– photo by Lenn Thompson
A month plus ago, I was lucky enough to join a group of bloggers for an online tasting event organized by the Wines of Chile. The tasting was the first of its type. Prior to the event an exquisite wooden box arrived containing the eight bottles of wine for the event in addition to stemware, a corkscrew and a spittoon. Talk about getting off on the right foot… With the tasting nearly underway the bloggers logged into a videoconference feed that was split between New York, where Gourmet magazine’s Wine & Spirit consultant Michael Green moderated the event from, and Chile (Santiago), where the eight winemakers had convened. The event was groundbreaking and the bar has been set. The one mistake in hindsight was trying to squeeze eight wines from eight different winemakers into one hour. This made it difficult to keep up with the tasting alone much less keep up with what my fellow bloggers were saying about the wines on twitter, listening to the winemakers speak or think of questions to ask them. So while I did taste some very nice wines I feel like I missed out on an opportunity to further my education by tapping the knowledge of the winemakers at the table. So moving forward, IMHO, we need more time with fewer winemakers so that we can all be more engaged with each other, the winemakers and the wines themselves.
So you may ask, after many moons why am I writing about this now? In a nutshell I wanted to share my take on how I see the wines of Chile. As many of my readers know I am a long time fan and think Chile is a tremendous source of value. My first love was the 2005 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere and I have been a long time Carmenere bandwagon rider. The Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc was my next great discovery and after the Emiliana (and a few others I have had) I am ready to jump on board for the Sauvignon Blanc as well. These aren’t the only two grapes coming out of Chile; other include Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Their Cabernet’s are easily recognizable by the green pepper aromas you will find present while the Merlot is mostly used in the many Bordeaux blends they put on offer. The Pinot and Syrah are up and coming varietals in the region and remain a bit inconsistent. That said I can see potential for both to evolve into value plays in the future. That said, for those looking to begin to exploring the wines of Chile today Carmenere and Sauvignon Blanc, I think, are the easiest places to find good value.
Oh, I did mention there was wine involved didn’t I? Each is listed below with my quick notes and the suggested retail price (most can be found for less). If you want more background on any of these offerings or are wondering where to track down a bottle for yourself let me know as I have much more information available on each…
- 2008 Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc ($11) – Very aromatic, all the expected crispness but there is something rich and intriguing here as well. Nice mineral on a zingy finish with healthy acid. Another feather in Chile’s Sauvignon Blanc hat, really starting to like their style.
- 2008 Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir ($15) – Unfortunately this one missed my shipment. Bob Dwyer of The Wellesley Wine Press had this to say: “On the nose, I really liked its strawberries and spice. The finish was big, but not as silky as I’d hope for from Pinot Noir. Overall, I thought it was very good, and at $15 it gives me hope that Chile may be an area for further exploration of value Pinot Noir.”
- 2006 Los Vascos Reserve ($21) – The first of the blends (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, 10% Syrah, 5% Malbec), early on the tannins made the wine appear unbalanced but with time oak, fruit and acid seemed to come into harmony. I wouldn’t buy it again but it might just be me, it was the favorite of some others that participated in the event.
- 2007 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere ($15) – Finally the Carmenere, I heart Carmenere! This one is even bigger than usual. Loaded with fruit and spices but slightly less smoky than I’m accustomed to. A nice, dense effort that is a joy to drink.
- 2007 Errázuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere ($26) – Even better yet, single vineyard Carmenere. Been dying to try one of these and now I know why. This one had beautiful balance while maintaining its usual power. Expensive but fantastic.
- 2007 Undurraga T.H. Syrah (pdf) ($24) – A wine from Limari, my first from this region, this one was smooth and balanced. Maybe to a fault as nothing shined through. I would have preferred more depth.
- 2006 Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenere ($21) – The second of the red blends this one was 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Franc, 7% Syrah. I expected green peppers and I got them along with smoke, a bit of tobacco and leather. A nice dry, long finish.
- 2006 Veramonte Primus ($20) – The last of the blends this one was 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 16% Carmenère. On the nose it is brooding with dark fruit aromas and delivers a big dose of the same on the palate. This wine shows a lot of layers and continued to evolve in the mouth until the tannins and acidity can no longer be held in check. You can sense good things on the horizon here. Not sure if this bottle just needs a bit more age or if the vines just need more time in the ground but this is one I will be checking up on again…
A great wine night no doubt! Most important learning of the night? Carmenère is pronounced Car-men-YAIR not Car-men-air-a like I have been saying for the past five years (though I like my artistic interpretation better!). If you want to host a Chilean wine night of your own I’m starting dinner with Emiliana Sauv Blanc, then the Errzuriz Carmenere and finishing with the Veramonte Primus. Thanks again to the Wines of Chile for hosting the event. Here’s to hoping there is another one like it soon…