The Lizard Whisperer


Maquis Lien 2004 Colchagua Valley $18

Okay, why did I buy this wine?  I’ll fess up, come closer;  I’ll mutter it to you softly.  I LIKED THE LABEL!

I really do go up and down the wine aisle and pick wines based on the label.  I can’t help it.  I know you do it too.

When faced with a ga-gillion wine choices, sometimes the label is the deciding factor.  My hooligans love it when I let them loose in a wine store and say, “Find mommy a good one”.  You can guarantee those two boys will come back with a bottle that has some image of an insect or animal; the grosser or scarier the better.

Oh stop gasping that I let the kids pick the wine, I don’t let them drink it.

So, don’t get me wrong, I do not enjoy lizards in any shape or form but this label spoke to me.  “C’mon buy me,” it said tenderly, “You won’t be dissatisfied”.  Hmmm, strange words coming from a lizard, but I believed him.

The paper label was peaceful looking with nothing on it but the lizard and a few words that I didn’t understand.

Clutter-less, like I’m trying to make my life.

The color of the label-lizard is a sparkling, silver-platinum combo.  I wanted to believe that whoever created this simple but handsome label also carefully crafted the perfect contents to go inside.

I know, I know, I live in this jacked-up mental place called hope.  But this label reached out to me.  I was powerless.  I had to have it.

Was it because I knew the hooligans would think it was so cool; “Lizard wine,” they would cheer, “Are there any lizard guts inside?”

Maybe it was because the silver-platinum colors reminded me of jewelry from Tiffany’s.  I do miss Tiffany’s.

So, I bought the wine and it was lovely, oh so lovely.

This wine had layers of flavor.  It was expressive.  Stylistic.  Modern.  Clean-cut.  Just like the label; not that you would be able to notice with my crappy photography.

The wine starts out leading you down this modest chocolaty-cocoa thoroughfare and then you abruptly take a sharp turn onto fruit explosion alley.

Mmmmm…blackberry, plum and blueberry all at once with a big fruit-filled finish.  This was a full-bodied wine but was still easy to drink if ya know what I mean.

So why buy wine from Chile?

Ummmm…because the wines are good and usually cheaper…duh.  I like to refer to Chilean wines as charming, little, well-mannered friends.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Chilean wines are no where near the complexity of say, good Bordeaux.  But a lack of complexity goes unnoticed because many (most) of the Chilean wines are just happy-go-lucky, food friendly, little party-starters.

Translation: you can drink these wines when they are very young, and you can pig-out with almost anything while you’re doing it.  Who doesn’t need that in their life?

And then there’s the cheapness factor.  Many of the Chilean wines are not pricey in comparison to wines from other areas.  Why?  What’s their secret?  I don’t really know.  Well, maybe I do know a little bit, but not too much.  Just listen to my reasoning.

See, Chile has this claim to fame about being “phylloxera free”.  Phylloxera what?  Okay, phylloxera are these nasty little microscopic buggers that munch on and suck sap from the roots of commercial grapevines.  This munching interrupts water flow and leads to the demise of the vine.

Phylloxera is what decimated France’s wine industry in the late 1800’s and did the same in much of the North Coast of California in the 1980’s to 90’s.  You can’t kill these little devils but many Native American grape rootstocks are resistant to these pests.  So, French grapes (merlot, syrah etc.) grown in America and just about everywhere else are grafted onto Native American grape rootstock.  Bottom line, you can’t stick a cabernet sauvignon vine in the ground and expect it to not be attacked by phylloxera eventually.  But in Chile, they are phylloxera free (or claim to be) so far.  This saves growers from costs of grafting vines onto these resistant rootstocks, therefore transferring the bang-buster savings onto you, the consumer.

Okay, let’s also not mention that land cost in Chile is probably like a quarter of what it costs to grow grapes in Napa Valley but hey, the phylloxera story is much more exciting.  I’m sticking with it.

So for those of you who are still reading, why is Chile phylloxera free?  Why would I know?  I’m not really sure.  But if you get your trusty map of South America out and look at Chile you will see how ridiculously isolated this country is.  There is like 79,000 miles of coastline to the West (an exaggeration), the Andes Mountains to the East, desert to the North and low and behold the South Pole to the South.  I guess if anyone has a chance of being phylloxera free it would be Chile.

I know all of you will sleep better now that you have this information.  I know I will.

And I did some checking about the lizard I’m obsessed with on the label.  Apparently, Chile has a native language called, Mapuche.  The word “lien” on the label means “silver metal”  referring to Spanish coins that were melted and made into fine jewelry like the lizard on this beautiful label.  I knew I saw that creature at Tiffany’s.

In all my excitement I forgot to mention that this wine is a red blend, primarily Syrah (50%) with Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec rounding out the balance.  The grapes were harvested from very low-yielding vines (12 bunches of grapes per vine)  and the wine was aged 12 months in French Oak.

Now run out and drink and be merry.  And try to find the lizard wine.  It was at my grocery store, I’m sure it’s at yours.

So what is everyone drinking tonight or last night even?  Tell the truth.

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14 Comments

  1. Um, it’s 6 AM, and you’ve managed to make me want a glass of wine. Great. :)

    Reply
  2. *blushing*
    Diet Barques Rootbeer. It was fruity yet playful with a great after finish.

    Reply
  3. I love to pick wine by the label! :) I don’t always do that, but it sure is fun. My favorite is the LoTengo Malbec and Torrentes, because of the halogram label that looks like 2 people doing the tango.
    Last night I had one glass of 14 Hands Merlot and one glass of a fairly boring Pinot Grigio. (I was at the mercy of the wine list at a sushi restaurant.)

    Reply
  4. pam 4

    I always pick my wine by the label!

    Reply
  5. That definitely sounds like a wine I need to try. I’m pretty new at drinking wine and never know what to get. Maybe I’ll try picking it out by the bottle, next time.

    Reply
  6. Maggie 6

    If we were the only ones who chose wine by the label there wouldn’t be a multi-zillion dollar wine label design industry. We winos need to ease up on ourselves. At least you back your choices up with lovely prose.

    Reply
  7. Red. Two glasses. I dunno what year/make, etc…- my friend just poured and I gratefully accepted. Both were good, but the first glass was the smoother one…

    I love that you post the labels… It helps a visual gal like me:) Keep it up!

    Reply
  8. amy 8

    It’s a cool label! I know nothing about wine, I try to drink wine and usually find myself making a funny face. Which stinks because all of my neighbors drink wine. I’m going to keep reading your reviews and see if something hits home with me. There’s gotta be one out there for me!

    Reply
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  10. derek 10

    I feel you missed the point about the Phylloxera. The beauty of it is that the plants are original descendants of the wines of the middle ages. I am not really sure it is any cheaper, but rather more natural. There is a lot more field blending and less homogeneity. The mountains, the desert, the ocean and the ice protect Chile– it is like a huge preserved garden of bounty.

    Vineyards elsewhere I fear are genetically manipulated newbies, sort of a ‘manipulated new rich’ as it were on there rootstock implants– versus the true aristocratic heritage of a direct line of Cabs from times of antiquity.

    I think it is all in the glass — versus the label. (though I do let my kids choose ‘lizard’ labels too!)

    Reply
  11. nutmeg 11

    I have a friend who wall papered a powder room with steamed off wine bottle labels – many of which I helped her drink. I cannot buy wine with an ugly label! I’ll happily drink somebody else’s though!

    Reply
  12. Lara 12

    I DEFINITELY choose my wines based on the label, too – and it works for me, largely because I don’t know diddly about them even when drinking them. So – bravo to you! Also, I think I have a blog-crush on ya. :)

    Reply
  13. dawn 13

    I think this is single-handedly the best wine review I have ever read. So entertaining and interesting. I’ll have to try the newest vintage.

    Reply
  14. maria 14

    Hi, i like very much your comment, im chilean and in fact, i been there, in Los Maquis vinegard (very beautiful place), because belongs to the family of a close friend of mine

    Reply

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