In the quest to bring you the best of Chilean wine, a group of 7 people recently tasted our way through some lighter Chilean red wines. We were looking for wines that can be served slightly chilled in warm weather and that pair well with turkey and other dishes often served for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other festivities. Our tasting panel bravely tasted its way through 8 different Chilean wines made from 4 different grape varieties. Below are the full details of all the wines we tried and at the end I will reveal which two wines were the panel’s favourites.

 

  1. País

For decades País was relegated to an underdog role by Chile’s biggest producers who bought the grapes at rock-bottom prices to bulk out other varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon when making Chile’s cheapest red wines. But lately Chile’s third most planted variety has been experiencing a renaissance, with producers  experimenting with different wine styles with País in the starring role. País wines tend to be light, easy-drinking reds with some fruity aromas. We tried two brands.

Bouchon País Salvaje 2018. Maule Valley.

Retails around CLP$10,000. 12.5% ABV

Family firm based in Maule, making a range of wines from grapes grown in Maule. This particular wine is made from grapes from País vines that have self-seeded and run wild, climbing trees. The grapes are destemmed using a zaranda. Fermented in cement vats with native yeasts. 50% underwent carbonic maceration. This wine is unfiltered.

Tasting note: A fresh, fruity, pale-coloured wine; very easy-drinking.

Bouchon’s Pais Salvaje website

Cacique Maravilla 2019. Yumbel, Itata, Ñuble Region.

Retails around CLP$6,000 12.2% ABV

This is a very long-standing family vineyard that is proud to still be making wines from the old vines and using the traditional methods that have passed down through the family. This wine is made with 100% País grapes.

Tasting note: rather denser than the País Salvaje with rustic tannins, medium acidity and red fruit flavours.

Cacique Maravilla’s website

  1. Cinsault

Cinsault is light-skinned with soft, fruity aromas and is widely used in blends in southern France and a few other warm climate areas around the world. If the vines are allowed produce too many grapes, the wines can be boring. But when yields are low – for instance when the grapes come from old vines, like the ones in Itata – it can make deliciously fresh, tasty wines with lovely aromas of red fruit and wild herbs. We tried two different Cinsault wines.

Pedro Parra Imaginador 2017. Itata, Ñuble Region.

Retails around CLP$15,000. 14% ABV

Pedro Parra is a highly respected Chilean expert on terroir (finding the ideal place for growing wine grapes). This is his own family project in his home area. He has sourced grapes from 4 different local vineyards. These are all old vineyards with old vines, trained in a bush or gobelet form and dry-farmed (not irrigated).  The wine has been fermented and aged in a mix of stainless steel and cement vats (no oak) to retain freshness and fruity aromas.

Tasting note: Fresh, crunchy red fruit profile with an intriguingly smoky note. Mineral and taut red fruit flavours with light tannins. Delicious!

Pedro Parra’s website

Dagaz Cinsault 2018. Itata, Ñuble Region.

Retails around CLP$15,000. 13% ABV

Like the Pedro Parra wine, this is made from bush-trained vines in dry inland areas of Itata. This wine has had 6 months’ ageing in a mixture of stainless steel vats and neutral, used oak barrels.

Tasting note: Also fruity but overall a denser wine than the Pedro Parra with more tannins and body, most likely reflecting heavier extraction techniques and the use of oak. A pleasant, fruity wine.

Dagaz Wines’ website

  1. Grenache (Garnacha)

Grenache is widely planted in Spain and France, where, like Cinsault, it has traditionally been used in blends. It is a tricky grape to get right but if you do, it can make an exciting and seductive red wines. There are just a few being made here in Chile and they can be hard to get hold of – the Perez Cruz we tried is probably the most widely available.

Perez Cruz Grenache 2018, Maipo Andes, Metropolitan Region.

Retails around CLP$15,000. The bottle label says 14% ABV but online info suggests it’s actually 14.9%!!

85% Garnacha, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre. 14 months’ ageing, 100% in French oak, half new and half second use, so this wine should have a notable oak influence (aromas of spices, toast) and a smoothness in the mouth.

Tasting note: Beautiful strawberry and chocolate nose and smooth palate with medium tannins and just enough acidity to keep it interesting. Very delicious and moreish.

Perez Cruz website

  1. Pinot Noir

Another fiddly variety that is difficult to get right. People seem to either absolutely adore it or else detest it. Given that the styles of wine it can make can vary hugely, as can the pricetag, then perhaps that is no surprise. In Chile, you can find everything from rich and mouthfilling Pinot Noirs with aromas like strawberry jam and toast through to subtle and lighter-bodied wines with a whole myriad of aromas ranging from mushrooms, through leather, damp leaves and game, through to a downright farmyardy manure-type odour. There are around 4,000 hectares of Pinot Noir in Chile but a lot more are being planted, mostly in coastal, mountainous or southerly regions, as Pinot Noir does best in cool climate conditions. We tasted three Chilean Pinot Noirs.

Aquitania Sol de Sol Pinot Noir 2012, Malleco, La Araucanía Region.

Retails around CLP$20,000. 13.5% ABV

This project was at one time one of Chile’s southernmost but now there are increasing numbers of wineries moving south as the climate gets warmer and drier and because cool-climate wines are fashionable around the world. This wine has had 12 months’ French oak ageing.

Tasting note: A supple, smooth wine with high acidity and a subtle red fruit profile.

Aquitania’s website

Montesecano Refugio Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca Valley.

Retails around CLP$14,500. 12% ABV

This is a small vineyard recently planted in the Casablanca area where they are making very natural wines with no sulphur and no oak. The wines are aged in cement eggs.

Tasting note: Slightly cloudy. The nose reveals medicinal spice and red fruit, as well as a mineral note. Crisp and fresh and just a little bit funky.

Montesecano’s website

Koyle Costa Pinot Noir 2014, Colchagua Costa.

Retails at CLP$15,000. 14% ABV

Koyle is a small family winery led by Cristóbal Undurraga and based in Colchagua Alto, following biodynamic and sustainable principles. These grapes are brought from vineyards nearer the coast. The grapes are harvested in 2 different lots from 2 different plots with different solar exposure to get a different flavour profile. Ageing: 50% in barrels, 50% concrete eggs for 12 months.

Tasting note: Sophisticated nose of red fruit, mineral notes and a hint of toast. Slightly bitter note in the mouth but overall very pleasant, with fresh acidity and fine tannins.

Koyle website

Tasting panel favourites:

Perez Cruz Grenache 2018 was the universal favourite and Pedro Parra’s Imaginador 2017 came out the strong second choice.  Both delicious wines, well worth trying.

 

Chilean Sauvignon BlancChile produces far more red wine than white, but it is well worth checking out those whites it does produce. Here’s a handy guide to the 5 most planted varieties.

Sauvignon Blanc

Chile has developed its own style of this, one of the world’s favourite white varieties. Pronounced aromas of citrus fruit, like lemon and grapefruit, notes of pineapple and a hint of green chilli pepper are accompanied by refreshing zesty acidity in the mouth. A real thirst-quencher.

Chardonnay grapes

Chardonnay

Are you a fan of steely Chablis, subtle white Burgundy or opulent Californian Chardonnay? If so, you may well find a Chilean Chardonnay to suit your tastes. Winemakers here make this chameleon grape into every style, from lean and unoaked through to much softer, creamier and fuller-bodied wines. A good option with fish, chicken and creamy dishes.

Muscat (Moscato)

Muscat comes in many varieties, all of them beautifully aromatic (think flowers, grapes and spices like ginger). Chile has several varieties, with Muscat of Alexandria being the most planted. Muscat grapes are used to make Chile’s own grape brandy Pisco, as well as sweet or dry white wines, which tend to be medium to low in acidity but heady in aroma.

Riesling

This elegant, fragrant grape makes very refreshing wines, which are usually dry in Chile.  Riesling fans use words like “racy” and “steely” to describe their favourite tipple, which will often have citrus notes and maybe just a whiff of kerosene. Well-made Riesling ages well and can develop complex notes of honey and nuts over time. You can also find a few delicious Late Harvest and botrytized Riesling wines in Chile. The grape’s natural acidity balances out the sweetness making for a very seductive and sophisticated drink. These complex sweet wines pair well with cheese and desserts.

Sémillon

Once widely grown in Chile, most vines were removed in favour of trendier grapes, but if you look hard you may find a bottle. This is a versatile, refreshing variety that can make some very elegant wines in both lean and fuller-bodied styles.

Chile is now the world’s fourth biggest exporter of bottled wine and its wine industry is more dynamic and varied than ever before. Winemakers are now producing dry and sweet, still and sparkling, white, rosé, red and even the odd amber-coloured wine from more than 70 different varieties. However, red wines are still very much in the majority, accounting for 74% of Chile’s vineyard area, while just 26% of it is planted with whites. Here’s a quick overview of 10 of its top red varieties – some more indepth articles will be coming soon.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Chile has an incredible 43,000 hectares of this, the world’s most planted variety, ranking only second after France in terms of area planted. Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in Chile’s Mediterranean climate, producing blackcurrant-fragranced, juicy wines with high tannins and acidity. Some are lighter-bodied and fruity, while others are big, mouth-drying wines; both styles pair well with red meat and other strongly flavoured food.

Merlot

Another arrival from Bordeaux, Merlot tends to be softer and more velvety than Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas and flavours of black plums and other black fruit. A comforting red wine and a good option for red meat, casseroles or richly flavoured oven-bakes.

Carmenère grapes
Carmenère grapes

Carmenère

This is the Bordeaux variety that was thought extinct until a wine grape expert discovered it among Merlot vines in Chile in the 1980s.  It thrives in warm temperatures and makes wines with softly spicy aromas, smooth body and rounded tannins, a good choice for accompanying spicy dishes.

Malbec

Like its neighbour, Argentina, Chile makes some very fine Malbec wines. When the grapes are from warmer areas, the wines are more opulent, with lower acidity and lots of black fruit aromas. Those from vineyards cooled by being close to the ocean or high in the mountains can make lighter, more elegant wines with refreshing acidity and floral and red and black fruit aromas.

Syrah (Shiraz)

Like Merlot, Syrah wines are influenced by the climate in the vineyard, so a wine from a coastal or high-altitude vineyard may have aromas of black pepper, red and black fruit and firm acidity, while one from a warmer area can be big, generous and jammy. Try pairing it with lamb or an aubergine bake.

País

Centuries ago, Spanish missionaries took this drought-resistant variety with them to new countries so they could make communion wine. It now goes by different names in places as varied as California, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. País is the third most planted variety in Chile and winemakers are now experimenting with new styles of wine, including refreshing sparkling wines and light, fruity reds.

Cinsault

A Mediterranean variety much used in red blends in southern France, some old-vine Cinsault is now being made into outstanding rosé and red wines here in Chile. Ruby-coloured, with lovely aromas of red fruit and wild herbs, they make delicious lighter wines with fresh acidity, ideal as an aperitif or for accompanying lighter meals, like salad, chicken or fish.

Flight of Carignan wine
Flight of Odfjell Orzada Carignan

Carignan

A warm-climate variety that is at its best made from the small, concentrated grapes of old, unirrigated vines in the Maule region. These are wines with aromas and flavours of wild herbs and red and black fruit, refreshing acidity, high tannins and good body, great with dishes containing red meat or tomato sauces. Watch out for wines labelled “Vigno”, an association of 16 producers who are making very special old-vine Carignan wines.

For more information about Vigno and old-vine Carignan from Maule, check out my post Trip to Maule with 80 Harvests or a whole series of articles published at Around the World in 80 Harvests.

Blind tasting of Chinon wines
Cabernet Franc tasting

Cabernet Franc

It can be easy to overlook the elegant father of the all-popular Cabernet Sauvignon, but there are some superb wines being made with it in Chile. Depending on the winemaking, it can be a soft, paler-coloured wine in a refreshing style or denser and bigger-bodied. Either way, look out for soft red fruit aromas (like raspberries), a hint of green peppers and a lovely smooth texture in the mouth that pairs well with a range of food.

Grenache (Garnacha)

A warm climate variety well-known in southern France and Spain, Grenache can make seductive red wines packed with red fruit aromas and flavours, like strawberries and raspberries. These wines can be high in alcohol and are usually best enjoyed young.

A version of this article was published first by The Best of Santiago.

Sparkling wine for the festive seasonEvery year, we get a group of people together to nobly taste their way through a selection of Chilean sparkling wines to choose the ones they like the most. This year 10 people of 4 different nationalities rose to the challenge and checked out 6 premium, in-bottle fermented sparkling wines (3 white, 3 rosé) and 6 budget sparkling wines.  Here are the results.

Cheers to the intrepid tasting panel!

Premium sparkling wines

Overall winner: Loma Larga Cabernet Franc Brut Nature. 12.9% ABV

The winner: Loma Larga Cabernet Franc Brut Nature

Made with 100% Cabernet Franc grapes from the Casablanca Valley, which were directly pressed to get a pale pink colour.  Being Brut Nature, this has no extra sugar added and it is an intriguing wine with a mixture of savoury and fruity notes, as well as clear notes from the 12 months it spent on its lees following the in-bottle fermentation. A delightful, fresh and food-friendly wine, it’s worth making the effort to get a bottle of this limited production wine, which can be bought directly from the winery. Reference price CLP$18,000.

Loma Larga website

Second: Montes Sparkling Angel Brut. 12.5% ABV

This is a white, traditional method sparkling wine made with 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from Zapallar, very near the coast. This coastal influence will help ensure that the fruit is fresh, with zesty acidity. The wine spent 3 years on the lees before disgorgement, making for some rich, complex, biscuity, toasty notes. Very delicious. Bought from La Cav for $14,290.

Montes website

Third: Azur Brut. 12% ABV

Made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from a cool-climate area in the Limarí Valley, this wine spent 36 months on the lees. This is a real crowd-pleaser, with a nicely balanced and complex nose and deliciously fresh mouth. Available from supermarkets in Chile for $21,990.

Spumante Limari website

Fourth: Inicio Rosé Extra Brut.  12.5% ABV.

This is a rosé sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley. The clusters were direct-pressed, hence the pale rosé colour. The base wine was oak-aged over its lees for 6-9 months, with lees stirring. This has resulted in much more body and creaminess in the mouth and added some brioche notes. The wine then had its second fermentation in the bottle and spent 24 months on its lees before disgorgement, adding biscuit and toast notes. This was a very interesting wine that got mixed results in the tasting. I found it very exciting and would be interested to see if the wine evolves further in the bottle. Lovely fresh acidity, lots of body and layers of complex flavours, including those toast and spongecake aromas intermingled with red fruit. Bought from La Cav for CLP$16,000.

OC Wines website

Fifth: Matetic Coastal Brut. 12.5% ABV

Made from biodynamically-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the San Antonio Valley, this wine spent almost 2 years on the lees, lending it some creamy, brioche notes. This is a beautifully refreshing wine with a long finish. Available from the winery or from Vinoteca. Reference price CLP$24,000.

Matetic website

Sixth: Levita Syrah Rosé Brut. 11.5% ABV

This is a sparkling wine made by two women from 100% organic Syrah grapes from the Maipo Valley. The crushed grapes had a 2-3 hour maceration to give the juice its rosé colour. The base wine spent 7 months over its lees before the second fermentation, which have added to the texture in the mouth. The wine spent 12 months on its lees before disgorgement. This wine has layers of biscuit and black fruit aromas, lots of texture in the mouth and a long finish. Definitely worth trying. This wine is available at La Cav. Reference price CLP$17,990.

Mujer Andina website

Budget sparkling wines (under CLP$10,000 per bottle)

Lineup of budget sparkling wines

Overall winner: Miguel Torres Estelado Extra Brut. 12% ABV

We were all agreed that this wine was head and shoulders ahead of the other budget wines in this tasting. Made with organic País grapes from the Maule Valley, it is also the only one in this price bracket to have had in-bottle fermentation and spent 18 months on its lees.  Some complexity, with subtle citrus and stone fruit flavours alongside some biscuity notes revealing the lees-ageing. Nice and fresh with a creamy mousse. Widely available. Reference price: CLP$10,000.

Miguel Torres website

Second: Amaral Brut. 12.5% ABV

This wine from Viña Montgras is made from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the Leyda Valley. It was made using the tank method. A fresh and fruity wine that you can enjoy on its own or with salads or buffet food. Widely available. Reference price CLP$8,000.

Viña Montgras website

Third: Carmen Brut Special Cuvée. 12.1% ABV

I couldn’t find any information about this wine, beyond that it is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes.  Easy-drinking but the sugar-acidity balance wasn’t quite there. Sweet, ripe fruit flavours. Available from supermarkets. Reference price: CLP$8,000.

Fourth: Echeverría Nina Brut. 12.5% ABV

100% Chardonnay grapes from the Curicó Valley, made using the tank method. With apple flavours and a creamy mousse; this is an easy-drinking option that will work well alone or with a range of foods. Available from supermarkets. Reference price: CLP$7,000

Echeverría website

Fifth: Bouchon Extra Brut. 11.5% ABV

50% País  and 50% Cinsault from the Maule & Itata Valleys. Made using the tank method.  Simple and easy to drink. Available from supermarkets. Reference price: $8,500

Bouchon website

Sixth: Casillera del Diablo, The Devil´s Brut. 12% ABV

This sparkling wine from one of the world’ biggest wine companies, Viña Concha y Toro is made with grapes (unspecified varieties) from the Limarí Valley. This is a very simple wine, which got extremely low scores in our tasting. It has artificial, sweetshop type aromas and flavours (think lemon sherbert) but is fairly fresh and easy-drinking. Honestly, whatever style of sparkling wine you like, you can find something with more personality than this wine in this price bracket. Widely available from supermarkets. Reference price: CLP5,600

Concha y Toro website

I’d love to hear what sparkling wine you choose to celebrate with these holidays! Feel free to drop me a line.

Other posts about sparkling wine:

English-Spanish Sparkling wine glossary

How to choose sparkling wine (1)

How to choose sparkling wine (2)

 

Vinoteca walkaround tasting

Vinoteca walkaround tastingThe golden glow of the late afternoon sun and deep blue backdrop of the Pacific Ocean provided an inviting ambience for the Vinoteca walkaround tasting Noche de Copas at the Sheraton Miramar in Viña del Mar on Friday. Summer-clad locals and tourists strolled from stand to stand, tasting a broad range of wines. The ice cold sparkling and crisp white wines were the firm favourite on this warm evening, with the reds coming into their own after sunset.

Bouchon Family Wines

Bouchon at Vinoteca walkaround tasting
Miriam Alfonso from Bouchon Family Wines

I got my evening off to refreshing start with some crisp whites from Maule-based Bouchon Family Wines.

Tasting notes for Bouchon Family Wines

The Las Mercedes white range from coastal Maule are fresh, light wines made from dry-farmed grapes and subject to a cold maceration followed by stainless steel fermentation to keep them fresh and fruity.

Las Mercedes Sémillon 2015 is a refreshing, light-bodied white with a lemon-fresh nose, perfect as a pre-dinner appetiser or to accompany seafood or salad.

Las Mercedes Sauvignon Blanc 2015 has a light citrus aromas, together with crisp green apple and hint of green chilli pepper. Zesty acidity and an almost savoury flavour make this a good option for pairing with fish or shellfish.

Mingre 2010 is a red blend comprising 40% Carmenère, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah. With extended oak-ageing, this is a big wine with grippy tannins and medium + body, ideal for pairing with red meat dishes.

More information about Bouchon Family Wines

Matetic Vineyards

Matetic bottles at Vinoteca walkaround tasting

I’ve featured San Antonio-based biodynamic producer Matetic before and the wines I tasted on Friday were well up to their usual standard.

Tasting notes for Matetic Vineyards

EQ Chardonnay 2015 was made by whole-bunch pressing the grapes and then fermenting the juice with native yeasts in French oak barrels. This was followed by a partial malolactic fermentation and then 11 months’ ageing over the lees with some lees stirring. All this makes for a wine with a rich, complex texture, full body, fresh creamy acidity and moreish aromas of tropical fruit like pineapples and bananas. Perfect for late afternoon.

EQ Pinot Noir 2014 was made with grapes grown in the Casablanca Valley just 10km from the Pacific to ensure slow ripening. The grapes were macerated and fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts and punch-downs were used to extract colour, tannins and aromas. Then the wine was aged for 14 months in French oak. The result is a wine with ripe red fruit aromas, like cherries and raspberries, together with notes of tobacco and forest floor. This is a well-balanced, food-friendly wine that makes for very pleasant drinking.

Corralillo Winemakers Blend 2015 brings together 50% Syrah, 25% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Franc. This is a very elegant red wine with intriguing fresh red fruit and spice aromas, fresh, high acidity, medium body, medium + ripe tannins and a fairly long finish. This wine would pair well with a range of dishes, including beef or lamb, vegetarian casseroles and bakes and highly flavoured pasta dishes.

More information about Matetic Vineyards

Post featuring a visit to Matetic.

Flaherty Wines

Flaherty Wines at Vinoteca walkaround tasting
Antonio Vidal from Flaherty Wines

Flaherty Wines from Aconcagua were among the highlights at the event with three superb red blends.

Tasting notes for Flaherty Wines

Casa del Magnolio was the lightest of the three, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Aconcagua, Petite Sirah and País from Cauquenes in Maule. With a lovely fresh blackcurrant nose, this is a light, fruity and refreshing wine that will go with a wide range of food.

Flaherty 2015 brings together Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo in a rich, fruity wine perfect for red meat dishes.

Flaherty Cauquenes 2015 is a heavyweight wine with great ageing potential made from dry-farmed and bush-trained Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and País from the warm vineyards of Maule, aged in oak barrels. The nose is expressive – dried fruits like figs and prunes, together with tobacco and violets. This wine tops the scale on all aspects: pronounced tannins, medium+ acidity, full body, long finish, very high alcohol (15%). Delicious but really needs pairing with a highly flavoured dish, such as slowed-roasted beef or lamb or a vegetarian bake topped with melted mature Cheddar cheese. I’d be interested to try this in another five years to see how it has evolved.

More information about Flaherty Wines.

 

More information about Vinoteca, the chain of Chilean wine stores that organized the event.

What wines have you tried lately? Any you’d specially recommend?

orange wine DinavolinoAnd now for something completely different: an orange wine from Italy. Orange wines have been trending for a while around the world but this is the first one I’ve been able to get my hands on. And it was well worth the wait – very much a different experience to white, red or rosé wines. If you fancy trying something new and exciting, I really do recommend it.

orange wine DinavolinoTasting notes: orange wine Dinavolino 2015

This wine is medium orange in colour and has a pronounced nose. There are delicious fruity aromas like apricots, quince jam and sultanas, a honeyed note and also a floral hint, like rose petals. In fact, it reminds me a little of the magical wonderland of aromas of Gewürztraminer wines.

After all those sweet aromas, it’s almost a shock to find that the wine is completely dry and a bit tooth-tacky tannic. There’s enough acidity to make the wine feel fresh and a bit of body there too. The fruity flavours are accompanied by an almond note and the finish is quite long.  Altogether a very intriguing wine, which put me slightly in mind of a British craft cider. A good start to discovering the world of orange wines.

Food pairing

This wine went together beautifully with barbecue-baked salmon with Mediterranean vegetables and freshly harvested Chilote potatoes, boiled and lightly dressed in olive oil and sea salt. Delicious. This wine could go well with anything that works with Chardonnay – pork, chicken, meaty fish dishes, creamy vegetable bakes and gratins.

How the orange wine Dinavolino was made

So you may be wondering why the label on the bottle of wine says “vino bianco” when clearly what comes out of it is anything but white! And why is it orange anyway? Well, it’s because this wine has been made with white grape varieties but they have been treated as though they were red.

When you make a white wine normally, you aren’t interested in it having colour or tannins – which come mostly from the skins – so you press the grapes quickly and make wine with the juice from the grapes, disposing of the grape skins, pips and flesh.

When you make a red wine, on the other hand, you want colour and tannins, so you crush the grapes and keep the skins and flesh with the juice right throughout the fermentation. Often you put the crushed grapes into a tank for a few days before the fermentation for a cold soak, move the grapes around during the fermentation and keep the new wine with its skins and flesh a few days or even weeks after the fermentation just to get even more colour and tannins, aromas and flavours out of them.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine in the tank
Check out these Cabernet Sauvignon grapes during fermentation last April at Mendel in Mendoza

In some countries, like Georgia, white varieties have always been treated in the same way as reds, leaving the skins and flesh with the juice before and during the fermentation.  And some winemakers around the world have cottoned on to this interesting idea and been experimenting with it. In the world of high wine fashion, orange really is the new white. And I gather it can come in many hues and vary greatly from one to another, depending on the grape varieties and techniques.

As regards this wine from small, organic producer Azienda Agricola Denavolo in Emilia Romagna, it’s made with 25% Malvasia di Candia aromatica, 25% Ortrugo, 25% Marsanne and 25% other local varieties.

See the website for Azienda Agricola Denavolo.

Where can you buy this wonderful orange wine Dinavolino?

Here in Chile, you can get this wine from Edwards Fine Wines – check out this post for more information about this small wine import company or email ventas@efwines.cl. There are a number of stockists in the US, according to wine-searcher.com.

More posts

EF Wines bringing fine wines to Chile

How Cabernet Sauvignon wine is made (featuring Mendel in Mendoza)

Have you tried an orange wine? Did you like it? I’d love to hear about any orange wine experiences out there.

Maquis Cabernet Franc

I confess to being a closet Cabernet Franc fan.  Living in the shadow of its big, brash, ostentatious and sharp-as-a nail son, Cabernet Sauvignon, the lighter-bodied Cab. Franc with its understated elegance and smooth sophistication just tends to get left there on the shelf, the “also ran” of the wine world. Think Fred Astaire versus Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you haven’t yet checked out this variety, Maquis Cabernet Franc 2012 could be a good one to try.  

Tasting note: Maquis Cabernet Franc 2012, Colchagua Valley, 13.5% ABV

This wine makes more than a passing nod to those who like their wines on the beefier side, with more colour and body than than many other Cabernet Franc wines – no doubt helped along by the dollop of  Carmenère in the blend. This is a characterful wine with plenty going on aroma-wise: red and black fruit (think cranberries, black cherries and plums), an intriguing herbal note like fennel and bay, a touch of vanilla and a liquorice note. This is a dry wine with plenty of ripe and well-integrated tannins and sufficient acidity and body to make it feel fresh and velvety in the mouth. The ripe black fruit and spice come through in the flavours. The finish is medium.

Food pairing

This wine held its own with spaghetti with a Ragu sauce, so would be fine for any well-flavoured dish, like vegetable stew, cassoulet or slow-roasted beef.

Winemaking

This wine consists of 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Carmenère grapes. The grapes were macerated for five days before fermentation and the wine was left a while longer with the skins after fermentation. This is so the skins had lots of time to transfer colour, aromas and tannins to the wine. The wine was aged for 10 months, 80% of it in used oak barrels, so as to make the tannins and body more rounded without adding too many aromas or flavours from the oak (such as toast or vanilla).

Where you can buy Maquis Cabernet Franc

In Chile, Maquis wines are stocked in major stores like Jumbo. In the United States, their wines are distributed through Global Vineyard.  For other countries, contact the winery.

Maquis website

More Posts

Weekend wine: Loma Larga Cabernet Franc 2014

Tasting French wine: Loire Cabernet Franc

Weekend wine: Morandé Vigno 2012

Morandé Vigno 2012

Do you like rich, fruity, comforting reds? Big wines that are great for a night in accompanied by pizza and a film or fabulous with a steak dinner or a cheese-topped bake? If so, Morandé Vigno 2012 may well tick the right boxes. This is one of a group of dry-farmed, old-vine Carignan wines from Chile’s Maule Valley that go under the name Vigno.

Carignan grapesWhat’s Vigno?

Basically it’s either completely or mainly a Carignan wine from the Maule region that meets the following rules. At least 65% of the grapes must be from Carignan vines that are a minimum of 30 years old, not irrigated and grown in a bush format known as gobelet, rather than trained along wires. Up to 35% of the wine can made from grapes of any other variety of grape grown in Maule, so long as the Carignan character is not lost. The wines must be aged for at least 2 years prior to release.

The Vigno brand has gradually gained prestige both in Chile and around the world and now a good number of Chilean wineries have a Vigno in their portfolio. Check out this post for the full Vigno story or the official Vigno website (in Spanish).

Tasting note: Morandé Vigno 2012, Maule Valley, 14.5%

This wine is deep ruby. It has a pronounced nose with notes of red fruit, such as sour cherries, as well as blueberries and black plums, a herbal note like juniper or liquorice and some sweet spices from the oak-ageing, like vanilla, coconut and cinnamon. This is a dry, full-bodied wine with pronounced, ripe and integrated tannins, high acidity, very high alcohol (14.5%) and a relatively long finish. The mouth reveals fruit, intermingled with that herbal note and the sweet spices. A big, juicy wine perfect for wallowing at the end of a long week.

Food pairing

This wine will be at its best with highly flavoured, fatty foods – think barbecued pork, fried steak or any dish smothered in rich melted cheese, including pizza or lasagne.  I often pick a Carignan wine when I serve meat slow-cooked in a tomato or wine sauce, such as Chilean favourite Carne Mechadaclick here for the recipe.

Winemaking

Morandé Vigno 2012 was made with 78% Carignan together with contributions of 18% Syrah and 4% Chardonnay. It spent 24 months in a mixture of French and American oak barrels and foudres, which will have smoothed out and rounded the tannins and the body of the wine.

Morandé Adventure website

Where you can buy Morandé Vigno 2012

In Chile, you can buy Morandé Vigno direct from Cava Morandé or in a wide range of stores, like Jumbo. To find out stockists in other countries, contact the winery.

Other posts

Vigno: the renaissance of Chilean Carignan

Weekend wine: Wildmakers Sabatico

De Martino Legado ChardonnayHere’s a chic little number; a rather moreish take on the world’s favourite type of white wine: De Martino Legado Chardonnay.  And this week, I’m featuring two different years of the same wine – 2015 and 2016 – because they are quite different and a great example of something few people mention here in Chile: vintage variation.

Anyway more on vintage variation later. First let’s talk about these two wines.

Tasting notes

De Martino Legado Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, 14% ABV

This pale yellow wine has a pronounced nose with distinct layers of aromas. First up are the enticing notes of brioche and pastry due to the wine being stored over its lees (sediment) and stirred from time to time. Then there is a layer of fruit aromas, particularly zingy citrus fruit, like lemon sherbet and lemon zest, as well as crisp green apple. Finally there is a sweet caramel smell suggestive of some contact with oak.

In the mouth, the wine is dry, with high acidity and medium body and a lovely creamy texture. The flavours are relatively pronounced, featuring the same brioche, lemon sherbrt and apple notes, but there is a slight sweet touch, like caramel too. Fairly long. A very beguiling wine that entices you to pour another glass.

De Martino Legado Chardonnay 2016, Limarí Valley, 13.5% ABV

This pale yellow wine has a medium nose, much more subtle than the 2015 version. The aromas are more difficult to pin down – a citrus note, ripe lime perhaps – together with some white fruit aromas, like melon, peach and apricot. There’s also a floral hint – something like orange blossom – and some brioche-like notes from the lees stirring again. But all in all, the aromas of this wine are much more restrained than the vibrant 2015 version.

In the mouth, this wine is dry with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) body and alcohol. The flavour intensity is more restrained, but the wine has a lovely, creamy mouthfeel and a soft fruitiness. The finish is again relatively long. This wine is also very moreish but its style is more subtle.

Food pairing

Chardonnay – especially one with a bit of personality and body like this one – is always going to be a good choice for chicken, fish and creamy dishes, including vegetables au gratin or other cheesy types of dishes.

Where can you buy De Martino Legado Chardonnay?

In Chile, you can buy wines direct from the winery, at Jumbo supermarkets or Mundo del Vino stores. In the UK, Berry, Bros and Rudd and Waitrose are among several stockists. In the US, wine.com stock some De Martino wines.

De Martino’s website

So why the difference between the two wines?

In Europe it’s well-known that wines vary from one year to another, mainly because of differences in the weather. But in many New World regions, like Australia, Argentina and Chile, where the weather is a bit more reliable than in the likes of Bordeaux, the myth has arisen that the wines are the same from year to year. Not true and De Martino Legado Chardonnay is a lovely example of this.

Wines tend naturally to reflect differences in conditions. For instance 2016 was a warmer year than normal in most parts of Chile and rain fell just when it was least wanted, in the middle of the harvesting season.

In warm years, the grapes ripen faster, so either you end up with grapes that have more sugar (and therefore wines with higher alcohol) and less acidity or you pick them earlier, when their aromas and flavours are less developed. Meanwhile rain in the period around harvesting can make the grapes swell up with water (creating wines with a more dilute flavour) and/or cause them to rot.

So what I think happened at De Martino in 2016 is that they saw the sugar levels in their Chardonnay grapes rising and the acidity dropping and knew that rain was possible, so they took a decision to harvest the grapes earlier than normal. This safeguarded the acidity levels. While the 2016 wine has less acidity than the 2015 vintage, it’s still very refreshing. It also stopped the grapes from stockpiling so much sugar that the wine ended up being very high in alcohol – indeed the 2016 vintage has slightly less alcohol than the 2015 one.  The other side of the coin is that the wine has more subtle aromas and flavours, because these had less time to develop in the grapes before harvesting.

How come so many wines don’t vary from year to year?

Let’s face it, most consumers around the world like certainty when they are buying a product. They don’t want it to change from one purchase to the next. And so winemakers at many wineries apply great skill to ensure that that their wines are more or less the same from one year to another. In addition to picking the grapes earlier or later to get the desired qualities, they can add more acidity, reduce the alcohol or add a dash of another grape variety to achieve this. So most of the really big name brands of wine will tend to be very consistent.

Other wineries – often the smaller or boutique ones – have a different – and arguably more daring – approach, allowing the wine to tell its own story. Wine geeks like me enjoy that element of the unknown in uncorking a wine we’ve tried before and encountering something a little different. Of course, this can lead to disappointment, if you don’t like a subsequent vintage of a wine you previously liked. But the likes of De Martino strike the balance between allowing the wine to be expressive without the style becoming unbalanced, for instance by excess alcohol.  And this takes a lot of skill and experience.

I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you prefer your wine to be consistent every year or do you like the surprise of vintage variation? Have you been disappointed (or delighted) by a particular vintage?

 

 

 

More posts

Weekend wine: Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016

Weekend wine: Pandolfi Price Chardonnay

5 reasons for rediscovering Chardonnay

Chardonnay tasting

 

Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016This fruity red blend is an unusual marriage between iconic Italian and Spanish varieties and it really works. Sip Erasmo Barbera Garnacha on its own or enjoy it with a wide variety of food – its fresh and lively fruit-forward style is very moreish.

Tasting note: Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016, Maule Valley, 14% ABV

This wine is a medium ruby colour and has a delightfully pronounced nose. Aromas of red fruit, like strawberry jam, raspberries and red plums, together with rhubarb, intermingle with a subtle herbal note of liquorice or dill. As the wine opened, a touch of mushroom and earth became apparent. The wine is dry with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) ripe but coarse tannins, medium (+) body and high alcohol. The mouth is lively with lots of red fruit and a chalky or even slightly earthy texture adding interest. The finish is medium (+).

Food pairing

Erasmo Barbera Garnacha is a food-friendly wine that will work well with a wide variety of different dishes – you may want to try it with oven-roasted vegetables drizzled with olive oil, pizza, roast pork, chicken or dishes made with firm types of fish, like cod or hake.

The varieties

Barbera is from Italy – most especially Piedmont – and, until recently, was often seen as making an everyday kind of wine that was a bit on the tart side. But then, just as has been discovered with other varieties, they found that if the yields are controlled, so each vine just produces a moderate amount of grapes, it can actually make some great wine. So Barbera has been experiencing a Renaissance lately. It grows well in warm conditions and makes wines with high acidity, low tannins and fruity flavours which can range from black fruit like blackberries through to red cherries. When it’s aged in oak – not the case with this wine – it gains more tannins, becomes rounder and develops aromas and flavours of plums.

Garnacha or Grenache, as it is called in France, is thought to come originally from Spain, where it is widely planted. As it too likes warm temperatures, it’s also widespread in some of France’s warmer regions, like the southern Rhône – the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape is largely or even wholly Grenache. The aromas and flavours of Grenache only reach their best when the grapes are very ripe and have a high level of sugar. High sugar means high alcohol and it also means that the acidity will have declined. So Grenache wines generally have lowish acidity and high alcohol but lots of lovely fruity aromas and flavours.

Erasmo Barbera Garnacha is a very unusual blend and  I’d say it’s a genius idea to combine two warm climate varieties, one that is known for too much acidity and moderate fruitiness with another than is troubled by insufficient acidity but jam-packed with lively red fruit aromas and flavours.

Winemaking

Erasmo grow their grapes following organic principles. It seems the quantities of each type of wine vary from year to year and in 2016 were 70% Barbera and 30% Grenache. Half of the grapes were co-fermented and the other half were vinified separately, in both cases in stainless steel tanks, so the winemaker’s intention would be to retain the fresh fruitiness of the grapes and avoid letting the wine be spoiled by contact with oxygen.

Grenache is particularly prone to fading young if it has been in contact with too much oxygen or just left too long in the bottle. Having been disappointed recently by two different Grenache wines of which I had high expectations, I can speak from experience on this.

My top tip: if you buy a wine which is pure Grenache or a blend containing a lot of Grenache, like this one, unless the back label suggests otherwise, don’t keep it for a rainy day. Drink it and enjoy it young, while it’s deliciously fruity.

Where to find Erasmo wines

In Chile, Vinoteca stocks this wine. The company website details stockists in other countries around the world.

Other posts:

Weekend wine: Wildmakers Sabatico 2014 (another Grenache blend, this time with Carignan)

Weekend wine: Huaso de Sauzal Garnacha 2013

Artistic shades of pink: rosé wine (featuring a French rosé made from Grenache and Cinsault)