Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Last week, TheStreet.com Ratings upgraded Vina Concha y Toro (VCO) from hold to buy. I have no idea how to read its wacky chart, but I can vouch for its wine: It’s cheap and Chilean. That’s all I need to know.

When I order wine at a restaurant, I first look for Washington wines, of course (and if there are none, I make a point of mentioning how much I would have loved to order one, fulfilling my unofficial role as Walla Walla’s East Coast PR rep). Then I look for cheap wines. Then I look for Chilean wines. Any intersection — which means either Washington and cheap or Chilean and cheap, since as far as I know there are no wines that are from both Washington and Chile — is good enough for me. Usually it’s the Chilean wine that’s cheap (the Washington wines that NYC restaurants carry, if they carry them at all, tend to be out of my budget), and often that wine is from Concha y Toro.

It should be obvious why I like the Washington wines (hint: It has to do with the 18 years I spent in Walla Walla). You probably also know that I spent a year in Chile, and while I was there, I drank a fair amount of Chilean wine, though mostly that was Gato Negro in a box. As for the cheap thing, well, let’s just say that my student loans recently kicked in, and my rent doubled at around the same time. And I live in New York.

My mother told me that NPR recently did a bit on best-value wines, and Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo was one of them. I drink this all the time. It costs $9.99 at the liquor store around the corner, and it tastes like wine (which is really all I ask, that it taste like wine and not wine with a bunch of water in it or or wine with a bunch of fruit punch in it). Chris’s dad also serves this wine all the time, and he has good taste in many things, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, I’m sure he’ll back me up.

I usually drink the cabernet sauvignon, but here’s a good plug for the merlot. I don’t know about the plums and pencil lead that reviewer finds on the nose — as I said, it tastes like wine to me — but I have always liked to chew on pencils, which encourages the release of the pencil smell, which I suppose I also enjoy. Back when I used pencils, I probably wasn’t thinking about whether I’d like that scent to carry over to the copious alcoholic beverages I’d start to consume 10 years down the road, but I gnawed on them something fierce.

(Did you notice how I said “on the nose” before? I think that means the way a wine smells. I love the funny ways people talk about wine almost as much as I love wine!)

The funny thing about Concha y Toro wine is the word “concha.” In Spanish, that means “shell,” which is all fine and good. But as anyone who’s spent time in various Spanish-speaking countries surely knows, a Spanish word might mean one thing to this person and something entirely different to that person. (For example, “guagua” means truck in the Dominican Republic; to Chileans, it’s a baby. I think both meanings must originate from the sounds those things make. I can easily imagine a truck’s horn sounding a bit like “gua-gua,” and in Chile, the word’s often pronounced with a very soft, almost absent “g,” much like the “wah-wah” of a baby’s cry.)

In Chile, I think “concha” can still mean “shell,” but I only ever heard it used to mean, as crudely as possible, “vagina.” Most memorable was the time when I was walking down the street and a man stared intently at my friend’s crotch and said, “Tremenda concha!” which I roughly interpreted to mean, “What a great vagina!” The popular Chilean insult “concha tu madre,” which is akin to “son of a bitch,” comes from “concha de tu madre,” which literally means, as far as I can tell, “your mother’s vagina.”

Do with that what you will. As for the stock, VCO closed down 1.6% today at $34.51. So what’s the better investment: a share of Vina Concha y Toro or three bottles of Casillero del Diablo?


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