Concha y Toro and pizza.

Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Malbec 2010, Chile

Cost: $16-18

What: Concha y Toro has long been the most famous wine producer in Chile. They have been known primarily for good, inexpensive wine that should be drunk soon after you buy it.

But that’s yesterday’s news. This Malbec reaches a higher quality plane. Chilean winemakers are working hard to upgrade quality across the board, even at Concha y Toro, one of the biggest and best known wine brands in the world.

Concha y Toro Malbec.

The Gran Reserva is a great example of that. It certainly moves the wine several notches up the quality scale. The subtitle on the bottle is Serie Riberas or River Series, because all of the vineyards are tied to a river that flows near each vineyard. The influence of the river valleys (bringing fresh water down from the Andes Mountains and cool air up from the Pacific Ocean) is important to the quality of the wines.

This is a smooth, subtle, elegant Malbec, in contrast to the often jammy overblown Malbecs from Argentina that have become so popular. Anyone who likes Malbec will go crazy over this wine. It is a great example of the fine, elegant Malbecs Chile is producing to compete with the Argentines.

It’s a deep, dark purple-red in the glass, with rich aromas of plum and black fruit. The flavors are complex, mostly black fruit and caramel well integrated with soft, sweet tannins, very much in the Chilean style.

The wine spent 12 months in French and American oak barrels, but there is barely a hint of oak in the taste. Good acidity gives it firm structure and a promise that it will age for a few years.

Winery: Concha y Toro is the iconic winery of Chile and is one of the world’s most important wineries. The firm sells more than 29 million cases a year in more than 135 countries. It would be difficult to find a wine drinker not familiar with Concha y Toro.

Dating back nearly 130 years. the winery has won many awards. Its brands include Casillero del Diablo, Don Melchor, the Terrunyo line and Marqués de Casa Concha.

Santiago street sign.

Its principal subsidiaries are Viña Cono Sur, Viña Maipo, Viña Palo Alto, Viña Maycas del Limarí, Trivento Bodegas y Viñedos, which operates in Argentina, and the Joint Venture with the prestigious winery, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, which produces the Almaviva brand.

The success of Concha y Toro over the years would lead some to think the company didn’t need to worry about higher quality wines. But that has been one of the keys to success for Concha y Toro, the willingness to experiment, to not settle for quick-selling inexpensive wines, but to push for the highest possible quality at all price points.

The River Series line comprises five red varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec) and two whites (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc).

Great Chicago pizza with great Malbec.

Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this wine with a deep dish Chicago pizza that I picked up at Pizzeria Uno in Lexington, S.C. I was driving back from Charlotte after a trip because when U.S. Airways canceled my outbound flight, I had to drive to Charlotte to get my connecting flight. It was either that or miss a trip to Chile. So I drove, and driving back I decided to pick up one of my favorite foods.

I’m not sure if she was happier to see me or the pizza, but the wine made everything better. What a great pairing. The pizza is filled with large chunks of Italian sausage and tomato pieces in a tasty sauce. The Malbec more than held its own against the spice assault. This was one bottle we hated to see empty.

It probably also would go well with stir-fry dishes with green vegetables and pork, with a touch of sweet-and-sour and pepper sauce, or lamb chops or hearty cheeses.

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