Do you like rich, fruity, comforting reds? Big wines that are great for a night in accompanied by pizza and a film or fabulous with a steak dinner or a cheese-topped bake? If so, Morandé Vigno 2012 may well tick the right boxes. This is one of a group of dry-farmed, old-vine Carignan wines from Chile’s Maule Valley that go under the name Vigno.
Basically it’s either completely or mainly a Carignan wine from the Maule region that meets the following rules. At least 65% of the grapes must be from Carignan vines that are a minimum of 30 years old, not irrigated and grown in a bush format known as gobelet, rather than trained along wires. Up to 35% of the wine can made from grapes of any other variety of grape grown in Maule, so long as the Carignan character is not lost. The wines must be aged for at least 2 years prior to release.
The Vigno brand has gradually gained prestige both in Chile and around the world and now a good number of Chilean wineries have a Vigno in their portfolio. Check out this post for the full Vigno story or the official Vigno website (in Spanish).
Tasting note: Morandé Vigno 2012, Maule Valley, 14.5%
This wine is deep ruby. It has a pronounced nose with notes of red fruit, such as sour cherries, as well as blueberries and black plums, a herbal note like juniper or liquorice and some sweet spices from the oak-ageing, like vanilla, coconut and cinnamon. This is a dry, full-bodied wine with pronounced, ripe and integrated tannins, high acidity, very high alcohol (14.5%) and a relatively long finish. The mouth reveals fruit, intermingled with that herbal note and the sweet spices. A big, juicy wine perfect for wallowing at the end of a long week.
This wine will be at its best with highly flavoured, fatty foods – think barbecued pork, fried steak or any dish smothered in rich melted cheese, including pizza or lasagne. I often pick a Carignan wine when I serve meat slow-cooked in a tomato or wine sauce, such as Chilean favourite Carne Mechada – click here for the recipe.
Morandé Vigno 2012 was made with 78% Carignan together with contributions of 18% Syrah and 4% Chardonnay. It spent 24 months in a mixture of French and American oak barrels and foudres, which will have smoothed out and rounded the tannins and the body of the wine.
Here’s a chic little number; a rather moreish take on the world’s favourite type of white wine: De Martino Legado Chardonnay. And this week, I’m featuring two different years of the same wine – 2015 and 2016 – because they are quite different and a great example of something few people mention here in Chile: vintage variation.
Anyway more on vintage variation later. First let’s talk about these two wines.
De Martino Legado Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, 14% ABV
This pale yellow wine has a pronounced nose with distinct layers of aromas. First up are the enticing notes of brioche and pastry due to the wine being stored over its lees (sediment) and stirred from time to time. Then there is a layer of fruit aromas, particularly zingy citrus fruit, like lemon sherbet and lemon zest, as well as crisp green apple. Finally there is a sweet caramel smell suggestive of some contact with oak.
In the mouth, the wine is dry, with high acidity and medium body and a lovely creamy texture. The flavours are relatively pronounced, featuring the same brioche, lemon sherbrt and apple notes, but there is a slight sweet touch, like caramel too. Fairly long. A very beguiling wine that entices you to pour another glass.
De Martino Legado Chardonnay 2016, Limarí Valley, 13.5% ABV
This pale yellow wine has a medium nose, much more subtle than the 2015 version. The aromas are more difficult to pin down – a citrus note, ripe lime perhaps – together with some white fruit aromas, like melon, peach and apricot. There’s also a floral hint – something like orange blossom – and some brioche-like notes from the lees stirring again. But all in all, the aromas of this wine are much more restrained than the vibrant 2015 version.
In the mouth, this wine is dry with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) body and alcohol. The flavour intensity is more restrained, but the wine has a lovely, creamy mouthfeel and a soft fruitiness. The finish is again relatively long. This wine is also very moreish but its style is more subtle.
Chardonnay – especially one with a bit of personality and body like this one – is always going to be a good choice for chicken, fish and creamy dishes, including vegetables au gratin or other cheesy types of dishes.
Where can you buy De Martino Legado Chardonnay?
In Chile, you can buy wines direct from the winery, at Jumbo supermarkets or Mundo del Vino stores. In the UK, Berry, Bros and Rudd and Waitrose are among several stockists. In the US, wine.com stock some De Martino wines.
In Europe it’s well-known that wines vary from one year to another, mainly because of differences in the weather. But in many New World regions, like Australia, Argentina and Chile, where the weather is a bit more reliable than in the likes of Bordeaux, the myth has arisen that the wines are the same from year to year. Not true and De Martino Legado Chardonnay is a lovely example of this.
Wines tend naturally to reflect differences in conditions. For instance 2016 was a warmer year than normal in most parts of Chile and rain fell just when it was least wanted, in the middle of the harvesting season.
In warm years, the grapes ripen faster, so either you end up with grapes that have more sugar (and therefore wines with higher alcohol) and less acidity or you pick them earlier, when their aromas and flavours are less developed. Meanwhile rain in the period around harvesting can make the grapes swell up with water (creating wines with a more dilute flavour) and/or cause them to rot.
So what I think happened at De Martino in 2016 is that they saw the sugar levels in their Chardonnay grapes rising and the acidity dropping and knew that rain was possible, so they took a decision to harvest the grapes earlier than normal. This safeguarded the acidity levels. While the 2016 wine has less acidity than the 2015 vintage, it’s still very refreshing. It also stopped the grapes from stockpiling so much sugar that the wine ended up being very high in alcohol – indeed the 2016 vintage has slightly less alcohol than the 2015 one. The other side of the coin is that the wine has more subtle aromas and flavours, because these had less time to develop in the grapes before harvesting.
How come so many wines don’t vary from year to year?
Let’s face it, most consumers around the world like certainty when they are buying a product. They don’t want it to change from one purchase to the next. And so winemakers at many wineries apply great skill to ensure that that their wines are more or less the same from one year to another. In addition to picking the grapes earlier or later to get the desired qualities, they can add more acidity, reduce the alcohol or add a dash of another grape variety to achieve this. So most of the really big name brands of wine will tend to be very consistent.
Other wineries – often the smaller or boutique ones – have a different – and arguably more daring – approach, allowing the wine to tell its own story. Wine geeks like me enjoy that element of the unknown in uncorking a wine we’ve tried before and encountering something a little different. Of course, this can lead to disappointment, if you don’t like a subsequent vintage of a wine you previously liked. But the likes of De Martino strike the balance between allowing the wine to be expressive without the style becoming unbalanced, for instance by excess alcohol. And this takes a lot of skill and experience.
I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you prefer your wine to be consistent every year or do you like the surprise of vintage variation? Have you been disappointed (or delighted) by a particular vintage?
This fruity red blend is an unusual marriage between iconic Italian and Spanish varieties and it really works. Sip Erasmo Barbera Garnacha on its own or enjoy it with a wide variety of food – its fresh and lively fruit-forward style is very moreish.
Tasting note: Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016, Maule Valley, 14% ABV
This wine is a medium ruby colour and has a delightfully pronounced nose. Aromas of red fruit, like strawberry jam, raspberries and red plums, together with rhubarb, intermingle with a subtle herbal note of liquorice or dill. As the wine opened, a touch of mushroom and earth became apparent. The wine is dry with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) ripe but coarse tannins, medium (+) body and high alcohol. The mouth is lively with lots of red fruit and a chalky or even slightly earthy texture adding interest. The finish is medium (+).
Erasmo Barbera Garnacha is a food-friendly wine that will work well with a wide variety of different dishes – you may want to try it with oven-roasted vegetables drizzled with olive oil, pizza, roast pork, chicken or dishes made with firm types of fish, like cod or hake.
Barbera is from Italy – most especially Piedmont – and, until recently, was often seen as making an everyday kind of wine that was a bit on the tart side. But then, just as has been discovered with other varieties, they found that if the yields are controlled, so each vine just produces a moderate amount of grapes, it can actually make some great wine. So Barbera has been experiencing a Renaissance lately. It grows well in warm conditions and makes wines with high acidity, low tannins and fruity flavours which can range from black fruit like blackberries through to red cherries. When it’s aged in oak – not the case with this wine – it gains more tannins, becomes rounder and develops aromas and flavours of plums.
Garnacha or Grenache, as it is called in France, is thought to come originally from Spain, where it is widely planted. As it too likes warm temperatures, it’s also widespread in some of France’s warmer regions, like the southern Rhône – the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape is largely or even wholly Grenache. The aromas and flavours of Grenache only reach their best when the grapes are very ripe and have a high level of sugar. High sugar means high alcohol and it also means that the acidity will have declined. So Grenache wines generally have lowish acidity and high alcohol but lots of lovely fruity aromas and flavours.
Erasmo Barbera Garnacha is a very unusual blend and I’d say it’s a genius idea to combine two warm climate varieties, one that is known for too much acidity and moderate fruitiness with another than is troubled by insufficient acidity but jam-packed with lively red fruit aromas and flavours.
Erasmo grow their grapes following organic principles. It seems the quantities of each type of wine vary from year to year and in 2016 were 70% Barbera and 30% Grenache. Half of the grapes were co-fermented and the other half were vinified separately, in both cases in stainless steel tanks, so the winemaker’s intention would be to retain the fresh fruitiness of the grapes and avoid letting the wine be spoiled by contact with oxygen.
Grenache is particularly prone to fading young if it has been in contact with too much oxygen or just left too long in the bottle. Having been disappointed recently by two different Grenache wines of which I had high expectations, I can speak from experience on this.
My top tip: if you buy a wine which is pure Grenache or a blend containing a lot of Grenache, like this one, unless the back label suggests otherwise, don’t keep it for a rainy day. Drink it and enjoy it young, while it’s deliciously fruity.
Where to find Erasmo wines
In Chile, Vinoteca stocks this wine. The company website details stockists in other countries around the world.
Aren’t these big, juicy clusters of Sauvignon Blanc grapes beautiful? Can you believe that they are the raw material for one of the world’s favourite white wines? In fact, Sauvignon Blanc wine is second only to Chardonnay in terms of global white wine popularity. No surprise then that, according to the OIV, it’s the eighth most planted wine grape variety, with 110,138 hectares distributed around the world in 2010. And Chile ranks third in terms of the area planted with this variety, after France and New Zealand.
So what’s so special about it?
Oz Clarke likens Sauvignon Blanc to a gin and tonic – basically it’s an outstandingly refreshing drink, a real thirst quencher, perfect for a hot day. No matter where it comes from in the world, you can rely on Sauvignon Blanc to deliver the zesty acidity that is so fashionable in white wine right now. That, together with light – or at most medium – body and strong aromas are what make this wine so popular.
It’s all in the smell
The aromas and flavours of Sauvignon Blanc can vary a lot, depending on the climate where the grapes were grown, their level of ripeness and the winemaking technique.
However, one set of aromas is likely to appear in any Sauvignon Blanc wine irrespective of where it was made: the pyrazines. These are common to several inter-related varieties hailing from Bordeaux: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Sauvignon Blanc. In wines made from very ripe grapes, these aromas are more subtle, but most wines from this family of grapes are likely to have one or more of the following smells: tomato plants, green peppers, chilli peppers or asparagus.
A Sauvignon Blanc wine made with less ripe grapes, especially from areas where the climate is especially cool, will also tend to have herbaceous aromas (like freshly cut grass, elderflower, nettles or blackcurrant leaf). This is the traditional style of wine that was made famous by areas such as Sancerre in the Loire and was the norm until New Zealand rocked the boat in the 1970s.
That was when pioneering Kiwi winemakers made and marketed a whole different style of fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc. It was a huge success and many wine critics now regard New Zealand as producing the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.
Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wine
Other New World countries caught on to New Zealand’s success quickly and both South Africa and Chile are now regarded as producing excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines.
This style involves picking the grapes when they are riper. Often the grapes are chilled for a few hours prior to pressing or else they are pressed quickly and the juice is chilled prior to fermentation. The must is usually fermented in a neutral container – most usually stainless steel tanks – at low temperatures to retain the maximum fruity aromas.
The best Chilean examples come from cooler areas, most notably the Casablanca, Leyda (San Antonio) and Limarí Valleys, all areas with a cooling influence coming from the Pacific Ocean. This is important because the cooler temperatures mean the grapes ripen more slowly and have longer to develop their flavours. The picking date is also important, as the grapes reach their aromatic peak just before the sugar levels are at their optimum.
Leyda is especially cool and classic aromas include citrus fruit, like lime or lemon and floral notes like elderflower. The Casablanca Valley tends to be warmer and so the wines often have a more tropical profile, with notes of pineapple or passionfruit and citrus fruit, such as grapefruit. There are small pockets of limestone soil in both Leyda and Limarí and wines made from grapes from these plots may have a mineral note, like wet stones.
Sauvignon Blanc from warmer areas of Chile or particularly warm years may well have slightly lower acidity and aromas of white fruit like peaches and nectarines.
Some producers pick the grapes at different levels of ripeness or blend together wines made from grapes from different plots so that the wine will have a range of different smells and flavours. So you may find a wine that has a heady mixture of pyrazines, herbaceous, floral, citrus and tropical notes.
Those that buck the trend
Some winemakers are experimenting with leaving wine over its lees (sediment) and stirring it occasionally. They do this to add a creamy texture and yeasty aromas like croissants.
Others are trialing fermentation and/or ageing in oak – usually used oak barrels so that the fruity aromas are not overwhelmed by oak aromas. The oak influence can add a sweet spiciness, creamy texture and more body. If the label says Fumé Blanc, it is likely to be a Sauvignon Blanc from the United States with some oak influence, which may well be new oak, adding notes of cinnamon and coconut to the aromas.
Sauvignon Blanc is not generally blended with other varieties, except in Bordeaux, where it is mixed with Sémillon to make dry or sweet white wines, the most famous being Sauternes.
A refreshing aperitif and great partner for citrus-flavoured dishes or shellfish, Sauvignon Blanc has rocketed up the wine rankings to become the world’s second favourite white wine. As Chile is the world’s third largest producer, there are many fine examples of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to choose from. Here are just four, each a little different in style.
The must underwent a cold maceration for four hours before being fermented at a very low 12˚C to bring out the maximum fruit aromas and flavours including the tropical notes of passionfruit.
This wine has a pronounced nose with crisp green apple, citrus notes of lemon zest and grapefruit and some tropical notes of passionfruit. There is also a pyrazine note of green pepper. This wine is dry with medium + acidity, light body, medium flavour intensity with notes of citrus fruit and crisp green apples. The finish is medium. This is a very classic style of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wine with fresh acidity and a fruit-forward style and is sure to attract plenty of fans.
This wine is from the same region as Garcés Silva’s Boya, but is much more noticeably a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc with citrus and herbaceous aromas predominating, rather than the tropical notes that come through in Boya.
The nose is very appealing with aromas of lemon and lime zest, floral notes of elderflower and a pyrazine note of green chilli pepper. The technical sheet for the previous year mentions some oak-ageing and lees stirring, but aside from the wine having slightly more body than Boya, these techniques do not appear to have influenced the wine greatly. Certainly there is no yeasty note apparent in its fresh, fruit-forward and slightly herbaceous nose. The acidity is high and lemon-sharp, very refreshing. The flavours are of zingy lemon and lime zest with some herbaceous and floral notes. The finish is medium. This is a classy, elegant Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wine in the classic style; one for traditionalists.
Villard Expresión Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, 13.5% ABV.
The whole clusters of hand-harvested grapes were pressed and the juice was chilled for 24 hours. The must was fermented in stainless steel tanks at very low temperatures (12-15˚C) for 18 days. The wine was left over its lees for 4-5 months and suspended 3 times to give it volume in the mouth, which is why this wine has more body than many Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines, including Garcés Silva’s Boya and Undurraga’s T.H.
This wine has a pronounced nose with the typical notes of Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca: tropical fruit like pineapples and passionfruit, together with citrus notes of grapefruit and sherbert lemon. This dry wine has high acidity, medium + alcohol and medium body. This was a very nicely accomplished wine with enough to please traditionalists, while offering a little more body and texture than many Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines.
Veramonte Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, 14% ABV
I liked this wine so much, I recently featured it as a Weekend Wine. This is by no means a traditional style of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wine, as the norm is to ferment the must in stainless steel at a low temperature, rack it off its lees (sediment) and let it settle for a short time in stainless steel prior to stabilisation, filtering and bottling. In this case, the wine was fermented in a mixture of concrete eggs and stainless steel tanks. 30% of the wine was then aged in neutral oak, giving the wine more body and smoothness. A further 30% was aged in concrete eggs and the remaining 40% in stainless steel, to retain the fruitiness. The wine was kept over its lees and stirred regularly for 8 months to lend it complexity, intriguing yeasty aromas, and a creamy texture in the mouth.
Like Villard, this Sauvignon Blanc is from Casablanca and it displays the tropical fruit notes so typical of this area, such as pineapple and passionfruit. There are also aromas of crisp green apples, some stone fruit notes, like peaches and apricots and even a hint of ripe melon. There is a surprising yeasty note on the nose (think brioche or croissant), uncommon in Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, from the time the wine spent over its lees. In the mouth, this wine is dry with high acidity and medium (+) alcohol. This wine has more body than is usual in Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc wines and a creamy texture and these are due to oak-ageing and lees stirring. The mouth is a delicious mixture of citrus, stone and green apple fruit and the finish is long.
I found this a delicious wine, though it may not appeal to those who love the light, refreshing body and pure fruit aromas and flavours of the more traditional style of Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca. If you try it, please let me know what you think.
Do you like Chilean Sauvignon Blanc? If so, do you have a favourite style or brand?
Looking for a refreshing white wine for the weekend? An appetiser to welcome the weekend or an accompaniment for fish or salad perhaps? Well, Ritual Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, fresh and fruity wine with plenty of personality and more body and complexity than many other Sauvignon Blanc wines. A nice way to wind down after a tiring week…
This wine is pale yellow in colour. Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca tends to be fruity and this is no exception, revealing tropical fruit notes of pineapple and passionfruit, together with aromas of crisp green apples, some stone fruit notes, like peaches and apricots and even a hint of ripe melon. However, there is also a surprising yeasty note on the nose (think brioche or croissant), uncommon in Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. In the mouth, this wine is dry with high acidity and medium (+) alcohol. This wine has more body than is usual in Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc wines and a creamy texture from the lees stirring. The mouth is a delicious mixture of citrus, stone and green apple fruit and the finish is long.
I found this a delicious wine, though it may not appeal to those who love the light, refreshing body and pure fruit aromas and flavours of the more traditional style of Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca.
Seafood is always a great companion for crisply acidic and fruity Chilean Sauvignon Blanc – think of Chilean classic lemon-cured ceviche, baked salmon in a passionfruit sauce or a shellfish medley. You may like to try it with chicken kiev accompanied by a lemon-dressed green salad or pasta in a basil and lime dressing.
The grapes came from three different plots to bring different aromas and flavours to the wine. They were harvested at night and whole bunch pressed, making for pure fruity flavours. The must was fermented in a mixture of concrete eggs and stainless steel tanks. 30% of the wine was aged in neutral oak, which will have lent the wine body and smoothness. A further 30% was aged in concrete eggs and the remaining 40% in stainless steel, to retain the fruitiness. The wine was kept over its lees (sediment) and stirred regularly for 8 months to lend it complexity, those intriguing yeasty aromas, and a creamy texture in the mouth.