Lapostolle: From Grand Marnier to Long-Forgotten Grapes
What’s your go-to wine? The bottle that never lets you down, that works in any situation and that never ceases to amaze? For me, it’s Lapostolle Le Rouge, an incredible Chilean red that – at just over $20 – achieves what Bordeaux struggles to reach at $50. Indeed, Casa Lapostolle is one of the rare producers where we love every single wine that we’ve tasted. So what’s the secret? How do they manage to produce world-class wines from vintage to vintage and across a spectrum of styles?
Have you ever tasted Grand Marnier? Or enjoyed it in a cocktail? If so, then you’ve already tried something made by the Lapostolle family. They began their distilling dynasty in 1827 near the French capital of Paris. A Marnier married the granddaughter of the original Lapostolle founder in 1876, and – well – the rest is history. Generations later, descendant Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and her husband fell in love with the Chilean winescape, founding Casa Lapostolle in 1994.
Lapostolle made history by being the first Chilean winery to earn a perfect 100-point score with their 2014 Clos Apalta. They somehow managed to replicate this elusive feat in the 2015 vintage, although the 2016 vintage only earned a measly 99 points. Pretty darn good when you consider that the wine sells for less than $150 – making it probably the best value we’ve ever seen for a wine of this caliber.
Aside from the world-class winemaking team they employ, Chile’s unique terroirs and microclimates provide a unique opportunity for Lapostolle to realize their dream of producing exceptional French-style wines for a fraction of the price.
THE CARMENERE GRAPE
Like most other Chilean wineries, Lapostolle cultivates a once-lost Bordeaux grape called Carménère. It used to thrive in that region until it was wiped out by a phylloxera epidemic in 1867 – at least, that’s what everyone thought. Flash forward 100 years to the 1990s, when geneticists discovered that Chile’s late-ripening Merlot clone was actually the storied Carménère grape. In its new South American home, Carménère produces spicy, earthy wines with flavors ranging from sundried tomatoes, pipe tobacco, and green bell pepper to raspberry, paprika, and chocolate. The best examples can even taste like high-end Bordeaux. While a few hundred acres once again grow in France and even Italy, the best examples come from Chile, where the climate is dry enough to prevent mildew and phylloxera has never hit.
Lapostolle sources the grapes for their Grand Selection Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rapel Valley, the wider zone that includes Colchagua (where the winery is located) and Cachapoal. However, the grapes for Le Rouge and Le Rose are sourced from the winery’s esteemed Apalta Vineyard – the very vines that gave birth to their 100-point Clos Apalta wines. Apalta is known for producing some of the most structured, elegant wines in all of Chile. The subzone gets its name from a word referring to its poor soil quality, a feature which is excellent for winemaking everywhere because it stresses vines into better concentrating their grapes.
If you’ve got a special occasion coming up, splurge on a bottle of Clos Apalta. You won’t regret it. This legendary blend of Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot offers the structure and flavors of a much, much more expensive Bordeaux. And if you’ve got the patience to hold onto a bottle for a few years, you’ll be greatly rewarded.
We like to refer to this as the “mini Apalta” – a value version of the wine that’s already a bargain for its quality. It’s the perfect bottle for those that want the refinement of a Bordeaux with the bold intensity of a Rioja Reserva – but at half the price! Exceptionally concentrated flavors, with racy herbal and earthy notes.
This is not your average Cab! It offers the intensity and concentration of California with the savory, earthy notes of a great Bordeaux – all at a fraction of the price. Bold and spicy, with aromas of dried lavender, raspberry, and spices that lead into layered flavors of herbs, plums, and vanilla.
This Sauvignon Blanc defies all expectations of what the grape – and, indeed, what Chilean whites – can be. Lapostolle blends in Sémillon and occasionally Sauvignon Gris to create a stony, medium-bodied style that’s much like a classic Bordeaux Blanc.
A classic Provence-style rose that’s incredibly delicate yet flavorful. One of our favorite roses ever!