Vinos Dinámicos, Our Chilean Featured Wines of the Week
Vinos Dinámicos:Our Chilean Featured Wines of the Week
Once only known for its ability to mass produce wine, Chile is slowly becoming a place where quality wine can be found. Driven by the natural wine movement, Chile is returning to its roots. This week we take 4 wines from different producers scattered across Chile. Each wine this week is 10% off its original price, and will be open for tasting 3/5/18-3/7/18.
Our Featured Wines of the Week bring us down south to the country of Chile. The country makes up roughly 2/3 of the western coastline of South America and stretches some 2,653 miles. That's about the equivalent of the distance between San Francisco and Connecticut (seriously). Chile is one of the top 10 wine producing countries in the world and produces some exceptional wine, including Carménère, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and País. It's one of the oldest New World wine regions, with its roots extending back to the mid 1500s when Spanish missionaries brought vinis vinifera to the region.
A Search For Gold:
Whether you've seen The Road to El Dorado (no judgement) or are familiar with Spanish history, you'll know that the Spanish exploration of the New World was fueled by a search for gold. Spanish Conquistadors made their way down Central America into South America and had established the city of Santiago in Chile by 1541, though they never did find any gold. Nevertheless, they recognized Chile's agricultural potential and made Chile a part of the Spanish Empire.
Chile grows many grape varietals, but they are most famous for Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Sauvignon Blanc. We're exploring two of their more dynamic varietals too, Paísand Pinot Noir. There are 14 wine growing regions running north to south in Chile, all with very distinct characteristics from one another, though our featured wines will be south of Santiago from the regions of San Antonio Valley, the Cachapoal Valley, and two from the Bio-Bio Valley.
San Antonio Valley
The closest wine region to Santiago in our lineup, the San Antonio Valley is also the most coastal, with vineyards nearest to the Pacific Ocean, cool breezes and morning frost aren't exactly synonymous with Chilean wines as much as Bordeaux, but the unique microclimate in San Antonio Valley allows slow growing varietals like Pinot Noir to flourish. We are featuring the Colección Limited Edition 2013 Pinot Noir from Apaltagua Vineyards. Sourced from vineyards just a little over 7 miles inland from the Pacific, there were only 6,700 bottles produced in this vintage, which saw Malolactic fermentation in multiple passage French oak for 6 months, before finishing in stainless steel for 4 months before bottling. Slow ripening is the key to balanced acidity in Pinot Noir and we're thrilled with the outstanding finish on this wine.
The Forgotten Rapel Valley
Wine has a funny way of changing how people view the land. The Rapel Valley is an old D.O. for Chile, one that's been overtaken by the two smaller valleys that make up Rapel, the Cachapoal and Colchagua. These are two of the most prominent wine regions in Chile, synonymous with high quality production of Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here, we find ourselves some 72 miles south of Apaltagua in the town of Almahue to the vineyards of Clos de Luz, where they produce the fantastic Clos de Luz Massal 1945 Carménère.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
It's a story we find ourselves saying often during wine tastings. Carménère was long thought to be Merlot in Chile, until the 1990s in fact, when Chilean wine producers, puzzled on why their Merlot ripened so late, brought in a respected French botanist, Jean-Michel Boursiquot. After conducting genetic testing in 1994, Boursiquot declared that it was Carménère, and not Merlot, a finicky grape that had origins in Bordeaux. Now it's considered the grape of Chile with its herbaceous, peppery character no longer considered a pejorative. The Massal 1945 Carmenere from Clos De Luz features vines planted by their grandmother in 1945 (thus the name) and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and Malbec (3%). This wine is perfectly at home with duck breast or rib-eye steak, with a complex finish in no small part due to the 12 months of aging in French oak barrels, but largely due to the grape that stands for Chile around the world.
Tucked inland in the south of Chile, the Bio-Bio Valley is a cool climate wine region. Here, among the cascading small hills and dirt roads, lie ancient vineyards of País. This is one of the oldest grapes that made its way to Chile, also known as the Mission grape thanks to the Jesuit missionaries that brought the grape here. We've encountered it before as Listan Prieto, as it's called in the Canary Islands, but here it's called País, and for many years it was cast aside as Chilean winemakers devoted themselves to the more internationally respected Bordeaux varietals. But País is now making a comeback with the desire to go back to more natural, terroir driven wines and some parcels of País date back some 300 years. We were lucky to grab two examples of these rustic wines from two great producers.
Interestingly enough, they both go by Pipeño in reference to the old practice of making this wine. Some see the term as derogatory, though in truth it is a reference to wine that farmers would drink for themselves. Both these producers are trying to reclaim it as a point of pride for the quality of the wine they make. Cacique Maravilla's Pipeño País is sourced from vines that were originally planted in 1766 on a stretch of volcanic soils that date back even further in the Earth's history. This wine is produced in the town of Yumbel which resembles the rolling hills of the Langhe in Piedmont more than one would expect.
Then there's Burgundian expat Louis-Antoine Luyt, who also found promise in the Paísgrape, promise enough to devote several single vineyard bottlings. We've snagged the Pipeño Portezuelo, which comes from vineyards dating back to the mid 1800s. Located north of Yumbel, the vineyard in Portezuelo has vines of Cargadora (the Chilean name for Carignan) interwoven with their Pais, and as a result there's 5% Cargadora in this bottle.
Throughout its history, Chile has been derided as a producer of industrial wines, wines where quantity ruled over quality, and many Europeans made landfall due to Chile's ability to grow grapes extremely well. It didn't hurt that the land was cheaper than what could be found in Europe. But true quality Chilean wine is making a comeback. Vino viejo dinámico en una nueva luz. Verdadero vino chileno!