock it back on its own and no doubt some people will, but I nearly always prefer my reds with food and this would make a good partner for light dishes. The lively fresh character would make it a perfect partner for pizza and pasta. Winemaker John Willumsun is evidently “a big believer in everyday, moderate wine consumption”. And at less than thirty baht a glass, this wine could make a jolly good Daily Red to brighten up your evening meals.