Imagine it’s a cool spring evening and you’re sitting outdoors watching the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean…What kind of wine would you choose for this special moment? For something a little different, how about the raspberry- and toffee-scented Sierras de Bellavista Pinot Noir? It’s a refreshing, light-bodied red with plenty of personality from a small vineyard high up in the Andes mountains.
Tasting note: Sierras de Bellavista Pinot Noir 2015, Colchagua Valley, 12.5% ABV
The aromas of this pale ruby-coloured wine evolved intriguingly from a first delicious smell of fresh raspberries on opening, through a toffee and burnt sugar note – not unpleasant but really quite unusual – to the characteristic forest floor aromas typical of Pinot Noir, which became apparent about an hour later.
This is a dry wine with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, light body and medium alcohol. The finish is long. Overall, it’s a fruit-forward style of Pinot Noir with aromas and flavours of raspberries, strawberry conserve and a hint of cranberries, together with a herbal note and that unusual touch of burnt sugar.
Being a lighter red wine, Pinot Noir is a good choice for more delicately flavoured dishes, so rather than barbecued beef or sausages, think of roast pork, pan-fried tuna steaks or mushroom-flavoured dishes.
Viña Sierras de Bellavista is a small vineyard in the Andes mountains at an altitude of more than 1,000 metres – check out their Facebook page for beautiful photos of vines flanked by snow-capped mountains.
Around the world, many wineries are experimenting with planting vines at high altitudes. Temperatures are cooler higher up and the difference between daytime and night-time temperatures is often greater than it is in the valleys. Grapes respond well to this, ripening slowly and surely by day and resting by night. Slower ripening gives the grapes time to fully develop their aromas and flavours. It also means that the acidity of the grape is retained for longer and the sugars develop more slowly, making for bright, fresh wines with moderate alcohol levels. This wine is a clear example of this with its fresh acidity and just 12.5% alcohol – low by Chilean standards.
Where can you buy Sierras de Bellavista Pinot Noir?
Do you have a favourite brand of wine that you buy when you want something a bit special and that you know you can rely on to be good? I have a few go-to brands and Gillmore Wines is one of them. This is a small, family producer in Chile’s Maule Valley with just a few bottles in their range. The wines do vary from vintage to vintage but I’ve never yet had a bottle that I didn’t enjoy. The Gillmore Hacedor de Mundos line comprises two wines made from old vines – a Cabernet Franc and the Mezcla Tinta that I’m featuring today. This is an intriguing and complex Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that, at six years old, is showing evolution in the bottle.
What is evolution in the bottle?
Not all wines are able to age well. Many are best enjoyed right away and if you leave them too long (a year or more), they just fade away and become a dull, lifeless liquid or worse. For a red wine to age, it needs to be very good quality to start with, with a firm enough structure (acidity, tannins) and fruit aromas to be able to age gracefully. Then a slow process occurs where the fruit aromas and flavours begin to fade and are replaced by new aromas and flavours, which can include notes like chocolate, leather, coffee or mushrooms. Eventually the aromas can amalgamate to produce a complex bouquet that intrigues and seduces and it is difficult to discern individual smells from among the whole.
During the ageing, the colour of the wine changes too, as the blue pigments fade. So a young wine that started out an aggressive shade of blue-hued purple becomes ruby, which eventually starts to fade and take on orange hues. Very old wines can be orange or – if exposed to a lot of oxygen – they can go brown – Tawny Port and Madeira wines are a good example of this.
The other main result of bottle-evolution is a softening of tannins. There are some wines around the world, such as those made with Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco) or some Tannat wines, whose tannins are so hard and unyielding to start with that they need decades to become approachable but then can rate among the world’s best wines. There’s truth in the old adage: good things are worth waiting for.
Tasting notes: Gillmore Hacedor de Mundos Mezcla de Tintos Old Vines 2011, 14.8% ABV
This wine is a medium ruby colour and has a medium, very complex, layered nose. The first layer comprises notes from the bottle-ageing, such as leather, coffee, chocolate and, later on, a liquorice note emerges. Next are the fruit aromas: blueberries, cranberries and blackcurrants. These aromas are beginning to fade and take on an almost dry fruit quality. The third layer are the pyrazines – those special herbaceous notes common to all the Bordeaux wine varieties (think green bell and chilli peppers) – in this case the pyrazines show as subtle notes of bay leaf and menthol. Finally there is a touch of soft, sweet spice from the oak-ageing.
In the mouth, this is a dry wine with medium body, high acidity and pronounced, grippy tannins. The alcohol level is very high at 14.8% ABV. The complexity comes through in the mouth with those fruit notes intermingled with the hints of leather and coffee and baking spices. Relatively long finish.
A very enjoyable wine that you can enjoy now or even allow to age for another year or two.
The grapes for this wine come from 50-year-old vines. They were fermented in stainless steel with three daily pump-overs and then the wine underwent a post-fermentative maceration. The pump-overs and additional maceration will have boosted the wine’s colour and ensured the maximum tannins and aromas were extracted from the skins. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, 20% new, giving it its smooth, velvety mouthfeel and adding the notes of sweet spice.
This wine will pair well with red meat or well-flavoured vegetarian dishes. Check it out with steak or a vegetable goulash.
Here’s a velvety-smooth wine to toast Chile’s Fiestas Patrias in style or bring comforting warmth to a cool evening. Carmenère has a special association with Chile, because back in 1994, when swathes of vines were discovered among what Chilean growers had thought were Merlot, it was a variety that had been almost forgotten. In fact, though you can find some in China, Italy and France, the vast majority of the Carmenère vineyards in the world are in Chile. And T.H. Carmenere 2015 is a very nice example.
Tasting note: T.H. Carmenere 2015, Peumo, Cachapoal Valley, 14% ABV
This wine is a deep purple colour. It has an enticing nose, with nicely ripe black fruit, like blackberries, black cherries and plums, blueberries, the classic note of green pepper that denotes one of the varieties that come from Bordeaux, and sweet baking spices, including vanilla from the oak-ageing. In the mouth, it is dry and full-bodied, with velvety smooth tannins, fresh acidity and high alcohol. The fruitiness comes through in the mouth, but is less sweet than the nose suggests and there is a hint of minerality. The finish lingers pleasingly.
Carmenère needs warm temperatures to ripen fully, which is why when they replanted the vineyards in Bordeaux after the phylloxera disaster, they didn’t bother to replant Carmenère – nine times out of ten it didn’t ripen. Chile has a far more reliably warm climate than Bordeaux and the grapes for this T.H. Carmenere are from the Peumo area of Cachapoal, which has warm, sunny weather during the grape ripening period, so the grapes ripen fully. However, breezes blow in from the Pacific Ocean on summer afternoons and these enable the grapes to better conserve their acidity, resulting in a wine with fresher flavours and aromas. One of the problems with Carmenère is that it can lack acidity and be a bit boring, which is not the case with this wine.
The winemaking involved extracting the maximum colour, aroma, flavours and tannins by macerating the grapes before and after the fermentation and pumping the wine over the cap of skins that forms at the top of the tank three to four times a day. This is why the wine has such a deep colour, velvety tannins and nice aromas. Not all Carmenère wines are as deeply-coloured as this. The wine was aged in French oak for 12 months, which will have lent it a smoother, more velvety mouthfeel and those subtle notes of baking spices and vanilla.
This deep-coloured red wine pairs well with all the typical fare served for Chile’s Fiestas Patrias – choripanes (sausages in bread rolls) and empanadas (meat-filled pasties) included. Try it with any red meat dish, including casseroles and barbecues and other highly flavoured dishes. It will also hold its own with Chilli con carne (or Chilli sin carne), lasagne or a rich vegetarian bake with a cheese topping.
Wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing this Monday, 18 September, I hope you have the chance to raise a glass of something nice in honour of Chile’s Independence Day celebration. Cheers and Felices Fiestas!
For anyone looking for a good-value red wine to raise a glass or two to celebrate Chile’s Independence Day on 18 September, here are some suggestions. For this tasting, we deliberately selected BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wines. (BBB is a much-loved Chilean term denoting “bueno, bonito y barato” – good, attractive and cheap). All six wines in our tasting are Reserva wines that are widely available in the supermarkets and retail at between 4,000 and 6,000 Chilean pesos.
Why Cabernet Sauvignon?
Cabernet Sauvignon wine is a firm favourite during the five-day meatfest known in Chile as Fiestas Patrias, when people throw caution to the winds and, in the name of commemorating the country’s independence, stuff themselves with choripanes (sausage sandwiches), empanadas (savoury pasties, often filled with meat), barbecued beef and other treats, often washed down by lashings and lashings of their preferred tipple.
In fact Cabernet Sauvignon is not just a favourite in Chile – it’s actually the most popular type of wine in the world. There are more Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted around the world than any other variety – 290,000 hectares in 2010. And, with its 40,000 hectares, Chile has the second largest area of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the world, after France, the birthplace of this traditional grape.
Why does Chile have so much Cabernet Sauvignon?
Cabernet Sauvignon ripens well in Chile, producing wines with noticeable tannins, medium to full body and black fruit aromas and flavours, especially blackcurrants. Consumers around the world like the firm-structured, fruity style of Cabernet Sauvignon Chile produces, so it is able to export it in enormous quantities. So you can find BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wines (as well as some more premium ones) in wine stores, supermarkets or other outlets from countries as wide-ranging as China, Singapore and South Korea, the US and Canada, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.
The winning BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wines
Many thanks to our international tasting team, who heroically blind tasted both sausages and wines for our tasting, scoring each one according to preference. The ranking below reflects the overall score by the team.
Chile’s Independence Day celebrations, the Fiestas Patrias, are fast approaching. This is Chile’s favourite celebration, several days when everyone eats, drinks and parties without restraint. Work for most people will grind to a halt this coming Friday, 15 September and by Friday evening, people up and down the country will have fired up their barbecues. A much-loved part of Chilean cuisine during this period is the choripán, a chorizo (sausage) in a bread roll. So, for anyone visiting or living in Chile who wants to try Chilean sausages for themselves, here are a few pointers.
The different types of sausage in Chile
First of all, you may be wondering what the difference is between chorizo and longaniza – I certainly was till I looked into it. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually their ingredients or flavouring or level of spiciness, but their format that makes them different. Chorizos are shorter (around 10cm) and stringed together. Longanizas are about twice as long and not usually attached to one another.
I haven’t found any good definition of the difference between chorizo de campo (also known as chorizo blanco) and chorizo parrillero, two of the most popular kinds of sausages in Chile. Clearly they are different in colour, with the former being pale and the latter being an almost alarming shade of orange-brown. In terms of ingredients, they seem to be similar but the list of ingredients on all the chorizos parrilleros we tried was slightly longer and included something to add colour, sometimes paprika or Chile’s smoked chilli powder merkén and sometimes more chemical-sounding ingredients. My other observation is that the parrillero variety of chorizo, being designed for cooking on the barbecue, seems to give off more fat, while the chorizo de campo seems dryer during cooking – even inclined to burn – but this does not translate into a lower calorie count, as you’ll see below. I’d be very happy to hear from you if you have any insights into this.
What goes into a Chilean sausage?
Good question: you’ll need a magnifying glass to read the ingredients list and forget finding ingredient or allergen information on any of the company websites. I was very surprised to discover that some sausages contain beef or chicken as well as pork. This isn’t always detailed on the front label; you have to get that magnifying glass out. If you have allergies, do check that list – the ingredients vary substantially between brands.
Sounds obvious, but don’t forget – as I did – to check the expiry date (one pack I bought was three weeks out of date). It’d be a real shame to find yourself on a public holiday with food you can’t eat.
Choosing the right chorizo for you
Now if you are trying to decide which brand of chorizo to buy for this year’s celebrations, look no further. An international panel of sausage-lovers has nobly tasted its way through 10 of the different products on the market and ranked them by taste preference. And what’s more, we’ve analyzed them by price and by calorie count. Read on to get the results.
The taste test
7 people of different ages and nationalities blind tasted 10 different sausages and gave each one a score. Below the products are ranked by their combined score to reveal our tasting panel’s favourites. A big thank you to Loreto Fuchslocher, John Ewer, Kate Whitlock, Natascha Scott-Stokes and Kathy Baxter, as well as a taster who prefers to remain anonymous, for helping me out in this noble cause!!
1) Joint winners were both from La Crianza, each with 35 points:
5) Jumbo’s own brand products tied in 5th place with 25 points:
Artesanal Chorizo blanco
Jumbo Artesanal Longaniza
7) Receta del Abuelo longanicilla – 22 points
8) La Preferida Chorizo Parrillero con Carne Angus – 19 points
9) Receta del Abuelo chorizo de campo – 16 points
10) Receta del Abuelo chorizo parrillero – 16 points
The calorie count
If you’re watching your waistline, then you may be interested to know which chorizos are most fattening.
Chart 1 shows the weight and calorie count for each type of chorizo.
Chart 2 levels out the playing field by comparing the number of calories per 100g for each type of sausage.
I’d love to hear your experience with Chilean sausages. Do you have a favourite brand? Any insights into the types available?
And to accompany your chorizo?
And of course, no choripán experience is complete without pebre and a glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany it. Click here for a recipe for pebre, Chile’s very own spicy salsa. Many people put a generous amount of this salsa on their bread, then add the sausage. Some also add mashed avocado, lightly seasoned.
Looking for a comforting wine to cheer up a cool evening? A juicy red to go with steak or oven-roasted aubergine and pumpkin? Well Veramonte Red blend may well fit the bill. Nothing subtle and restrained here; this is a deep purple fruit-bomb of a wine, with exuberant sweet aromas of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, plums and cherries erupting from the glass.
Tasting notes: Veramonte Red blend 2016, Central Valley, 14.5% ABV
This deep purple-coloured wine is fruit-forward; absolutely jam-packed with red fruit like raspberries and cherries and black fruit, such as blueberries, blackberries and plums. Underneath all that fruit, there are some notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the oak-ageing. This is technically a dry wine, although with 5.6 g/l of residual sugar, there’s just a hint of sweetness. It has medium (+) acidity, fairly pronounced, ripe tannins and high alcohol. The mouth is intense with sweet, juicy fruit flavours. Fairly long finish. This wine will appeal to those who like a big, juicy red.
This wine will pair well with highly flavoured dishes, such as barbecued or roast red meat, hearty casseroles, flavourful pasta dishes or vegetarian bakes. As we are fast approaching Chile’s annual Independence Day celebrations, I enjoyed it with one of Chile’s favourites for this time of year – a choripán (sausage in a bread roll). There’ll be more about Chilean sausages in my Fiestas Patrías special next week.
This wine really is a multiblend: 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Mourvèdre, 7% Carignan, 7% Syrah, 5% Carmenère, 7% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. The wine was fermented with its native yeasts and aged in oak for 8 months, some of it neutral.
4 September is Chilean National Wine Day and what better way to celebrate than with a glass of País wine, the country’s most traditional variety? This is the easy-to-grow, drought-resistant grape variety that centuries ago the Spanish missionaries took with them to new countries to ensure they had wine to celebrate Mass. In the Canary Islands, it’s known as Listán Prieto o Listán Negro. In California, it’s called Mission, in Argentina, it goes by the name of Criolla Chica and, here in Chile, it’s called País.
For a long time, País was the principal grape variety in red wines here in Chile but, as more fashionable varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot took off, it was left in obscurity.
For many decades, growers could choose either to sell their grapes at a very low price to wine companies for use in cheap red blends or else switch to other, better-selling vine varieties.
In recent years, winemakers have been rediscovering Chile’s heritage varieties; the vines that were languishing in the shadow of the superstar grape varieties. We’ve seen great interest in old vine Carignan and Cinsault wines and País wine has also had a makeover.
Producers have experimented with a range of styles of wine, as you’ll see from the tasting notes below.
Red País wine tasting notes
Bouchon País Salvaje 2016, Maule, 12%
Made from País vines that have gone wild on the Bouchon estate, vinified using carbonic maceration to bring out the maximum fruity flavours and aromas.
This wine is a pale purple colour. It has a pronounced nose with aromas of red fruit, like strawberries, raspberries and cherries, a hint of spice and the tell-tale notes of banana and bubblegum that you get with carbonic maceration.
This is a dry, easy-drinking and fruity wine with good balance and everything in the medium spectrum: tannins, acidity, body, alcohol and finish. A well-accomplished version of País worth trying.
Made from old vines, traditional style of winemaking with minimal intervention.
This is a pale ruby-coloured wine, a little bit cloudy, reflecting the fact that it is unfiltered. The nose is medium in intensity with notes of chocolate, and red fruit like cranberries, redcurrants and raspberries and a floral hint.
In the mouth, it is a dry wine with medium (+) acidity, fairly low tannins that are ripe and integrated, medium body. Flavours of cocoa and red fruit. This is a light and easy-drinking wine.
Ventisquero Reserva País Moscatel 2015, Maule, 13.5%
Interesting blend: 85% País grapes from Maule, 15% Muscat grapes from Itata Valley. In both cases, these are old vines which have never been irrigated. Muscat grapes are very aromatic, so they contribute extra aromas to the wine.
This wine is pale ruby in colour, almost a rosé. The nose is more pronounced than some of the 100% País wines, with a lovely floral note and lots of sweet fruit notes like cherries, grapes and cooked strawberries.
In the mouth, it is dry with medium (+) tannins and acidity, fairly light body and medium length. The fruit and floral notes come through in the mouth, making this a very pleasant drink.
Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado, Brut, Maule Valley
This was among the first of the new wave of País wines to be launched on the Chilean market and it always scores well in sparkling wine tastings. It’s made from 100% País, using the traditional method of in-bottle fermentation. Miguel Torres is a fair trade producer.
This is a rosé sparkling wine with a pleasing peach colour. It’s a fresh, fruity sparkling wine with fruity aromas, followed by refreshing acidity in the mouth.
This is also made using the traditional, in-bottle fermentation method from País grapes.
This is a lovely, elegant, very transparent sparkling wine with soft bubbles and moderate alcohol (just 12% ABV). The aromas and flavours are more subtle and complex than Estelado’s, with the classic croissant and biscuity notes from the time spent ageing on its lees (sediment). Well worth trying.
Sparkling wines are best served well chilled and are amongst the most versatile wines to pair with food: check them out with mixed starters or a buffet and you’ll find they will hold their own with pretty much any kind of food.
The red wines will also benefit from being just slightly chilled and can be served just as an aperitif or will pair well with chicken or pork or with casseroles like Chilean favourite Cazuela. My friend Smilja tried it with Yugoslav dish Paprikash (a meat and vegetable casserole) and said that they were a perfect combination.