Monday, June 7, 2021

Wines from Chile are great value-for-money

It seems to me that there is no better value for money to be had in the wine world than the vinous products from Chile, overall. Compared to most other wine-producing areas, the quality is uniformly high, and the same quality of wine seems to cost quite a few pennies more elsewhere. Thus is a good situation for the wine consumer who likes Chilean wine.

I am not the only person to have suggested this, of course. Recently, James Suckling has produced his 2021 reports on Chilean wines (A different Chile: greatness beckons, but is it a leap too far? ; A different Chile, Part 2: Embracing a shifting winescape); and so we could have a look at his scores for some evidence of uniformly high quality.

There were apparently 1,065 wines tasted and rated for these reports by James and the other tasters at This is a pretty good sample size, and definitely worth a look, as shown in the first graph. Here, the vertical axis counts the number of wines with each of the scores, as shown horizontally. James' comment on the situation is:
After finishing our ratings of 1,065 bottles of Chilean wines in Hong Kong, one thing is clear: the Andean country is churning out bottles of excellent quality and remarkable value, and these characteristics were cemented by fantastic 2018 and 2019 vintages.

Chilean wine scores for 2021

As you can see, the scores are centered on a score of 91, with a very symmetrical distribution about the central value. Mathematically, this shows random variation around some central value of quality. This is actually a quite unusual situation, since it implies that the Chilean wine-makers are, as a group, going for the same level of quality, which they each achieve, more or less.

Notably, 7/10 of the scores are in the range 90–92, which is extremely consistent. In addition, 6/7 of the scores are 90 or more, which is a pretty good batting average. However, nothing scored 100, and only one wine scored 99 (Viñedo Chadwick Cabernet sauvignon 2019, from Valle de Maipo). On the other hand, only two wines scored <84.

We can compare these results with previous years, of course. James notes that scores of 90 or more have increased over the past few years: 2021: 86% of the wines; 2020: 83%; 2019: 73%; 2018: 74%. Another good comparison is with James Suckling's Top 100 wines of Chile 2020, as shown in the next graph.

Top Chilean wine scores 2020

These data look remarkably similar to the first graph, which suggests consistency from year to year. In this case, nothing scores 99, but there are three scores of 100: Viña Don Melchor Cabernet sauvignon 2018 (Puente Alto) Clos Apalta 2017 (Valle de Apalta), and Seña 2018 (Valle de Aconcagua).

On a slightly different note, James concludes his reports by noting:
Although there was conspicuous improvement in our tastings this year, there is still a good way to go from excellence to greatness. This may be a surprising conclusion given the high expectations for Chilean wines — after all, even mass-production bottles from the country show higher - than - reasonable quality. 
But with the growing acclaim for the country’s wines, the pressure is now on the wineries to step up their games. Instead of sitting in their comfort zones and regularly producing wines in the range of 90 to 92 points — the benchmark for high-quality Chilean wine — the producers need to make the extra effort to close the gap.
This is all very well for the wine consumer, provided that the resulting price does not go up too much! A comfort zone of >90 points is no bad thing — if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


  1. If only basing an evaluation on the Suckling scores, I'd say go with great caution there as they're usually 3-5pts inflated over the typical scores of other publications so those "good values" aren't nearly so much so.

    1. This may well be true. However, my main point is about the consistency of the scores, which would be true irrespective of how high (or low) they are.