Looking for gifts this holiday season? In search of something different for a special occasion? Then maybe Gina’s limoncello or one of her other homemade fruit liqueurs would fit the bill. Serve them chilled as a refreshing after dinner drink or top them up with sparkling wine to make a delicious cocktail.
When Gina Ferretti travelled to Italy to do a course in 2011, she had no idea that she was taking the first step towards a complete career change. While there, she tracked down family members she hadn’t seen in 30 years, They invited her for a meal, at the end of which they served their homemade limoncello. Gina loved the lemon-flavoured liqueur and asked for the recipe.
When she got home, she made a batch of limoncello and her family and friends loved it and persuaded her to develop this into a new business.
Today Gina makes 11 different flavours of fruit liqueurs with different types of fruit from Chile. She sources her ingredients carefully, for instance the murtillas come from the Juan Fernandez archipelago, while the walnuts and loquats are from a smallholding in Olmué. She looks for fruit that is as natural and chemical-free as possible and some of them are organic.
Her drinks are around 18% ABV, making them a pleasant, light and fruity after dinner drink rather than the syrupy, high-alcohol liqueurs served in many restaurants.
Gina uses recycled bottles, which also involves a lot of work – cleaning the bottles thoroughly and removing the labels but her desire to be kind to the environment is manifest.
The best way to serve these drinks is chilled, neat. But they also are delicious in desserts or as cocktails, topped up with sparkling wine.
Limoncello : Delicate lemon aroma and fresh, pleasant and uncloying in the mouth.
Morello cherry : Lovely cherry nose and very pleasant and easy to drink. Begs for some chocolate to go with it.
How to buy
You can order products direct from Gina – for more information, check out her website or Facebook page. They are available in 200 ml / 375 ml and 750 ml sizes and as gift packs.
This Monday, 23 November, is Carménère Day, which sounds like a great excuse for a party! So why not get ahead and celebrate the weekend with a glass or two of this very quaffable red?
This deep-coloured red wine pairs well with any red meat dish, including casseroles and barbecues, as well as spicy food, like Indian and Mexican food. If you want to chill out at the end of a long week, how about pizza or Chilli con carne (or Chilli sin carne) with a glass of Carménère?
The typical aromas and flavours you’ll find in a ripe Carménère include spices, such as black pepper, red and black fruit, herbal or vegetable notes like peppers, and smoky qualities. Depending on its level of oak-ageing, it may also have chocolate, coffee and leathery notes too.
Here are a few really great examples:
Tabalí Reserva Carménère 2012, Limarí Valley
A smooth, elegant example with a nicely aromatic nose with very well rounded tannins. Mouth-filling, smooth and intense with a pleasant, fruity finish.
Ventisquero Grey Carménère 2012, Maipo Valley
Very vibrant, expressive Carménère with classic rich fruity nose of blueberries and black cherries with pepper and spices. Nice, smooth tannins and a pleasant, well-rounded mouth.
Caliterra Tributo Carménère 2013, Colchagua Valley
This is pure comfort drinking for a Friday night! The nose reveals lots of fruit, including blackberries and cherries, together with some rich spices. It’s like a delicately spiced fruits of the forest pie. The mouth is warm, enveloping and smooth with lots of fruit and a good finish.
Undurraga T.H. Carménère 2013, Cachapoal Valley
Herbal and spicy notes, followed by lots of fruit, such as raspberries and blueberries and some notes from the oak-ageing, like dark chocolate. A very pleasant, medium-bodied wine with a fresh, juicy mouth feel, smooth tannins and a long finish.
Koyle Royale Carménère 2012, Colchagua Valley (Biodynamic wine)
This Carménère packs a punch; black pepper, cassis, cacao, a touch of the farmyard and slight minerality in the nose. Nice ripe tannins, spice, delectable acidity, lovely mouthfeel with just that touch of ashtray.
Apaltagua Gran Reserva Envero 2013, Colchagua Valley
Upfront vanilla and cinnamon followed by red fruit and blackcurrants. Very elegant, ripe tannins, good acidity, creamy with a touch of ashtray in the mouth.
Do you find that by the time Friday comes around, you are ready for some comfort food? Here is an easy solution for those with a breadmaker machine. This is neither pizza nor bread but somewhere inbetween. It’s delicious served as plain bread or smothered in ingredients and served pizza-style.
1.5 cups water
2 tbps olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
4 cups flour (I use 1 of multigrain, 3 of white)
4 tablespoons dry yeast
1-2 garlic cloves
Fresh or dried herbs to taste. I usually use rosemary.
Cornflour for baking sheet
Put the ingredients in the order listed into the bread machine. Set it on the dough/pasta setting for 1.5 hours.
Remove the dough to a surface covered with the cornflour.
Leave it there, covered, to rise for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle cornmeal onto the baking sheet / pizza pan you are going to use to cook the pizza.
Press the dough into shape on the baking sheet until it covers the whole surface.
Cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile set your oven to high (425°F / 220°C / Gas mark 7).
Put the baking sheet with the dough into the oven and cook for a total of 20-30 minutes.
If you are going to add toppings, take it out of the oven after 10-15 minutes, add the toppings and return for the remaining time.
I like to smother the bread with tomato sauce, salami or ham and sprinkle it with olives or mushrooms, but anything goes. It’s best to pre-cook anything that requires cooking (such as bacon, asparagus or onions, for instance).
Try this out with a Chilean Carménère, such as:
Emiliana Signos de Origen 2011
Liquorice, cherries, plums and leather on the nose with a big, friendly mouthfeel and high acidity. Superbly held its own with pizza.
Apaltagua Gran Reserva Envero 2013, Colchagua Valley
93% Carménère, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Upfront vanilla and cinnamon followed by red fruit and blackcurrants with a slight hint of yogurt. Very elegant, ripe tannins, good acidity, creamy with a touch of ashtray in the mouth.
Undurraga Aliwen Carménère 2012
A nice, well-balanced, easy-drinking wine with red fruit and spices. Astringent tannins but a nice, fruity finish.
Once upon a time, France was the undisputed king of the wine world and vast swathes of the country were planted with many different varieties of vines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carménère, to name but a few.
Then, in 1863, vines began to die, but nobody knew why. First one vineyard, then another and soon vast areas of vines began to be wiped out by an invisible disease. By the time the small, yellow, root-eating Phylloxera aphid had been identified and a solution found, French wine production had been devastated and Carménère wiped out.
Time went by and the French wine industry recovered, its vast acres now planted with the same noble varieties grafted on to phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks, Carménère being a notable exception.
The twist in the story of Carménère came over a century later on the other side of the world, when some Chilean vines thought to be Merlot were actually identified as this long-lost variety.
Many regard Carménère as Chile’s flagship variety: certainly Chile leads the way in terms of number of Carménère vines planted. This deeply coloured grape needs a long growing season to reach its full potential and thrives in many of Chile’s warmer wine regions, such as Maipo, Rapel, Colchagua, Curicó and Maule.
Ripe Carménère contributes spices, such as black pepper, red and black fruit, herbal and smoky qualities to a wine. It tends to be an accessible and easy to drink smooth red wine with well-rounded tannins.
Carménère pairs well with smoked, grilled or roasted meats, chicken, pork, lamb, beef and veal and holds its own with spicy food, like Indian and Mexican food.
Disarmingly informal, Cristóbal Undurraga, fifth generation of one of Chile’s oldest wine-producing families, takes Alexandra and I on a walk up the little ravine he has lovingly restored in the heart of Koyle’s biodynamic Los Lingues vineyard in Alto Colchagua. “It was full of mud when we arrived,” he explains, “but we cleared it out and planted it with native trees and plants. It’s wonderful to see how they’ve grown.” It’s truly an enchanting place, filled with birdsong. He tells me that you can hear frogs croaking in the stream at night.
Varied land use and living in harmony with wildlife are, of course, part of the biodynamic concept of fostering agriculture within a whole integrated and harmonious system, but it is clear that the Undurraga family are paying more than just lip service. Cristóbal explains that the creek dries up in the summer, so then the impressive group of photovoltaic panels which make the winery self-sufficient in electricity come into play, pumping water up the creek and keeping the wildlife flourishing.
After graduating in agronomy with a major in oenology, Cristóbal spent seven years working in wineries around the world: California, Australia, France and Argentina. He first learned about the advantages of biodynamic wine production in Australia and was further inspired by talking to Alain Moueix of Château Fonroque in Bordeaux. So when his family asked him to come back to Chile to join the family’s new wine business, he was keen to put biodynamic viticulture into practice.
He admits that there were frustrations during the transition phase. For instance there was a period when the brand new flower clusters on one plot of vines began to mysteriously disappear. He started to check the vines regularly and it was at night that he discovered the culprit: a beetle known locally as pololo café (Phytholaema herrmanni). It’s not usually a pest in vineyards, as most are routinely sprayed and the beetle is sensitive to any kind of chemical, but clearly it was having a ball at Koyle. In fact, by weighing the insects collected each day, Cristóbal and his team calculated that there were more than a million of these creatures on this one plot of vines.
Some people would have given in and sprayed chemicals on the vines at this point. Not so Cristóbal. He began to fight back. First he applied an organic pesticide made from tea extract. Next, as this pest is nocturnal, he strung 200 lights along the vines and underneath them he put a trough of water. The beetles were drawn to the lights, then fell into the water and drowned. He also raked up the soil between the plants, so that the storks and hens would come and peck at the insects. Job done. Now Cristóbal knows to be on the lookout for this little pest and takes action at the first sign of trouble.
He is convinced that biodynamic production is not only environmentally friendly but makes commercial sense too, as the vines are now yielding more fruit than they had ever anticipated. He likens a biodynamically grown plant to a seasoned marathon runner: lean, with not an ounce of fat, but fighting fit and better able to resist pests, diseases and climatic problems.
I ask him about the ups and downs of working in a family business. He says, “it’s great to be building something for the generations to come. Of course, there are discussions, but we make it work by giving each other space. And of course, we all have other projects besides this. That’s really important, as it helps keep you fresh and open to new ideas.”
He clearly loves experimenting and has 13 different varieties planted across the different vineyards. “In the autumn it’s like a patchwork of different colours,” he says. He’s also experimenting with different training systems – for instance in the Los Lingues vineyard, he has planted a section of bush-trained Tempranillo vines, which he is dry-farming. There are also dry-farmed vines trained in the gobelet or bush style at the Bularco vineyard in the coastal area of Itata, but these are 70-year-old Cinsault vines.
Cristóbal’s goal is to produce new and interesting cuvées for different customers. “We’re about quality,” he explains, “not quantity. Sometimes someone comes along who wants to buy all our wine and talks about ramping up production, but that’s just not the market we’re in.” Instead Koyle concentrates on selling to small, niche markets, such as the Wine Society in the UK.
I ask him about three wines he has enjoyed recently.
Cuvée La Migoua, Domaine Tempier from Bandol in southern France, a red blend based on Mourvedre, with some Cinsault and Grenache. These wines are made with minimal intervention – native yeasts, at least 18 months’ ageing and no clarification or filtering.
Red Gran Reserva, López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Winery, Rioja. Very traditional Rioja wines based on Tempranillo with contributions of Grenache, Carignan and Graciano, from Rioja Alta.
Red wines from Burgundy, especially from Chambertin.
An interesting old world focus for this New World ecologically-minded vigneron and winemaker.
Wine tasting at Koyle’s Los Lingues vineyard – tasting notes
Koyle Costa, Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Paredones
Interesting wine from three separate plots of vines, harvested and vinified separately and in different media and then 12 months ageing prior to blending and 6 months bottle-ageing. Aromas of white flowers and citron pressé. In the mouth, fresh and pleasing, agreeable acidity, quite long finish.
Koyle Don Cande Cinsault 2015, Itata
70-year-old dry-farmed bush vines. 30% whole cluster, 70% whole berries subjected to a quick, 10-day fermentation at 28°C, then 50% aged in used Burgundy barrels and 50% in cement eggs. Best drunk chilled and fresh.
An intriguing nose of bay and spices, intermingled with strawberries. Dry, with good acidity and notes of fresh figs. Slightly fizzy. 12.5% ABV.