The 2011 Trader Joe’s Vinas Chilenas Merlot is a Trader Joe’s $3.99 exclusive. The wine is produced by Videma from grapes grown in Chile’s Central Valley. Videma’s vineyards are under the control of the Tarapaca Group, which includes noted winemaker Paul Hobbs. The Tarapaca Group instituted the “Ultra Premium Oenological Center,” with the goal to “produce wines of excellence.” So, what we have here is a $3.99 wine that was made with grapes that grown under consultation with Paul Hobbs, pretty fancy for a Trader Joe’s wine. The alcohol content is 13%.
The color s polished ruby red. The nose is dark berries and fresh grass clippings, with a little flower garden. This is a medium bodied Merlot with more spice than expected. It starts with raspberry, dark chocolate and some black Twizzlers. The mid palate brings strawberry in cream, green pepper and a wallop of Altoids spice. The tannins are fairly strong, but are soft and don’t have rough edges. The finish starts off strong, fades quickly, but manages to linger on and on.
The Vinas Chilenas Merlot is spicier than an Australian Shiraz or a Central Coast Zinfandel, it reminds me of a Carmenere. If you are looking for a cheap version of a California Merlot, this isn’t going to fill the bill. If you want a Chilean Merlot/Carmenere hybrid, well then this one of the few places you can find it.