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Valdivieso Caballo Loco Number One

This weekend I have been busy implementing a Winedoctor facelift and so I haven't had a lot of time to think about wine itself, what I should be drinking or indeed which wine I would be writing about today. It was as I cooked Sunday dinner that I suddenly realised a decision had to be made. Peering into my wine fridge, my gaze fell upon this bottle, and an impromptu decision was made. Popped, decanted for just one hour, and then poured, this wine was a real blast from the past.

It was a few months ago when taking a vicarious look through my stock of wine on Cellar Tracker that I suddenly spotted this bottle. My stock of Caballo Loco amounted to one bottle each of Number One and Number Five, it seemed. Somewhat incredulous, as I thought I had drunk all my Number One many years ago, I went down to the cellar to take a look for myself. Sure enough, there they were. One rather clean and shiny looking bottle of Number Five, and next to it one rather dusty and tatty looking bottle of Number One (I cleaned it up a little before the label-shot, below). Pulling the bottle from the cellar I brought it inside and deposited it in the wine fridge, ready for a suitable occasion. Last night's roast fillet of beef was, I figured, as good an occasion as any other.

Valdivieso Caballo Loco Number One

So why is Caballo Loco a "blast from the past"? Well, this is a bottle that harks back to a time when my buying patterns were very different to those I exhibit today; I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of Chilean wine (even that bottle of Number Five was a gift). And it was a time when my per-bottle price ceiling was also probably much lower, so these bottles were really significant purchases for me. And, as I have explained above, it's also a bottle I had forgotten even existed. I have no clear recollection of where I bought this bottle (it dates from a time before I recorded that sort of information), what the price was or indeed exactly when bought it, although from looking at my previous tasting notes for this wine I would guess it was sometime in 1998 or 1999, maybe even earlier.

For wine geeks the Caballo Loco cuvées from Valdivieso were interesting bottles, a multi-vintage blend of wines, the exact composition never disclosed, but there was a general consensus - based on tasting the wine rather than any secret information I think - that they were largely Bordeaux blends. That of course means Cabernet Sauvignon or Franc, or Merlot of course, but it may also include Carmenere or even Malbec, both old-time Bordeaux varieties widely planted in South America, the former more associated with Chile than the latter. There were also reports, however, of Syrah and Pinot Noir being included alongside these Bordeaux varieties. As for vintage, the wine was produced using a solera system, with half of the first 'vintage' - Number One - held back for blending with the wine made the following year - Number Two. And so on each year, so that more recent cuvées - on checking I see Number Ten is the latest release - include a blend of wine from many vintages.

There's nothing more disappointing than pulling an old bottle from the cellar - especially a lone cellar orphan such as this - only to find it corked. So I was apprehensive when I pulled this cork, but happily all was well beneath. In fact it was all very lively and youthful indeed. Despite commenting on previous bottles in 2002 and 2004 that there was some evidence of maturity, this bottle seems almost to refute that. We have here a well-coloured wine, certainly showing some dusty, bricking maturity but certainly plenty of red pigment too. The nose carries a claretty, left-bank perfume which surely confirms this wine as being largely Cabernet? There is a little pastille edge to the fruit although it is much more restrained than on previous tastings, alongside notes of flower petals, smoky and aromatic tobacco and sweetly spiced meats. The palate still has bags of life in it, full and textured on entry, remaining elegantly poised throughout, but with lots of creamy extract and ripe, almost velvety tannins beneath. On the finish, a caressing but tannic palate which clearly states to me that far from being over the hill this wine is still brimming with cellar potential. Yes, I suppose there is a little char-grilled green pepper mixed in with it all, this is Chilean after all, but it is subtle rather than domineering. And it certainly isn't enough to stop me drinking and enjoying this wine, which facilitates some post Winedoctor-facelift relaxation very nicely. Overall, a well-received bottle. 17/20

I have included a Wine Searcher link below for Caballo Loco, but having already checked I know that there is no Number One listed by any merchants worldwide so I have not specified this in the link. Instead, click the link to view all Caballo Loco cuvées available, which range at the time of writing from Number Five through to Number Ten. (7/9/09)

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