This word perfectly describes the country of Chile in all areas: geography, culture, products, landscape, weather, lifestyle, food…and wine.
Recently, I attended the trade and consumer tastings during the Chilean Wine Tour 2012 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago and hosted by the Trade Commission of Chile. I was fortunate to meet and chat with Juan Luis Palma, Trade Representative, who was excited to promote this beautiful country to hundreds of wine lovers who attended the event.
Representatives from twenty four wineries shared their portfolio of wines during the event. Consumers and members of the wine industry were excited and positive about the quality of these premium wines at a reasonable cost. At the tasting tables, winemakers and distributors were proud of their wine and sustainable winemaking practices.
Fascinating to understand and taste, each variety exhibits diverse characteristics relating to the location of the vineyards. The most widely planted grape in Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon, is made in a variety of styles, from fruity and simple, to full-bodied and complex. It is often blended with Merlot, Syrah, and Carmenere varietals, resulting in a myriad of tastes.
Medium bodied, fruit filled Merlot has also gained success on the export markets. Carmenere, a Bordeaux variety and now unique to Chile, is most successfully grown in warm and sunny sites. Delicious examples of Carmenere exhibit black fruit elements, with spicy red pepper and herbal aromas, as well as soft, sweet tannins. Syrah is produced in a variety of regions in Chile, and styles like Pinot Noir perform well in cooler climates. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are the leading white varieties in Chile, with Muscat of Alexandria following. Currently, alternative white grape varietals like Viognier, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer are gaining recognition.
My top 5 wine selections from the event are as follows:
Catrala Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition 2010 – This family boutique winery from Casablanca Valley offered a wine which was crisp and light with tastes and aromas of citrus and herbs finishing with a bright, crisp snap. My first wine of the evening was delightful.
Chocalan Malvilla Riesling 2012 – Riesling in Chile? Absolutely! The location of the Malvilla vineyard in the San Antonio Valley is being lauded as one of the best in Chile for this variety. The aromas were fresh and intense with white flowers and orange blossoms leading to tastes of lime and some minerality. A very elegant wine to enjoy at the end of the night.
Ravanal Limited Selection 2009 – From a family winery located in the Colchagual Valley, this wine is a blend of Syrah, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Intense aromas of deep plums and chocolate led to tastes of the same with cinnamon and vanilla. Creamy and full bodied with the smooth tannins, this was delicious with the saucy meat appetizers served to all of the night’s satisfied winelovers.
Maquis Lien 2008 – This fantastic blend of Carmenere, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec from another family winery in Colchagua, this was a wine that shouted “Chile”! The aromas and tastes of deep fruits, earth, and minerality paired well with my conversations with consumers about how much they loved this wine, too!
Tabali Talinay Pinot Noir 2010 – Tabali is a premium wine producer from the Limari Valley in the north of Chile. Minerality, red fruit, and earth aromas and tastes combined to present a balanced, smooth taste sensation and a long finish. In one word? Luscious.
Wines from Chile consistently reflect the unique characteristics and diversity of this country’s geography, climate, and terroir.
Four regions: Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Central Valley, and Southern, which spans from north to south, and the New Vitivinicultural Zonification-Costa, Entre Cordilleras, and Andes-which runs from west to east, define the vast winemaking areas. With the Andes Mountains to the east, Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atacama Desert (the driest in the world), rich and fertile Central Valley, a Lake District, and the wilds of Patagonia, the land creates optimal growing conditions in which grapes are sustainably grown. The cold Humboldt Current which impedes the formation and movement of clouds causing significant rainfall and the wide diurnal temperature range help provide a positive growing environment. There are no pests (including phylloxera) to destroy vineyards due to the major factors of the height and breadth of the Andes Mountains and the effects of the Humboldt Current.
I can’t think of a better way to understand this country than by enjoying the unique characteristics of the many selections of wine…until I get the chance to visit! Perhaps you’ll find me in Santiago at a café (maybe a nightclub?), snowboarding in the Andes, or chatting with the locals. Maybe I’ll be enjoying the cultural heritage of a small village in the Central Valley or enjoying the sunset at the beach. But wherever I am, I’ll be celebrating the diversity of this beautiful country with a lovely glass of Chilean wine in my hand.