Q AwardsJuly saw the launch of the Chilean Quality Food and Drink Awards at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Santiago. The event attracted significant interest among Chilean food and wine producers and retailers, and event organizer Mark Janaway says he is optimistic that there will be lots of entries in this first edition of the awards.

The Quality Food and Drink Awards have been running in the UK for forty years and most major British supermarkets and many large and small food and drink producers enter their products into the competition in the hopes of winning a Q Award, which they can then include on their product packaging.

Mark Janaway said that consumers recognize the Q symbol and are more likely to buy a product that displays it. “There can be an immediate uplift of up to 20% in sales for a winning product, so it’s really worthwhile entering the competition”, he explained. “We also give feedback on all entries, which many companies find very valuable in their future product development.”

Those products that win a Chilean Q will open up export opportunities and the chance to be considered by UK and Irish supermarkets for listings, as they all recognize the Q symbol and what it stands for.

Producers and retailers have until 16 September to enter their products into the competition, which includes a very broad range of categories. Judging will take place at Inacap’s modern catering facilities in Santiago during early October. A panel consisting of respected food and drink experts will discuss the merits of each product using the following criteria: taste, flavour, texture, aroma, ingredients list, innovation, packaging, presentation and price point.

The winners will be presented with their awards at a gala dinner in Santiago on 1 December, just in time for the start of the summer season. A number of key Chilean organizations are supporting the awards, including the British-Chilean Chamber of Commerce and Wines of Chile.

More information is available from the website or by email: mark.janaway@chileanqualityfoodawards.com.

Like so many people around the world, I watch the news with horror and a sense of helplessness. Suicide bombings in Kabul, Baghdad and Israel, a lunatic driving a lorry into crowds of families in Nice, vast waves of refugees fleeing for their lives…the list of horror goes on and on.

Flag_of_Turkey.svgLast year my sister-in-law visited Istanbul in Turkey and came back full of enthusiasm for a city she found to be beautiful, friendly and very secure. This year, in the light of successive suicide bomb attacks and an attempted coup, only the most intrepid traveller would consider visiting Turkey.  And what of all the people there who depend on tourism for a living? What about other industries, like the wineries – how are they doing in these difficult times?

Didn’t know that Turkey had a wine industry?

In fact, according to Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine, “south eastern Turkey is one of the most likely locations for the origins of viniculture”.

What is more, modern-day Turkey has the world’s fifth largest area planted with vines, although most of the grapes are eaten fresh, dried or used in other products.  Be that as it may, it still has a small wine industry producing some interesting wines, particularly with varieties of vines indigenous to Turkey.

Bottle labelAnd, by great good fortune, my sister-in-law brought me back a bottle from her trip last year. It seemed fitting, given all that has been happening in Turkey, to open the bottle this weekend and drink a toast to the people of Turkey. A tiny way of showing solidarity in these difficult times.

So what was it like?

Turasan Seneler Ökügözu 2012 comes from Cappadocia in south-eastern Turkey, an area over 1000 metres above sea level with sandy, volcanic soils and a dry, continental climate with cold winters.  The wine is made by Turasan, the leading producer in the area, from one of Turkey’s indigenous grapes: Ökügözu, a big, round, dark grape that produces bright, fruity wines with medium body and high acidity. The 2012 vintage won a bronze in the International Wine Challenge of 2014.

The wine was purple in colour and the 11 months’ oak-ageing were apparent on the nose in delicate spicy notes, intermingled with black fruit, like blackberries and blackcurrants and some cherries.  On the palate, the fruitiness came through again, together with high acidity, tooth-coating tannins and medium body and alcohol (13.2% ABV). Altogether a nice, refreshing, fruity wine.

So, if you, like me, feel helpless when you watch the news, perhaps one way of showing a little solidarity in difficult times is to buy products made in the countries affected, be it a bottle of wine or something else. Just a thought. 

Source: Jancis Robinson, 2015, The Oxford Companion to Wine. 4th edition. Oxford University Press.

Cristóbal Undurraga:
Cristóbal Undurraga: when plants and their environment are in balance, they cope well with whatever conditions nature may bring.

Many Chilean winemakers may be hailing 2016 as a difficult year, but biodynamic winemaker Cristóbal Undurraga says it’s been a good year at Koyle. He believes that when plants and their environment are in balance, they cope well with whatever conditions nature may bring.

Last week Cristóbal presented some of his wines, including the latest vintage, at a Koyle wine tasting at Vinoteca in Viña del Mar. Here are my tasting notes.

Koyle Don Cande Muscat 2016, Itata. 11.8% ABV. Not yet in the shops.

This year was dry in Itata, the source of the first wine in the tasting, but the old, dry-farmed vines took it in their stride. The grapes ripened more slowly and produced good acidity with moderate alcohol levels. This wine is fermented at low temperatures, part in stainless steel and part in a concrete tank with its skins, this latter adding texture in the mouth.

A beautifully aromatic wine with all the intense fruity smells and flavours of a Muscat wine, but, instead of the cloying sweet mouth you expect, it is dry, elegant and nicely acidic.

Koyle Costa Cuartzo Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Paredones, Colchagua Costa. 12.8% ABV. (CLP$9,999 / £7.95)

An intriguing nose of grapefruit, limes and pineapples with a distinct minerality and that classic hint of green chilli pepper. The fruit and mineral notes were apparent again in the mouth, together with refreshing, zesty acidity and none of that lip-puckering lemon-sharpness you can find in some Sauvignon Blanc wines. Lovely concentration and expression and a long finish.

Koyle Costa Pinot Noir 2014, Paredones, Colchagua Costa. (CLP$15,990)

Cristóbal fermented the Pinot Noir grapes (30% whole clusters) in an open vat with their native yeasts. 70% of the wine was aged for a year in a concrete egg-shaped tank and the wine was bottle-aged for another year.

Medium ruby in colour, this wine expressed the minerality of Paredones with notes of graphite or gunpowder intertwined with a marked savoury character and subtle red fruit notes. For a Pinot Noir, this is quite a big wine: dry with high acidity, medium (+) tannins and medium body. A fairly long finish with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Landscape at Los Lingues in early spring.
Landscape at Los Lingues in early spring.

Koyle Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua. (CLP$8,490)

This wine contains 10% Cabernet Franc to add length and body. 2012 was a warm year, hence the ripe tannins. The destemmed and crushed grapes underwent a long maceration, including a month post-fermentation to ensure malolactic fermentation took place.

Aromas of black fruit, such as blackcurrants and blueberries intermingled with notes of violets and sweet spices, like cinnamon, in this pleasing, nicely concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of smooth, ripe tannins in the mouth were complemented by refreshing acidity, medium body and fresh fruit flavours. You can enjoy this wine now but it is suitable for further ageing.

Koyle Single Vineyard Carmenere 2013, Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua. (CLP$8,490)

This wine included 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec to contribute aroma and tension.

A nice, concentrated example of Chilean Carménère with lots of black and red fruit aromas and flavours, such as blueberries and raspberries, a touch of minerality and some spicy notes like black pepper, and just a hint of forest floor. With a good level of acidity, high levels of somewhat astringent tannins and all those primary fruit, mineral and spice flavours, this wine has the potential to benefit from further ageing.

These dry-farmed, bush-trained Tempranillo vines give low yields of very concentrated grapes: part of the mix going into Koyle Tempranillo
These dry-farmed, bush-trained Tempranillo vines give low yields of very concentrated grapes: part of the mix going into Koyle’s Tempranillo wines

Koyle Royale Tempranillo 2012, Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua. (CLP$13,490 / £10.95)

This wine includes 15% Mourvedre. Tempranillo, one of Spain’s key wine varieties, is little-known in Chile, which makes it all the more impressive that this wine was recently awarded 91 points by a Spanish wine critic – Luis Gutiérrez of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

This is a lovely example, with notes of red fruit, like raspberries and redcurrants, intermingling with the aromas and flavours of leather, cedar and cigarbox from the oak. Nicely concentrated, with ripe, smooth tannins, fresh acidity and medium + body and finish, this wine is drinking very nicely now but has potential to evolve further in the bottle.

Koyle Cerro Basalto, Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua.

25% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 30% Carignan, 20% Syrah

A very elegant, well-rounded and easy-to-drink red which has potential for further ageing. An expressive nose with aromas and flavours of red and black fruit (raspberries and blackcurrants), Koyle’s classic note of basalt, a hint of violets and a touch of spices, including black pepper and vanilla.

Auma 2010 (CLP$62,990)

Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot.

The blend for Auma, Koyle’s iconic wine, varies significantly from vintage to vintage, but it’s always a very expressive, concentrated wine with good balance.  This vintage revealed lots of fruit (blueberries, plums, blackcurrants), violets, classic oak notes of leather, cigarbox and vanilla and a hint of liquorice. With medium acidity, high levels of smooth tannins and full body with a good long finish, this is a lovely wine for a special occasion.

Koyle wines are available from Vinoteca in Chile and The Wine Society in the UK.

To find out more about Koyle, check out these posts:

Cristóbal Undurraga: biodynamic winemaker

Biodynamic & organic Chilean wine guide

Glass of Pinot Noir
Glass of Pinot Noir

Ever had a disappointing Pinot Noir and wondered what all the fuss was about? Was it like alcoholic strawberry jam perhaps? Or thin and a bit “off”? Yet some people go into ecstasies about the variety…The thing is Pinot Noir is prone to every problem under the sun: rot can eat its way through the

tightly-packed clusters of little thin-skinned grapes, while a spell of warm weather can make the grapes over-ripen in the blink of an eye, resulting in a flabby, high-alcohol wine. And, even if the grapes are perfect, a million things can go wrong during the winemaking.

When the rot sets in, there's nothing to be done.
Rotten Pinot Noir grapes.

In short, this is a temperamental grape which makes life difficult for grape-growers and winemakers alike, so you might wonder why wineries persist at all with Pinot Noir when there are much more straightforward grapes out there. The answer lies in those elusive Pinot Noirs that seduce the senses. At its best, this is a variety that really wows.

It’s not an easy grape to pin down. Pinot Noir is said to be good at expressing terroir, so the taste varies a lot depending on where it comes from. Also it’s an old variety and genetically unstable, so the grapes don’t always turn out how you expect. Add to that the fact that there are 50 permitted clones in France alone – each designed to produce a different result – and you can see why there is so much variation between one Pinot Noir and another.

So what can you expect from a Pinot Noir wine? Usually it is easy to drink, pleasantly fruity and food-friendly, though sometimes it is quite simple and others very complex. Because it is thin-skinned, it has lower levels of tannins and less colour than other red wines – try comparing a glass of Pinot Noir with another of Syrah and you’ll see the difference straight away.

Pinot Noir: classic strawberry aromas and flavours

Aromas and flavours can include red fruit like strawberries – which can be fresh and refreshing or a bit jammy and, when the wine has aged, it can develop aromas of meat, mushrooms, leather and damp leaves. If the winemaker has used a lot of wood, then it may have aromas and flavours of spices, like cinnamon or vanilla.

The most famous Pinot Noirs – and the most expensive wines in the world – are from Burgundy in France. However, some New World countries, especially New Zealand and the United States, are producing world-class Pinot Noirs.

What’s been your experience with Pinot Noir?  Do you love it or hate it? Do you have a favourite?

Here in Chile our tasting panel decided to try two highly rated Chilean Pinot Noirs against two from Burgundy and one entry-level wine from California. Sadly we were unable to source any New Zealand Pinot Noir anywhere in Chile.

Tasting notes

The lineup of winesDomaine Henri Gouges Les Pruliers Nuits Saint George Premier Cru, Burgundy, 2011

This was by far the most expensive wine in our tasting. It was pale ruby in colour with garnet hues. The nose was hard to define, but opened up eventually and I would recommend opening this wine well in advance of tasting it. After much discussion we identified red fruit, like strawberries, meaty notes and a floral touch. This was a dry, light-bodied wine with medium acidity, very pleasant and food-friendly.

Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Mendocino County, California, USA, 2011

This was the cheapest wine in our tasting and the only mass-produced example. Pale garnet in colour. The nose was predominated by cooked red fruit aromas (quince jam and tinned strawberries). A medium, easy-drinking wine.

Tasting panel members Hattie and Lauren
Tasting panel members Hattie and Lauren

Domaine Regis Bouvier, Les Longeroies Vieilles Vignes, Marsannay, Burgundy 2011

Ruby-coloured wine with garnet hues. The nose was subtle with red fruit, floral notes and a herbal touch. In the mouth, it was dry, with fine-grained, slightly green tannins, medium acidity and red fruit, such as cranberries.

Tobiano, Kingston Family Vineyards, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 2010

This wine revealed lots of upfront ripe red fruit (cherry, blackcurrant cordial) and some spice (cinnamon) on the nose. It had refreshing high acidity, medium tannins and lashings for fruit and spice again in the mouth. Long finish. A lovely, fruity, moreish red.

Tabalí Talinay, Limarí Valley, Chile, 2013

We selected this wine as Talinay came joint best Pinot Noir (together with Ventisquero’s Tara) in the 2016 version of the annual Chilean tasting panel Descorchados.  It was medium garnet in colour. The nose was complex but much less subtle than the Burgundian wines, with both red fruit and minerals very apparent.  In the mouth, this was a dry wine which scored medium (+) for acidity, tannins, alcohol, body and finish. This is a more austere wine than the joyous Kingston Tobiano, with tense minerality and red fruit again apparent in the mouth.