Chillin’ in Chile
My recent trip to Chile has been an amazing experience. I have been blown away by the wines, delicious local food and an incredible hospitality of the local people. Before I flew to Santiago I had this image of Chilean wines being properly made but rather commercial with not much diversity and personality. How wrong was I!
I went to Curico Valley then down south to Maule and finished my journey in the coastal area in Casablanca. During my stay I have tasted probably around 200 wines and have had the opportunity to taste just about every single grape and style of wine made in Chile. I have visited many small and big wine producers.
I was lucky to be there at harvest time and to taste some just made wines from 2015 vintage which according to the producers it meant to be a good year!
My biggest discovery was the Carignan grape grown in the south of Chile in Maule Valley. This is a relatively new project encompassing 15 producers promoting an old vine Carignan grape variety. The wine has to be made from grapes grown on at least 35 year old vines (usually much older) and the final wine has to have at least 85% Carignan in the blend. Vigno Carignans present generous red and black fruit with some herbaceous and spicy note. Rather full bodied with good grip, amazing freshness and elegance. Vigno wines are very individual, interesting well made and extremely food friendly. The wines are definitely worth seeking out for.
I was happy to taste some delicious Sauvignon Blancs from Atacama dessert (far north) and have had some really good ones from Casablanca Valley (coastal area around Valparaiso). These spots are relatively cool and tend to be the best for fresh and crisp styles of wines. Casablanca’s producers are gaining their name for good Pinot Noirs, those fruit driven, well balanced and fresh wines are very pleasant and deliver a good value for money.
One of the best performers for me was the Syrah grape. It appears in every wine region in the country and comes in two different styles. The full bodied, jammy, rich and intense style usually comes from hotter Central Valley and the more restrained, elegant and subtle style can be found on the coastal area. Producers complain that currently it is very hard to sell wines made from Syrah and they do not make a lot of it which is a shame as in my view it could be the grape for Chile.
The grape of choice remains Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Carmenere and Merlot. When those grape varieties are well put together can make some exciting Bordeaux – like blends with crunchy fruit, some spicy/herbaceous note and well balanced structure.
I have decided to go through all the wines I have tasted and have put together a list of my personal favourites:
My Top sparklings
1. Titillum Blanc de Blancs, Brut Supreme, Undurraga – creamy with zesty citrus and delicious yeasty character. Perfect aperitif but can go well with oysters or any shellfish
2. Fervor Brut, Casa Silva – Very lively and energetic with rather rich texture and tasty red apple fruit.
3. Estelado Brut Rose, Uva Pais, Miguel Torres – a very pleasant sparkling rose, perfect for a hot day and as an aperitif. Fruity, fresh and cheerful.
1. Lago Ranco, Sauvignon Blanc, Patagonia, Casa Silva, 2013 – very individual style with unlike Sauvignon Blanc aromas and flavours. Unripe citrus, green apple and pear with waxy texture and fresh acidity.
2. Kalfu Sumpai, Sauvignon Blanc, Vina Ventisquero, 2014 – zesty and bone dry with citrus fruit and firm mineral note. A true food wine.
3. Tara, Vina Ventisquero, D.O. Atakama, 2013 – Perfectly balanced wine with plenty of delicious Chardonnay character.
4. Merino Chardonnay, Limestone Hill, Limari Valley, 2013 – Outstanding Chardonnay with ripe citrus, apple and tropical fruit character. Round yet fresh with perfectly integrated oak and zesty finish.
5. 20 Barrels, sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca, Cono Sur, 2014 – this wine proves that Casablanca is a perfect spot for production of Sauvignon Blanc. Call it a textbook but it is a delicious one!
My top reds
1. Vigno Carignan, Garage Wine Co. every vintage was really good – Possibly the wine of the trip! Complex aromas, delicious fruit, well managed oak, great freshness, all in perfect balance!
2. Vik, Millahue, 2011 Chilean Bordeaux blend at its best! This wine has been very skilfully put together. It has the ripe fruit from the Chilean sun and the elegance and fineness from the French know how.
3. Syrah Trabun, Cachapoal Valley, 2011 Spicy, peppery style with crunchy fruit and savoury character. Can drink it all day!
4. Santa Rita, Cabernet Sauvignon, Casa Real, Maipo, 2002 An iconic wine that shows how beautifully top Chilean wines can age. Complex, elegant yet grippy, wine for meditation
5. Syrah, Neblus, Casablanca Valley, 2012 An another delicious Syrah that shows a great potential for this grape in Chile.
1. Morande, Sauvignon Blanc, Golden Harvest, Edicion Limitada, Casablanca Valley, 2007 – A real surprise! Juicy peach, apricot with a citric freshness and honey like richness. I love it!
Adam Pawlowski MS