I've just concluded a week's worth of visits here in Chile with a lovely stop over at Almaviva, and a mini vertical of 1999, 2002, 2007, and 2009 Almaviva.
I have to say that I've been mostly pleasantly surprised by the wines I've tried here. Some people are realling making flat out beautiful wines, and that would include Concha y Toto, Koyle, some of the Casa Silva wines, some of the In Situ wies, and several others. For the money I'm not sure you can find better roughly Bordeaux styled wines, though Pinot Noir bight be next ont he list based on the Tabali Gran Reserva had last night, and of course Sauvignon Blanc is right up there with some fo the world's best, just check out Cas Silva's Coastal version for ample proof.
I'll type up all my notes over the coming days and get them publsihed soon but just a few observations while everything is still fresh in my mind.
First off the cliamte here is fairly unique in that the country receives tons of sunlight and heat but that heat has a difficult time accumulating. The temperature drainage from the Andes and cooling influence of the Pacific's Humboldt current means that evening here tend to be about 20 degrees celsius cooler than daytime highs. That does preserve freshness, while the sunlight seem to promote ripeness of flavor.
While I hardly sent any time here, it is fascinating to see the differeneces between growine regions, much of which is accounted for my variations in temperatures. The soils through the regions I visitied, Colchagau, Aconcagaua, Maule, Maipo, and Apalta are all similar in that they are very dry, loose, alluvial riverbeds wherever the land is flat with more grantici colluvial soilds on the hilsides that are only just coming under widespread planting.
This of course gives Chilean wines a tendencaty towards austerity, a cerain briskness whick I love and perhaps is most obvious in the Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alxandre series of wines. There is a certain old world austerity ot he tannins in many of the wine, with the ripeness of a warm, new world climate.
Carmenere is the grape on which we, the foreign media, would like to pin Chile's hat upn, but the truth is it's second fiddle here to Cabernet Sauvignon which accounts for some 40% of Chile's production. I'm bored with Cabernet, not that I can't be wowed by it, but Carmenre is an opportunity to experience something different, though one might not think so at first.
Caremenre's signature to me is a fine texture built on soft tannins and the green, herbal and herbaceous flavors that come from the grapes richness of Pyrazine compounds. The same compounds that are celebrated in and lend Sauvignon Blanc its grassiness is increasingly seen a s a defect by wine makers around the world when it comes to red wines. I don't know precisely why but it seems that Chile is for the most part no excpetion. A large number of wines are tending toward the very ripe end of the spectrum, though in discussions with winemakers it does seem that the pendulum is swinging the other way, back towards acceting some fo the greeness as the signature for Caremnere.
Other signatures seem to be a fine bitter orange oil element to the aroamitcs, as well as a pepperiness of araoma and falvor. I enoyed experiencing the range of Carmenere here in CHile and look forward to learning more about the wines as they evolve and the winemakers work out their style.
it's been a great week here, and while I wish i had more time to spend the wineries I've missed and questions that have been left unanswered do lay the groundwork for a return visit!
Sitting in Chile First thoughts
- Reply by dmcker, Apr 21, 2012.
Sounds like you're doing some longer distance traveling lately (NZ, now Chile) than your past visits to Italy. Good on you and Snooth, and looking forward to hearing more detail in your reports. I hadn't been under the impression that you'd thought much of Chilean wines in the past, so I'll be particularly interested in hearing about those wines and winemakers you really like, starting with the above. But then your tastes or interests seem to be broadening these days, since you've started liking chardonnay again, and now maybe even Chilean cabs! :-)
Any thoughts on or encounters with Chono and its winemaker? It's one label I've had luck with from Maipo.
Looking forward to hearing more....
- Reply by Pyrifera, Apr 22, 2012.
I'm envious! It sounds like a great trip. That Casa Silva sauvignon blanc is going on my wishlist.
I always felt that grassiness goes better with white wines due to the flavors that white wines tend to show as opposed to those of reds. That grassiness seems to go better with citrus, melon, and white fruits rather than plum, berries, etc. But, I can see a place for vegetal flavors in reds that have predominant flavors of earth, leather, and pepper.
I haven't had too much carmenere, but I remember liking what I've had and I'm looking forward to reading your reviews.
- Reply by EMark, Apr 22, 2012.
I was in Chile some years ago to catch a cruise out of Valparaiso. On the bus ride from Santiago to Valparaiso, I was amazed that the topography reminded me so much of the Santa Ynez Valley off the California Central Coast. We passed two or three very elegant lookng wineries.
I did not drink any Chilean wines on the cruise, but I have, of course, sampled some in the years since. I haven't had a great Chilean wine, yet, but I have to say that the price value is very good. I look forward to your more detailed report, Greg.
Here's a bit of trivia that you pick up on a cruise. Our first stop was the city of Arrica at the very northern tip of Chile. We visited a valley (I forget the name of it.) where 90% of the world's crop of cocktail olives are grown.