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Alejandra shows the vines

A petite Chilean woman, there is just a hint of French elegance in the way that Alejandra Gutiérrez expresses herself as she shows me around the Loma Larga winery in the renowned Casablanca Valley.  A throwback to ancestral genes perhaps or maybe when she studied French and English at university, some subtle aspect of Frenchness lodged itself in her manner.

As we stroll over the living roof of the cellar, a gently sloping dome planted with vines and roses, she warms to her theme, showing me the VSP-trained Pinot Noir vines and the drip-irrigation system.

I’ve known Alejandra for several years as we both work in wine translations. I ask her how her initial interest developed into a passion and how this brought her to work here at Loma Larga.

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Wine production area.

“I’ve always felt especially attracted to French culture, literature and traditions. I think perhaps that is where the first seed was sown. It began when I decided to specialise in wine translations, to give me another string to my bow. I began to translate for some Chilean wineries and decided to do a sommelier course. Of course, having started, I continued through the full three years of coursework and took the exams and I hope to qualify as a professional sommelier this year.  And the more I study, the more I realise that this world of wine is enormous and expanding. No matter how much you study, there is always more to be discovered. But the most important thing is to look, smell, taste, touch and experiment. And that is why I decided to work in a winery. I’ve been here for four years now, working as a sommelier and tourism manager. Here I am able to go into the vineyards, work shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues and learn. I have adjusted to the rhythm of the vineyard, the dormancy of winter, the beauty of spring, the crazy pace of harvest time. I feel that with each year that passes, the vines are becoming more and more at one with the terroir and I am too.”

As we enter the main winery building with its state-of-the-art stainless steel vats, Alejandra explains to me the winery’s philosophy of drawing out the fruit expression in their mainly single varietal cool climate wines; wines which are gaining increasing recognition in international markets. They harvested some of the Cabernet Franc grapes just a few hours ago and they are now macerating in an open vat. Nearby a man in navy overalls is hosing down the yard.  As she talks me through the process, I ask Alejandra how she learned so much.

“I love reading. In fact I suffer because I don’t have more time to read. And where I used to read novels, now I read books about wine. My latest purchase is one of the Bibles of the wine world, the World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Jonhson. I keep it on my bedside table.”

We enter the cool, cloistered environment of the cellar and walk among the barrels. Loma Larga uses exclusively French barrels but experiments with different brands, toasts and sizes. She explains to me that one of the winery’s two lines, Lomas del Valle, consists of unoaked wines, designed to reveal the full, unadulterated fruit of each variety, while the Loma Larga line is oak-aged to produce a more complex wine.

We blink as we head out of the cool, dark womb into the bright sunlight and head to a shaded veranda to start our tasting. It is quiet, but for the gentle rustling of the nearby Eucalyptus trees in the breeze. Somewhere a bird starts singing. This is not one of those industrial-style wineries bustling with a different group of tourists every hour. There is no sound of mechanisation, no distant roar of cars to spoil the illusion that you are far away from it all. The pace of life here is gentle and friendly. As Alejandra serves the generous sample of four different wines into Bordeaux-style glasses, I ask her about her hopes for the future.

“I dream of travelling and of course I would like to go to every wine-producing area. This year I was lucky enough to visit Napa, Sonoma and some other places on the west coast of the US. I also took part in some wine events, which means you can travel without going anywhere, as each wine is a place in itself. Talking to people who make wine is also like going on a journey. I’d love to go every year to Vinexpo and ProWein for business, but I’d also love to go to hedonistic festivals, such as the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, in which the culture of wine is part is a living, dynamic thing.”

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Tasting Loma Larga wines.

Finally, I ask her to tell me about three wines she has tasted recently that she really liked.

“I really wanted to taste a Cabernet Franc from another cool climate area and see how it compared to ours here at Loma Larga, so I tried Mount Veeder Winery’s 2010 vintage from the Napa Valley in California.”“My second choice is F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Zinfandel 2012. Of course, as I was visiting California, I really wanted to get to know their flagship variety. This was a beautiful example, velvety, young and fruity and part of the Naked Wines portfolio.”“While I was in San Francisco, I went to a champagne event, where I was able to try a Millésime, a vintage champagne from 2008: 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.  I was impressed by the body and length of the wine. Here in Chile, it is still difficult to taste really top quality sparkling wines, so this was a real treat for me.”

For more information about Loma Larga, visit their website.

The Loma Larga wines we tasted.

Lomas del Valle Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Clear, pale lemon with greenish hues. Clean nose with peach, lime and a touch of orange blossom. Dry, with characteristic citrus notes but a pleasing wine which would work well as an aperitif.

Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir 2013

Pale ruby with purple hues, this classic cool climate Pinot Noir unveils strawberry jam and raspberry bubblegum but is surprisingly interesting in the mouth, with high acidity and plenty of red fruit.

Loma Larga Malbec 2010

Deep ruby with good legs, this Malbec is complex, with blackcurrants, black cherries and plums intermingling with sweet spices, cedar and a floral touch.  This is a red wine that packs a punch, filling your mouth with smooth tannins, black fruit a touch of ashtray.

Loma Larga Cabernet Franc 2008

A ruby gem with forest floor, cassis and liquorice. Nicely complex and a great finish, this is a wine that can only get better with time.

Other articles of interest:

Casablanca winery visits: Loma Larga

Emilia winery
Emilia winery building

 

Cultivation of plants, like valerian, to make biodynamic preparations
Cultivation of plants, like valerian, to make biodynamic preparations
Cockerel at work among the vines
Cockerel at work among the vines

This is a biodynamic and fair trade winery, so I found this tour especially interesting, particularly as the guide noted our interest and gave us more details than is usual on winery tours.

The environment is very peaceful and there are hens and guinea fowls pecking amongst the vines and alpacas to add extra interest.

Nice facilities and there were options such as tastings with cheese or chocolate and picnics.

Overall score 9 / 10

 

 

 

Cost $13,000 Chilean pesos.
Ease of booking Good. Booked by email and received confirmation within a few hours.
Information prior to arrival Website is comprehensive
Getting there Access to Emiliana is directly from the Ruta 68 motorway between Santiago and Viña/Valparaíso, right after the Zapata toll if you are coming from Santiago. If you are coming from the coast, be careful to leave the motorway in good time, as otherwise you will have to pay the toll, turn back on yourself and pay the toll a second time.
Welcome on arrival Good
Efficiency Good
Toilets Clean and pleasant.
Café / restaurant There is a restaurant Monday to Friday. I visited on a Saturday so was not able to see it in operation.
Shop Nicely laid out. Stocks the full range of wines. The shop also sells honey and olive oil and hats produced by the winery’s employees; funds go into a special fund used in benefit of the employees. All prices were quite high and the wines were only slightly cheaper than the retail price in the supermarket.
Languages available English and Spanish. At least one staff member was able to speak Portuguese.
The workers have their own plots for organic production.
The workers have their own plots for organic production.
The alpacas graze among the vines, keeping weeds down.
The alpaca graze among the vines, keeping weeds down.
Cheers!
Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief description of tour Officially 30 minutes, our tour and tasting actually lasted almost 2 hours – perhaps because we showed so much interest or perhaps because there were no later bookings. Our guide really knew her subject and was enthusiastic about it, so we came away feeling we had learned a lot about biodynamic agriculture. The tour only covers a small area of ground, but we saw some vines, a range of the animals which are part of the holistic style of agriculture practiced here (alpacas, hens, guinea fowls) and some of the workers’ organic gardens, amongst other things. The wine is not produced at this site, so we were unable to see the production facilities and barrels.
Tour guide’s ability to answer questions Very good
Tasting 4 wines, very good.

Chilean Holiday Special: Wine

Time to celebrate 18 September.
Time to celebrate 18 September.

First things first, what is the big deal with 18th September in Chile?

For anyone new to Chile, the Fiestas Patrías come as quite a surprise. This is the biggest holiday in the Chilean calendar – apart from New Year – and many people use it as an excuse to take up to a week’s holiday and to show a sudden burst of national fervour.  Flags go up everywhere, people hang red, white and blue bunting all over their homes and start dancing Chile’s national dance, the cueca or listening to their choice of Chilean music.  But most of all, people eat, drink and get very, very merry.

On 18 September 1810, the First Assembly of the Government gathered to proclaim autonomy from Spain, the first step along the road to making Chile an independent country. This is the date on which Chile celebrate its independence each year. On 19 September, Chile celebrates the Glories of the Chilean Army.  So this is a double public holiday, which is sometimes extended by an extra day to make a long weekend.

Much-loved choripanes (sausages in bread rolls)
Much-loved choripanes (sausages in bread rolls)
Barbecue
Barbecue
Classic fare for 18 September: red meat and salad.
Classic fare for 18 September: red meat and salad.

I asked a number of friends what they considered to be a great way of celebrating the 18th of September. It was interesting to see how varied the results were. Some people prefer to go out to organized events, one person voted for street parties, while for other people, it’s all about a relaxed barbecue with family and friends. Everyone does agree about one thing: that it’s a time to eat and drink till you drop.

Food

This is robust food with lots of red meat, bread with pebre and salads.  This weekend I had a marathon cooking session with friend and neighbour Loreto Fuchslocher Arancibia and you can check out the following recipes:

Happy Fiestas Patrias!
Happy Fiestas Patrias!

Wine

Any red wine with good tannins will be fine with a barbecue, so you could opt for Carménère, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc or Carignan, to name but a few.  However, the most popular wine for 18th September is Cabernet Sauvignon, so my suggestions are for that variety.

Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Intense purple. A lovely nose; vanilla and cedar and just bursting with ripe fruit – cassis, blueberries, plums. Put me in mind of blackberry and apple pie. A nice, chewy wine with lovely ripe tannins, high acidity and a long finish. Great for a nice chunk of red meat.

Miguel Torres Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Central Valley

Shy on opening, a touch of spice with blackcurrants and other fruits. Very pleasant and well-rounded in the mouth.  This was the wine we paired with the homemade bread, pebre and sausages we made during our epic cooking session to check the recipes for this guide and it went down very nicely.

Apaltagua Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Maipo

This is a lean, elegant and powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of fennel and liquorice in amongst the fruit. High acidity, nicely balanced body, good length. Would work well with a highly flavoured meat dish, such as lamb or game.

Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Intense, fruit first, then the spices (vanilla, cinnamon, a touch of menthol). Lovely mouthfeel, tooth-coating tannins, pleasant acidity, very fresh.

 

Pebre
Pebre

Pebre must be one of the most beloved and widely consumed of all Chilean dishes. It’s a salsa which is served with bread at just about every restaurant in Chile and a firm favourite at dinner tables. Everyone has their own recipe, of course and ingredients can vary. This recipe is from my friend and neighbour, Loreto Fuchslocher Arancibia.

The ingredients for pebre.
The ingredients for pebre.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup onion (can be regular or purple onion, shallots or spring onions)
  • 2 cups tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chilli pepper
  • 1.5 large sprigs of coriander (cilantro)
  • Salt
  • White wine vinegar
  • Vegetable oil (olive or sunflower)
  • Optional extras: we tried out options with merquen (this is a Chilean smoked, ground chilli pepper seasoning), green pepper and olives. You can also add avocado. Many people also add a bought chilli paste.

Preparation

Peel and finely chop the onion. Wash it under running water and then sprinkle salt over it and leave it for a few minutes. Rinse and drain. This is a good way of preparing onions if you find that they are hard to digest.

Peel and finely chop the tomatoes.

Peel and crush the garlic.

Finely chop the green chilli pepper. If you don’t want it to be hot, you can take out the pips and the white vein. If you do want a spicy pebre, you can leave them and add extra chilli if you want.

Wash, dry and finely chop the coriander (cilantro) leaves, removing most of the stems.

Put the prepared vegetables into a bowl.

Classic Chilean cuisine: bread, pebre and red wine.
Classic Chilean cuisine: bread, pebre and red wine.

Add:

  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Any of the optional extras

Mix it all up and try it out. You may want to add more vinegar, oil and/or salt. Just keep adding a little until it is just how you want it.

Put the pebre in a container in the fridge until you need it. Pebre is one of those dishes that gets better the longer you leave it.

You may also like to see the following recipes:

 

Pan amasado with pebre.
Pan amasado with pebre.

Pan amasado is a mainstay of Chilean cuisine. These are delicious and rather heavy bread rolls which are served with the famous pebre in many restaurants and at special events, like Chile’s Independence Day celebrations in September each year. Thank you to Mercedes Hernández Urbina and Kerry Dudman for sharing their recipes and to Loreto Fuchslocher Arancibia for helping me try the recipes out.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ¾ cup of melted lard, shortening or olive oil (I used vegetable shortening for this recipe)
  • 38g fresh yeast (you could use a small pack of dried yeast)
  • Lukewarm water.
Kneading the dough
Kneading the dough

Preparation

Put the flour in a bowl.

Put the yeast in a little lukewarm water so it melts.

Do the same with the salt, but in a separate container – it’s not a good idea to mix it directly with the yeast.

Make a hollow in the centre of the bowl of flour and add the warm melted shortening and salt.

Mix a little, then add the yeast mix.

Add one cup of lukewarm water.

Start to unite the ingredients in the bowl, adding tepid water a little at the time until the consistency is sticking to your hands a little and starting to form a dough.

Transfer the dough to the surface where you will knead it.

 

And kneading it some more.
And kneading it some more.
The dough after kneading
The dough after kneading

Work hard with the dough, kneading it energetically until it is a smooth, wrinkle-free dough.

Cover with a dry cloth and leave to rise for around 30-45 minutes.

After 30 minutes, turn on the oven to a medium heat.

When the dough is ready, divide it into the number of bread rolls you want and shape them however you like. We made 14 rolls, some round and some long and thin.

Bread rolls ready for the oven.
Bread rolls ready for the oven.

Put the rolls onto a baking sheet.

Perforate each one three times with a fork, making sure it goes all the way through.

Brush egg onto each roll so it will go golden and put the tray into the oven.

Start checking on the rolls after about 30 minutes. They may need another 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s best to keep an eye on them. They will be ready when they make a hollow sound when you tap them or if you put a knife into the centre of one of them and it comes out clean.

Turn off the oven and leave the door open. Leave the rolls to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a serving plate.

You might also be interested in the following recipes:

Loreto Fuchslocher holding celery.
Friend and neighbour Loreto Fuchslocher holding Chilean celery.

I never liked celery in the UK, finding it dull and tasteless. However, the celery in Chile is a whole different product. It grows enormous, is in its natural green state instead of that unnatural white we are used to and it has heaps of flavour.  This salad is a very satisfying pairing of two very classic Chilean ingredients.

Ingredients

2-3 stems of celery

1-2 ripe avocadoes

Salt

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Avocado
Avocado

Preparation

Chop the celery sticks into short sticks, removing any stringy bits.

Peel the avocadoes, chop in half and remove the stone, then cut into similar sized pieces.

Add salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste.

Serve immediately.

You might also be interested in the following recipes:

Cherimoya alegre
Cherimoya alegre

What a wonderful fruit this is!  Get one at its peak of ripeness and it is truly divine.  This simple dessert could win any taste competition against much more elaborate confections.

Ripe whole cherimoya
Ripe whole cherimoya
Peeling the cherimoya
Peeling the cherimoya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

1 large cherimoya

2 oranges

Removing the seeds
Removing the seeds

Preparation

Peel the cherimoya.

Remove the seeds. I do this with my fingers but you can also do it with a knife.  Either way, you end up with tiny pieces of juicy fruit in a bowl.

Squeeze the juice from the oranges over the cherimoya.

Leave to cool in the fridge.

Serve.

You might also be interested in the following recipes:

spring has sprungHow has your week been? I, for one, am very glad that the weekend is almost here! Spring has arrived in Chile – the sky is blue, the lizards have come out of hibernation, the birds are vocal and the garden is alive with colour.  This photo shows Hazel just soaking up the sunshine in our front yard.

Of course, for anyone in the Northern Hemisphere, there will be a touch of autumn in the air and the new academic year will be getting going. Either way, the arrival of the weekend is worth celebrating in style.

So how about a glass of fizz to get the weekend off to a good start?

For a good, reliable sparkling, you can’t go far wrong with Undurraga Brut Royal. Nice and fresh and goes with whatever you like, alone or with food.

For something a little different, check out Estelado by Miguel Torres.  Made with the País grape, it’s a salmon pink and delights the taste buds. My friends and I can always find a good excuse to taste sparkling wine and Estelado always ranks highly.

Finally, if you can’t decide if you fancy fizz or not, you could play it safe with one of Chile’s brand new Moscato Frizzante wines, which have just that little bit of sparkle and are relatively low in alcohol. Check out Echeverría’s Moscato Frizzante for a light, refreshing drink perfect for a hot day.  On the sweet side but well balanced, so it comes across as young and fruity rather than sickly sweet.

 

 

 

 

Casa Marín wine tasting

The wines tasted.
The wines tasted.

Casa Marín Cipreses Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Pale lemon-green, clean. Lovely nose of passion fruit, pineapple and pink grapefruit. Good acidity, light-bodied, nice and fruity with a citrus zing and a delectable minerality in the aftertaste.  This is a Sauvignon Blanc that can be enjoyed on its own but will also combine well with a range of seafood or salad.

Casa Marín Gewürztraminer 2013

A touch of petillance, this is a fresh, zippy and aromatic wine, very nice, with the acidity and sweetness very much in harmony.  Great with Asian food.

Casa Marín Pinot Noir 2010

Medium intensity ruby. The nose opened with those oaky notes of coffee and leather and progressed to farmyard odours but the fruit aromas didn’t come through while we were there – I think it just needed more time. Very pleasant in the mouth with light tannins, quite fruity.

Out of interest, I am including a tasting note for a Casa Marín wine I enjoyed a few months ago.

Casa Marín Pinot Noir 2009

Liquid velvet. Shiny ruby in colour. An intriguing nose of black cherries, cedar and cinnamon and a meaty component with just a touch of farmyard. Very well rounded and velvety in the mouth with high acidity and medium tannins. High alcohol. Long in the finish.

Casa Marín is a small, family winery which produces some outstanding wines.  I liked the personalized feel of the tour and the opportunity to ask questions about the grape-growing process in particular. I was a little disappointed by the tasting session.

Overall score out of  7/10.

The cool weather in Lo Abarca contributes to making these wines so good.
The cool weather in Lo Abarca contributes to making these wines so good.

 

Details:

Cost $23,000 per person for the private tour and tasting (I was offered a discount). There is another option at $14,000.
Ease of booking Good. The process of booking by email was quick and straightforward
Information prior to arrival Good. The website contains information about the tours.
Getting there Fairly straightforward.
Welcome on arrival OK. We arrived early and were greeted by a salesperson. Our guide was not yet there.
Efficiency Good
Toilets The toilet at the winery was not working, so arrangements were made to take us across the road to use the facilities in Casa Marin’s wine bar area. They were in need of cleaning.
Café / restaurant There was a nice-looking wine bar area but it wasn’t in use that day.
Shop Very basic, just stocks Casa Marin wines and also another label belonging to Felipe Marín called Lo Abarca.
Languages available English and Spanish
There are lots of works of art at the winery.
There are lots of works of art at the winery.
By the fountain
By the fountain
Brief description of tour A good, thorough tour. I had already said in my email that I prefer lots of information and the guide was happy to take the time needed.  We were able to walk right by the vines and were given good explanations of the grape growing part of the process, in particular.
Tour guide’s ability to answer questions Good.
Tasting I felt this let the experience down a little. Of course these are premium wines which have won lots of awards, but all the same, having paid a premium for the experience, the tasting felt rather penny-pinching with small servings of just three wines. For a boutique winery to only offer 3 wines is unusual – even the big wineries with their industrial-scale tours usually offer 4 or 5.The award-winning Pinot Noir didn’t manage to open up while we were there – it was too cold and needed air.Also the bread and olive oil promised in the tour description was lacking; in fact there was nothing edible at all – no nuts or crackers, for instance.
The soil is another important element in the complexity of the wines.
The soil is another important element in the complexity of the wines.
Tasting time.
Tasting time.