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  • Richard Hemming MW
Written by
  • Richard Hemming MW
30 Dec 2016

From €5.99, $6.99, £5.50, AU$11.40, 58 Chinese yen, 6.90 Swiss francs

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During this holiday season you are as likely to want good, cheap, quaffing red as you are top-shelf claret. Volume and value is the order of the day! Especially if you spend it with my family.

Last month, I visited Chile in search of artisanal, creative, esoteric, genuine, hand-crafted wines. And boy did I find some. I cannot wait to tell you how expensive and impossible to find they are. But such qualities do not a wine of the week make. Whereas Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is cheap and everywhere, much like the devil himself. (And we are assured, incidentally, that the blend is the same in all of the main countries in which it is sold.)

In fact, Concha y Toro make 2.2 million cases of Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon every year. Let me put that another way. Actually, let me just repeat it: 2.2 million cases. How many bottles? You do the maths. 

Actually, I'll do the maths: that makes 19,800,000 litres, or 26,400,000 bottles. Little wonder it's everywhere.

But even more remarkable than its ubiquity is how drinkable, true to the variety and downright delicious it is. I know what you're thinking. That I've made some kind of Faustian pact. That I have sold my soul to Diablo in return for 25 years of being a Master of Wine. Well, it's a damn sight easier than trying to pass the exams.

But actually, the quality of Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is quite remarkable. 

(Incidentally, there is no non-Reserva version of the wine. While this term is usually assumed to have no legal significance outside Europe (see the Reserva entry in the Oxford Companion for more details), there is apparently a historic Chilean regulation requiring any wine labelled Reserva to achieve a minimum of 12% alcohol.) 

In fact, this one has 13.5%, as well as bona fide cassis fruit flavour, medium-full body, refreshing acidity and plush tannins. It is ripe and confected, of course, but head winemaker Marcelo Papa promises that there is no residual sugar, and I believe him. And yes, it will have had tartaric acid, pectolictic enzymes, sulphur dioxide, oenological tannin, oak powder, cultured yeast and all manner of other industrial winemaking ingredients and processing aids added to it.

Yet none of that matters when you serve this wine in the right context, because it is a crowd-pleasing, well-branded, smooth, drinkable, delicious and affordable red wine, and if they serve it in hell, I can think of much worse places to spend eternity. Like with my family at Christmas.

Just kidding, they're lovely really. Merry Christmas!

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In the UK, Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon can currently be purchased for £5.50 at Tesco, and £6 at Waitrose and Ocado. These offers tend to change fairly frequently, and rotate between retailers, so bargain hunters may wish to do some advance research!

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