By Rick Riozza
If there is any name in the wine game that has stood the test of time—well, that would be Rothschild. When one hears of a Mouton-Rothschild Bordeaux being served for dinner—someone is living the life.
Enter now the company and brand known as Baron Philippe de Rothschild: So named for the man of culture and action; and, born into the famous European family well-known to play an eminent role in finance, wine, and philanthropy. As to the wines produced, they are of course world class which include: Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Clerc-Milon, Chateau D’Armailhac, and one of our favorite Napa Valley wines: Opus One.
And as of late, there is a new “Rothschild wine on the block” and it is produced in the beautiful vineyards of Chile. By the way—The Rothschild family take their name from the house they occupied in the Judengasse in Frankfurt Germany. So, in the German ‘zum Roten Schild’, translates in English to “the house of the Red Shield”. Fittingly, the Rothschild brand in Chile, where Spanish is spoken, is both Rothschild and Red Shield so translated: Escudo Rojo.
For those thinking folks who’ve just thought of the fact that many Chilean wines are so under-priced for the quality—you’re first question is correct: What do these Chilean Rothschild wines cost? Well, the two wines that I’m discussing here are: The 2018 Escudo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $17.99, and the 2018 Escudo Rojo Gran Reserva Red Blend is $21.99. What are we all waiting for?!? Why aren’t we buying up a case or two immediately!!
Okay—let’s calm down and let me review these wonderful wines at hand. (Cheers by the way—you readers are getting a hot tip on this one! And feel free to invite me over to help drink down that case you just got.)
When I tasted both of these wines—on different days and with different meals—I immediately thought, “If this were poured in a glass before a panel of judges with no knowledge of the wine, or, if this wine were to be on a sommelier’s test for the examinee to determine what wine they were drinking and where it was from, I think in both cases, it could be a fun dilemma: For the wine is the result of the successful encounter of two cultures: Chile offers its soil, its climate and its vineyard, while France brings its wine growing traditions and expertise.
2018 Escudo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon: Impressive aromas ripe dark plums, cassis and smoke with a quick note of eucalyptus and wisps of Italian nuts. The palate shows a wonderful mix of fresh red and black fruits with a little herb and vanilla bean; rich and medium bodied at the same time; complex with nice tannins and long finish.
2018 Escudo Rojo Gran Reserva Red Blend: This blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, with small portions of Syrah, Petite Verdot and Cab Franc. Yeah—we’re in a major league mix. Robed in stunning crimson, we find aromas of beautiful black fruit, roasted coffee, tobacco, and spices. The palate continues the same flavors with a soft dose of cassis and herbs. Stylish and complex, it’s such an elegant quaff: World class.
And now, allow me to introduce the esteemed Chilean Rothschild winemaker: Emmanuel Riffaud. Here are some brief excerpts of my interview with him.
“When I started my studies, I hesitated between medicine and oenology. I come from Cognac, where my grandparents had an estate, so I have fond memories of the grape harvest that I would never forget.
“I chose a specialisation in pedology, the study of soil. When you talk about terroir, you are talking about climate and soil. To make good wine, you need the right vines planted in the right soil. Today I still make use of everything I learned. There is an understanding of all the oenological, microbiological processes whereby we can truly understand how wine works intrinsically.”
“The most important thing today is the tasting experience. We should never stop tasting…not only for our own personal benefit but also to enhance our own personal database…We do not use a recipe to create our wines; we go out to the vines without any preconceptions or prejudices…we taste the grapes in a state of mind that is as open and creative as possible, imagining what they can become in the bottle. You project yourself and find yourself dreaming about the future of a grape, a batch, a barrel.”
I asked Monsieur Riffaud to comment on the winemaking in Chile: “Chile has a real patchwork of terroirs, each with its own distinctive features…it is not possible to impose rules or preconceived ideas that come from other vineyards around the world. One of the most important qualities is humility: first you have to learn from the terroir and the vineyard you are working with, then taste and adapt the vine as best you can to its climate and its parcel.”
What we learned from M. Riffaud, is that Chile is a true winegrowing experience. Located at Buin-Maipo, 45 kilometers south of Santiago in the famous Maipo Valley, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Maipo Chile bodega stands in its own 156 acre vineyard: a cutting-edge facility which combines the latest technology with the great Bordeaux winemaking tradition in the service of incomparable quality.
In addition to the flagship blended wine, the Escudo Rojo range includes five varietal wines: Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. All the wines in the range express a distinctive character, reflecting the expression of its terroir. Cheers!
Escudo Rojo is currently imported into the US exclusively by Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd.