The Chileans are Coming! Preview Notes for You

Flag of Chile

Every year we look forward to our pinnacle wine event, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Next year’s event will be Feb. 27 – March 4, 2012.  What does this have to do with Chile?  Chile is the theme country for the Festival!

A group of Media, myself included, were invited to a preview of the Chilean wines we can expect to see at the Festival, plus give us some background into this long, thin country.

My Experience in Chile

Karl aka MyWinePal at Casa Lapostolle

Two years ago I travelled down to Chile and visited wineries from the Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, and Colchagua Valleys.  Some of the wineries were Casa Lapostolle, Montgras, Montes, Errazuriz, and Casas del Bosque.   I was impressed with how much the wineries cared for their vineyards and the production of their wines.  One of the nice thing with Chile, is that it is dry due to it’s location on the west coast of South America, and the Andes Mountains on it’s eastern border.  The dry climate, plus topography, and soil factors have made the area a great place to grow grapes.  There is very little, or no, phylloxera louse to attack the grape vines, plus the dryness keeps fungus and mold at bay.  So less pesticides and/or herbicides are needed here.  Many of the wineries in Chile indicate that they are organic or follow organic principles.

Chile’s Natural Advantage

Chile is a wine maker’s paradise.  They get 3 weeks more ripening time than in Bordeaux and 300 + days of sunshine each year.   The cool air from the Andes cools the grapes in the evening so that the grapes mature slowly so that they reach full phenolic ripeness; lots of ripe fruit and a good backbone of acidity. The adjacency to the coast, and the cool Humbolt Current helps produce coastal fog which cools the grapes near the coast, such as from the Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley.

What Grapes Grow in Chile?

There is a wide range of red and white grapes grown in Chile.  The top 5 red grapes in order of volume are:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Carmenere
  4. Syrah
  5. Pinot Noir

Montes M, Folly and Purple Angel wines

Cabernet is King is Chile.  With the 300+ days of sunshine, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce very full-bodied, ripe, supple wines.  Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor is one of the top quality wines for this grape.  Merlot and Carmenere come in, in 2nd and 3rd place.  Yet they were thought of both being Merlot for many years.  The grapes were planted together in the same vineyard and the grapes and leaves of both vines look very similar.  It was only fairly recently that the Carmenere grape was identified (it’s a Bordeaux grape btw), and has become a signature grape for Chile. A second signature red grape is coming through the ranks, and that is the Syrah grape.  I think people started to recognize Syrah’s potential in Chile, with Aurelio Montes‘ plantings in the Apalta Region of the Colchagua Valley.  There he produces an ultra premium Montes Folly wine from Syrah.

For white grapes, the top 5 varieties are:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Moscatel of Alexandria
  4. Riesling
  5. Viognier

Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc and Reserva Chardonnay

Most people probably think of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when they think of white wines from Chile.  Probably also the Casablanca Valley, where a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are produced. An upcoming region for Sauvignon Blanc is slightly south of the Casablanca Valley and much closer to the coast is the Leyda Valley.  While the Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Casablanca Valley can be more tropical fruit, from the Leyda Valley, expect more citrus and herbal aromas and flavours.  Have you ever heard of Moscatel of Alexandria?  You might not have, but you probably have tried some Chilean Pisco.  Pisco is produced from the Moscatel grape.  Riesling and Viognier and two grapes with great potential.  I don’t think a particular region is well-known enough for these grapes, but I would hazard to guess that the Riesling grape would be very good in the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys while Viognier would shine in the more inland, warmer regions, like Aconcagua, Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.

Wines We Tasted at the Media Preview

Montgras Santa Carolina and Undurraga Sauvignon Blancs

We enjoyed 3 Sauvignon Blancs and a range of single varietals and red blends.  The three Sauvignon Blancs:

  • Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Leyda Valley). Light straw colour with a green tinge. Gooseberry and sweet honey nose. Light body with medium plus acidity.  Gooseberry and citrus flavours.  Medium length. My favorite of the these 3 wines.
  •  Vina Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Leyda Valley). Light lemon colour with herbal, asparagus and mint on the nose.  Round mouth feel with light body. Herbal, citrus and green apple fruit flavours with some minerality on the palate.  Quite sour on the finish.
  • Undurraga Terroir Hunter Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Leyda Valley). 2008 was a later harvest than the other years, resulting in riper more tropical fruit flavours.  This wine was light lemon/green in colour.  Tropical fruit, lees and oak on the nose.  Light body,  round mouth feel but also has a good backbone of acidity. Oaky, smoky, citrus flavours.  Long length.

Wide range of Chilean red wines

Our red wines included single varietal Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and blends.  The wines are:

  • Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2009 (Casablanca Valley). Medium ruby, Vanilla and cherry aromas. Medium body, dry, but full fruit, cherry flavours.  Vanilla in the back ground and some spiciness and raspberry leaf.  Slightly sweet cherry finish.
  • Emiliana Vineyards COYAM 2007 (Colchagua Valley). This is a biodynamic wine, which goes beyond organic wine making principles. Opaque garnet in the glass with ripe black fruit, vanilla, dark chocolate and cherrie aromas.  Full body, very round, with milk chocolate and ripe cherry flavours.  Some spice, raspberry leaf and vanilla on the finish.  A very high quality, balanced wine. You can read about biodynamic wines at this link.
  • Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere Syrah 2008 (Maule Valley). This blend is 75% Carmenere and 25% Syrah.  Deep ruby colour.  Meaty sausage and ripe cherry aromas. Full body, round with minerality.  Cherries, blueberries and vanilla flavours.   Medium plus acidity gives this wine bright flavours.
  • Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2009 (Apalta Valley).  Some dustiness on the nose, along with ripe cherries, capsicum and vanilla.  Medium minus body with high acidity and soft tannins.  Dark chocolate and cherry flavours with a mineral streak running through the wine. Not mouth filling but very pleasant sensation in your mouth.
  • Vina Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Carmenere 2010 (Colchagua Valley). The nose on this wine was a little closed, but I did get some nutmeg and cherry aromas. But on the palate, nutmeg, cedar and dark fruit flavours jump out.  Round mouth feel, dry with some spiciness.
  • Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). Deep garnet in colour with cedar and ripe fruit aromas. Full body, rich feeling ,with  ripe dark fruit flavours and vanilla.  Dry with soft tannins and cedar on the finish.  This is a real good value wine at $19.99 a bottle. Also try their Medalla Real Pinot Noir!
  • Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Maipo Valley). This wine I think is starting to show it’s age as there is a slightly brownish tinge to an otherwise garnet colour in the glass. Some dark fruit on the nose.  Medium body, light mouth feel, with juicy black fruit flavour.  An elegant wine.
  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet 2009 (Maipo Valley). Deep dark core with a ruby rim in the glass. Vanilla, dark fruit and oak/cedar aromas. Full body, round mouth feel with soft tannins.  Light vanilla with some mintiness.
  • Vina Chocalan Gran Reserva Blend 2009 (Maipo Valley). This is a blend of 6 grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.  Opaque garnet in the glass. Nice cedar, allspice and vanilla on the nose. Very round in your mouth with soft tannins. Allspice, cedar and ripe black fruit flavours.  Nice texture.  A favorite wine of many of the media I spoke with.

If these wines have enticed you, you may want to buy advance tickets to the Playhouse Wine Festival.  Here is my link to the tickets.  Enjoy and Salud!

Highlights from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest – Day 2

The second day from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is now finished.  A lot of wine again today to taste.  But still probably more than half the wines haven’t yet been tasted.  I did visit many nice wineries and tasted some interesting wines from around the world today.  As I had mentioned in my previous blog article, today I would taste wines from the rest of the world, and then at the end try some Spanish wines I had missed.

Again to keep things brief, here is my 2nd list of recommended wines to try at the #VPIWF.  After the festival is over, I’ll post full tasting notes for these wines and others that I have tried on www.MyWinePal.com. The wines below range from white, red, sparkling, and fortified.

Recommended wines:

  • Babich East Coast Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
  • Vina Cobos Bramare Malbec 2008 (Argentina)
  • Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard 2009 (Argentina)
  • Decero Cabernet Sauvignon, Remolinos Vineyard 2008 (Argentina)
  • Graffigna Grand Reserve Torrontes 2010 (Argentina)
  • Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2009 (Argentina)
  • Vina Santa Rita Medalla Real Pinot Noir 2008 (Chile)
  • Vina Santa Rita Pehuen Carmenere 2005 (Chile)
  • Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage Red Les Hauts du Fief 2007 (France)
  • Cave de Tain Saint Joseph Red Esprit de Granit 2007 (France)
  • Pfaffenheim Steinert Grand Cru Gewurztraminer 2007 (France)
  • Pierre Sparr Mambourg Pinot Gris 2008 (France)
  • Schloss Reinhartshausen Prinz VVN Preussen Rielsing Off-Dry 2009 (Germany)
  • Ca’ Del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige (Italy)
  • Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
  • Man O’War Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)
  • Fonseca Guimaraens 10 Year Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Vanzeller 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Sogrape Vinhos Callabriga Dao Reserva 2005 (Portugal)
  • Sogrape Vinhos Ferreira 20-Year-Old Duque de Braganca (Portugal)
  • Champagne Lallier Rose (France)
  • Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (France)
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Perpetua 2008 (Canada)
  • Juan Gil Monastrell 2010 (Spain)
  • Bodegas Abanico Mencia 2007 (Spain)
  • Bodgeas Abanico Tinta de Toro Eternum Viti 2008 (Spain)
  • Bodegas Abanico Tinta de Toro Los Colmillos 2008 (Spain)
  • Gonzalez Byass Croft, Pale Cream Sherry (Spain)
  • Zuccardi Series A Torrontes 2010 (Argentina)
  • Bodegas San Valero Monte Ducay Cava Brut (Spain)

That is a lot of recommendations, and a lot of wines to try in one day.  There were many more that are also good, but did not make the list.  I wish I had another day or two so that I could try the rest of the wines from the Festival.

Today’s agenda for me is New Zealand Perfect Parings, Good Gracious Grenache seminar, and Cinq a Sept French wines.  Check back tomorrow for a short article on these.  Enjoy the remainder of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and remember to check out the Vancouver Playhouse and what they have to offer!  Support the arts.

Chile Day 9 – Montgras and Montes

Chile day 9 – Today was my M&M day. That is Montgras and Montes. Two premium wineries located in the Colchagua Valley in Chile. In the morning I met with Mr. Santiago Margozzini from Montgras. He led me through a tasting of their wines as well as drove me through part of their Ninquen vineyards. Most of their vines are located in the Colchagua valley, but they also have some vineyards in the Leyda and the Maipo Valley. Many of the wines I tasted I do not think are in BC yet, but may soon arrive. To keep the blog short, i’ll keep my notes to one white and one red for each winery, with my full tasting notes to come when I’m back in Vancouver. From Leyda, I tried a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. The Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is 100% stainless steel fermented. They tried to minimize oxygen content with the grapes using dry ice. The wine was only bottled one month ago, and I think i am one of the first few non Chileans to try this vintage. The wine has lots of lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas with a slight hint of greenness. On the palate it had high acidity, with more lemon, lime and grapefruit flavours. And a very long length. I tried 7 reds with Montgras. All but one came from the Colchagua Valley. The MontGras Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was deep garnet in the glass. Vanilla, black fruit, black cherries, cassis and tarry aromas. It had lots of fruitiness on the palate, with flavours of black cherry, vanilla, cloves, and chocolate. The tannins were soft but still provided a dry finish.

The afternoon I dedicated to the Montes winery, and wine maker Mr. Aurelio Montes Jr. I had met Aurelio in Vancouver during the Wines of Chile events in September and arranged to meet him at the winery in October. Aurelio first drove me around the vineyard, pointing out the differences within the vineyard topography and how that influenced the varieties planted and how the vines were planted (e.g. training the vines, and vine density). After we toured the winery, then onto tasting his wines. Again keeping brevity, i’ll only review one white and one red wine for the blog, with more to come. For the white wine, I tried the Montes Sauvignon Blanc Limited Selection 2009 from the Leyda Valley (FYI, i’m starting to really enjoy Leyda Sauv Blancs more than from other parts of Chile). This one had citrus, nettles, herbal and green chile aromas. On the palate the wine had citrus, and green chile pepper flavours. Light in body but long length. Pair with some seafood. I tried 7 red wines, but the one I will talk about is the Montes Alpha Carmenere 2007. This wine was deep purple in the glass. Capsicum, back fruit and vanilla aromas. On the palate I taste red and black cherries, vanilla and a slight hint of capsicum. This wine had a soft, round mouth feel and a long length. Pair carmenere with spicy Thai, Mexican or Indian food. I can’t wait to try this back in Vancouver.

Thanks to both Santiago and Aurelio for showing me their vineyards and fine wines. Saludos!

Chile Day 7 – Maipo Valley

Chile Day 7, Half way through my visit to Chile and the wineries I planned to visit. Today I visited 3 wineries spread across the Maipo Valley, south of Santiago. The first winery of the day was Santa Rita. I’ve met two of Santa Rita’s wine makers in the past through their visits to Vancouver, and now it is my turn to see the winery. Mr. Jose Ignacio Villalobo gave me a tour of their winery as well as pointing out the historical sites that are within the winery. One of the lines of wine is the “120” series. I’ll write about it when i’m back in Vancouver, but if you are interested, please check out Santa Rita’s website, www.santarita.cl. Mr. Villalobo had selected 5 wines for me to taste: 2 Sauvignon Blanc, 1 Carmenere, and 2 cabernet sauvignon. These wines were from their entry to to their premium levels. Although i can’t take you through all wines from all 3 wineries in this brief blog, i’ll point out a few wines. The Santa Rita Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008 had a mix of asparagus and citrus on the nose. Medium acidity, with more asparagus flavour as well as some herbaceousness and citrus. The wine had medium body and a bit of roundness. For a red, I’ll point out the Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2007. This one was deep garnet in colour, with cassis, back cherry and a hint of vanilla on the nose. Lots of black cherry flavour, with a bit of meatiness. The tannins were medium and allowed for a smooth mouthfeel. Nice.

 

The second winery of the day was Vina Undurraga. Their grounds and winery were beautiful, just like Santa Rita. I’d love to just spend a day at each on their grounds enjoying the sites. At Undurraga I met with a wine maker named Pilar. She led me through a tasting of 5 different wines; 2 whites, 2 reds, and 1 sparkling. I found out that Undurraga has a range of sparkling wines. Hopefully we will get them in BC sometime soon. A white from Undurraga was the Sibaris Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the cool climate, Leyda Valley. This wine was light lemon in colour. It had a sweet and saliness to the nose with lemon and a herbal note. It was quite high in acidity making it quite refreshing. I tasted green fruit, herbaceousness and some lemon. it had a long length with a spicy finish. On the red wine side, I enjoyed the Sibaris Carmenere, 2008 from the Colchagua Valley. This wine spent 23 months barrel aging in French and American oak. It was deep purple in the glass with good legs. It had tarry, meaty, cassis ad a bit of capsicum aromas. On the palate there as tar, vanilla and black cherry. It was quite smooth in the mouth with a slight peppery and dark fruit finish.

The third winery of the day was from Vina Tarapaca ex Zavala. This winery was a bit out of the way but well worth it. It has 8 km of private road that leads you to the winery. You drive through their vineyards along the side of the valley overlooking I think the Maipo River. Once there, there is beautiful grounds, and a private airstrip! Mr. Edward Flaherty, winemaker, led me through the tastings of his wines. Edward is originally from California, but has been living in Chile for many years. A white wine I enjoyed was the La Isla Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from the Leyda Valley. This wine ha a herbal nose with some green pepper, some floweriness and some lime. It had a ice round mouthfeel which was balanced with medium acidity in the glass. Green pepper and herbal flavours, with a long length. For the reds, I enjoyed the Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Maipo Valley. This wine was deep garnet in colour. very aromatic. Tar, ripe black fruit and cassis aromas. On the palate, there was tar, cassis, and black cherry. The tannins were medium, leading to a dry, sweet ripe black fruit finish. Very tasty.

That is all from the Maipo Valley. I’ll provide full tasting notes for all the wines once i’m back in Vancouver. The next valley for me to visit is the Colchagua Valley. Saludos!