De Martino Legado ChardonnayHere’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.

Tasting notes

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.

Food pairing

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, stock some De Martino wines.

De Martino’s website

So why the difference between the two 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?




More posts

Weekend wine: Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016

Weekend wine: Pandolfi Price Chardonnay

5 reasons for rediscovering Chardonnay

Chardonnay tasting


Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2016This 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 (+).

Food pairing

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.

The varieties

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.

Other posts:

Weekend wine: Wildmakers Sabatico 2014 (another Grenache blend, this time with Carignan)

Weekend wine: Huaso de Sauzal Garnacha 2013

Artistic shades of pink: rosé wine (featuring a French rosé made from Grenache and Cinsault)

Sauvignon Blanc grapes

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.

Glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wineIt’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.

Freshly harvested Sauvignon Blanc grapes
Freshly harvested organic Sauvignon Blanc grapes

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.

Matetic winery straddles the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys

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.

wine barrelsThose 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.

Check out some great examples of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wine

Other posts about Sauvignon Blanc

Weekend wine: Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2015

7 styles of Sauvignon Blanc wine

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc tasting results

Sources of information:

Clarke, O. and Rand, M., 2015. Grapes and Wines. London: Pavilion Books.

Robinson, J., 2015. The Oxford Companion to Wine. 4th Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc

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. 

Viña Garcés Silva Boya Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, 2016, 12.5% ABV

Boya Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wineThe 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.

Undurraga T.H. Sauvignon Blanc Leyda 2015, 13.5% ABV

Chilean Sauvignon BlancThis 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.

Villard Chilean Sauvignon BlancThe 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

Ritual Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wineI 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?

Other posts

Sauvignon Blanc in the spotlight

Weekend wine: Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2015

7 styles of Sauvignon Blanc wine

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc tasting results

Ritual Sauvignon Blanc

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…

Tasting note: Veramonte Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, 14% ABV

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.

Food Pairing

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.

Veramonte’s website.

Where can you buy Ritual Sauvignon Blanc?

In Chile, you can order direct from Veramonte or buy Ritual Sauvignon Blanc in Vinoteca stores. There are a number of stockists in the United States – check out

Coming soon

Sauvignon Blanc focus – the grapes and the styles of wine.

Other posts about Sauvignon Blanc

7 styles of Sauvignon Blanc wine

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc tasting Results

More Weekend wine posts

Weekend wine: Sierras de Bellavista Pinot Noir

Weekend wine: Gillmore Hacedor de Mundos

Weekend wine: T.H. Carmenere 2015, Peumo

Weekend wine: Veramonte Red blend 2016

Sierras de Bellavista Pinot Noir

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.

Viña Sierras de Bellavista Facebook page

Food Pairing

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?

In Chile, this wine is stocked by Vinoteca. For other alternatives, please contact the winery.

More posts about Pinot Noir

Weekend wine: Grey Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir wine – love it or hate it?

Easy-drinking Chilean Pinot Noir

More Weekend wine posts

Weekend wine: Gillmore Hacedor de Mundos

Weekend wine: T.H. Carmenere 2015, Peumo

Weekend wine: Veramonte Red blend 2016

Gillmore Hacedor de MundosDo 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.

Gillmore Wines website


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.

Food pairing

This wine will pair well with red meat or well-flavoured vegetarian dishes. Check it out with steak or a vegetable goulash.

Other posts

Weekend wine: T.H. Carmenere 2015, Peumo


Weekend wine: Veramonte Red blend 2016

T.H. CarmenereHere’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.

Carmenère grapes
Cluster of Carmenère grapes

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.

Undurraga’s website

Food pairing

This deep-coloured red wine pairs well with all the typical fare served for Chile’s Fiestas Patriaschoripanes (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!

Other posts

Carmenère – Chile’s miraculous red wine find

Fiestas Patrias: BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Fiestas patrias: choosing the right chorizo

Weekend wine: Veramonte Red blend 2016

BBB Cabernet Sauvignon winesFor 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. 

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
Cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

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.

BBB Chilean Cabernet SauvignonThe 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.

WINNING WINE:  Aresti Bellavista Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Curicó Valley, 13%, $4,590. 33 points

A pale ruby wine wine, dry, light-bodied and easy-drinking with middle-of-the road tannins, acidity and flavour.

Aresti’s website

SECOND PLACE:  Miguel Torres Las Mulas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Central Valley, 14%, Organic. $5,790 29 points

This is an organic wine made from 100% Cabenet Sauvignon grapes. It was aged for 6 months in French oak.

This wine is a deeper colour with a fruity nose. It’s another easy-drinking wine, nothing complex but nice and fruity.

Miguel Torres’ website

THIRD PLACE:  Falernia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Elqui Valley, 14%, $4,739, 26 points

This wine from northern Chile was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. 40% of the wine was aged in oak and the rest in stainless steel.

Easy-to-quaff red with some fruity aromas.

Falernia’s website

FOURTH PLACE: 4 Bodega Volcanes de Chile Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Rapel Valley, 14%, $4,490, 24 points

This wine was made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah grapes and was aged in oak for 8-9 months.

A dry, fruity wine with a mineral hint. An uncomplicated quaffable red.

Bodega Volcanes de Chile’s website

FIFTH PLACE:  Viña Chocalan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Maipo Valley, 14%, $5,490, 23 points

This wine was made from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Syrah, 40% of the wine was aged in used oak barrels for 6 months.

Interesting red fruit nose and the mouth is nice and fruity too. Another easy-drinker.

Viña Chocalan’s website

SIXTH PLACE:  Veramonte Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Colchagua Valley, 14%, $5,990, 18 points

This wine was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the wine was aged in neutral oak barrels for 8 months.

Pale-coloured with a medium, fruity nose. A bitter note on the palate and some red fruit like cranberries.

Veramonte’s website

Other Posts

Fiestas patrias: choosing the right chorizo

How Cabernet Sauvignon wine is made

Interview with Ben Gordon, MD of Bodega Volcanes de Chile


Fiestas PatriasChile’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. 

chorizo varietyThe 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.

cata de chorizo
Sausages prepared for the blind tasting

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:
    • La Crianza Chorizo de Campo
    • La Crianza Chorizo Patagónico
  • 3) Cecinas Llanquihue Chorizo Parrillero – 31 points
  • 4) La Preferida Chorizo de campo – 29 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 winning sausages

Price comparison


Chorizo price per 100g
Chorizo price comparison: Chilean pesos per 100g

The calorie count

Calories per chorizo
Chart 1: calories per chorizo

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.

chorizo calorie chart
Chart 2: Calories per 100g


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.

Fiestas patrias: BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon