Grey Pinot NoirThis is the first in a weekly series of features for anyone who is looking for an interesting wine to taste over the weekend. The featured wine this week is Viña Ventisquero’s Grey Pinot Noir 2015 from Las Terrazas Vineyard in Chile’s cool-climate and very trendy Leyda Valley.

Pinot Noir is a wine that inspires strong emotions in wine drinkers – for some a good Pinot is the pinnacle of wine bliss, the bottle they’d choose for their  last meal or to celebrate a special occasion. Not for nothing is red Burgundy one of the most expensive wines in the world. For others, it’s a wishy washy wine with some insipid strawberry jam notes, often intermingled with some seriously funky aromas.  And of course they are both right:  that’s the Pinot Noir experience all over – try one and you’re in love; try another and it’s the biggest letdown you can imagine. Why? Because it’s a fiddly grape that’s really hard to get right. To find out why, check out this post.

Anyway, on to Grey Pinot Noir 2015. This is a serious attempt at Pinot Noir and it comes at a fair price. For a good quality Pinot like this, you can pay a lot more than the CLP$11,000 it retails at in Chile (GBP15.00 in the UK).

Food pairing

I enjoyed it with roast pork and roast vegetables last Sunday and they went really well together. This wine would also be fine with well-flavoured vegetarian dishes like oven bakes, as well as chicken or fish: Pinot Noir is nothing if not food-friendly.

Tasting note

An intriguing nose that starts with lots of fresh red fruit, like raspberries and cranberries. There’s that classic forest floor aroma characteristic of Pinots, together with a mineral note that is quite seductive. A subtle herbal touch (juniper perhaps) and just a touch of oak influence in some notes of sweet baking spice – the oak has been kept well in check so as not to overpower the fruit. Lovely, juicy, fresh acidity with light, silky tannins and light body. The alcohol is restrained too, at 13% ABV. This is definitely a wine for those who want a juicy, pleasant red that’s light on body and tannins.

More posts about Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir wine – love it or hate it?

Easy-drinking Chilean Pinot Noir



Jorge Lopez, owner of Cava del Pescador
Jorge López, owner of Cava del Pescador

It was one of those bright winter days of beautiful sunshine but freezing temperatures in Viña del Mar. I’d spent most of the morning standing in queues in different banks around town, so I was glad to get to the Cava del Pescador shop and sit down. Owner Jorge López says his goal is to make his new wine store feel welcoming and he certainly achieves that. The place is cosily inviting with its wooden floors and shelves of intriguing bottles.

Looking into Cava del PescadorBut probably the biggest asset is Jorge himself with his quietly affable and friendly manner. He told me that many people like to come in and just talk and so he takes the time to listen to them, whether they want to give him their point of view on politics or discuss wine. “Some of them leave without buying anything, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe they’ll come back another time or tell their friends about the friendly wine store.”

The store is run along similar lines to its namesake, the Cava del Pescador in Concepción. It offers wines from smaller and less well-known Chilean producers; you won’t find much overlap with the wines you can buy in the supermarkets or established chains like Vinoteca. And with many bottles in the 9,000 to 20,000 pesos bracket, this wine store won’t appeal to those on a very tight budget.

But if you’re looking for something rather special, you may well find it here. There are some real hard-to-track-down gems, like Pandolfi Price Los Patricios Chardonnay, consistently rated among Chile’s best Chardonnays by the likes of Decanter magazine.

Glasses lined up for Cava del Pescador tasting

A different winemaker is invited to present his or her wines at an informal tasting event each week, usually on a Thursday evening. There are 25 spaces for each tasting, booked on a first-come, first-served basis at a cost of 5,000 pesos per person. The format is very informal and clearly popular, with many tastings oversubscribed. Everyone stands around a central table with a platter of nibbles and tastes each wine, while the winemaker tells them a little about what they are tasting. I went along to a tasting of Kingston Family Vineyard wines, an hour-long session including 4 wines. It seemed to be a good way to get to try different wines and see what you like.

The store opened in late January, so it’s early days yet, but Jorge and his wife have plenty of plans for the future: “we’d like to open a wine bar, where people can have a glass of wine and a platter of food. But first, we’re planning to hold a wine fair, hopefully in November. And we’re going to do it right, avoiding the mistakes of the other events, where people have to fight to get to the stands and everyone ends up drinking too much as there are no spittoons and not enough food.”

For a long time, the Viña and Valparaíso area had very little choice for wine-lovers, so the arrival of this new store with a very different range of wines and lots of wine-related events is very welcome. I, for one, hope that Jorge´s business prospers as more choice for consumers can only be positive.

Wine brands to watch out for at Cava del Pescador Viña del Mar:

Casa Marín, Kingston Family Vineyards, Pandolfi Price, Schwaderer, Kingston Family Vineyards, de los Viñateros Bravos, Bodegas Re.

More information about Cava del Pescador:

Posts featuring wines stocked at Cava del Pescador:

Seductively fruity Cinsault wine from Chile

On the road with 80 harvests

Casa Marín Wine Tasting

Pinot Noir wine – love it or hate it?

Casablanca winery visits: Kingston

Casablanca winery visits: Bodegas Re

Chile-based British expat Guy Hooper

Yesterday I got the news that I’ve made it through the first year of the WSET Diploma. This is me celebrating in style, together with Poppy, who just had to get in on the action.

Such a relief!  I posted off my 3,000 word assignment on the packaging of wines and spirits back in April, so it’s been a long wait to know whether I’d passed that part of the business unit. Prior to that, there was an exam on viticulture and winemaking in June and two exams in November: one on fortified wines and one based on a business case study.

So now I have three of the six units under my belt and can get ready to face the next three. The exams on spirits and sparkling wine will be next June. But the biggie will be the fearsome light wines of the world unit in January 2019. This accounts for 50% of the entire course marks and has a high failure rate. To pass, we need to have detailed knowledge about most of the world’s wine regions (climate, soil, types of grapes, styles of wine, main producers etc.). And, of course, we have to blind taste 12 different wines and write intelligent notes about them. No small challenge!

Back in March last year, I marked the start of my WSET Diploma studies with a cheeky little sparkling Cinsault. Last night I marked the halfway point with another Chilean sparkling wine: Schwaderer Brut Blanc de Noir made from the País grape.

This was a lovely, elegant, very transparent sparkling wine with soft bubbles and moderate alcohol (just 12% ABV), well worth trying. On sale at la Cava del Pescador in Viña del Mar.

For more information about the WSET Diploma (or more properly the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits, check out this article.

Cooking disaster - cochayuyoOK, this is of course a wine blog, so I’m going off subject here, but I just had to share this experience with you. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the item you can see in the photo is cochayuyo. People make a living harvesting this seaweed from the coast and selling it as a food item. In fact I’ve seen them collecting it from the rocks just five minutes’ walk from where I live.  It’s a legendary product that people in Chile have been eating for centuries. It’s high in every conceivable type of nutritional benefit and even considered a remedy for babies’ teething problems.

So, having been here 13 years already, I was feeling rather ashamed of not having tried it.  When I recently came across a recipe for cochayuyo burgers, I therefore decided to give them a try. So I bought a pack of the dried seaweed, which looks just as it is shown in the picture above.

I carefully followed the instructions, soaking it overnight and then cutting it up and boiling it for 15 minutes. Despite all my  winetasting training, I cannot effectively describe the smell that pervaded the house during those 15 minutes and which, a few hours later, is still lingering! Think seaside, saline, maybe some iodine, a kind of damp earth note. My stomach turned; this is literally the nastiest smelling thing to have ever entered my kitchen.

Cooking disaster - cooked cochayuyo

And so I have a confession to make: the cooked cochayuyo is sitting, all slimy and unappetizing, in a tupperware with the lid on tight, as I couldn’t face following through with the recipe!  I did force myself to taste a small piece. It’s a bit chewy, like damp leather, and actually a lot more neutral than the smell implied. But still, I don’t think I’ll be eating any more of it.

So what’s your worst ever cooking disaster?  I’d love to hear about it.