Did you know that Chile makes gewürztraminer? Not particularly well, but it was a nice break from what seemed like a never-ending flight of cheap sauvignon blanc and highly tannic cabernets. Attending the annual Wines of Chile tasting in September, I was intrigued to see the breadth of wine styles Chile now produces. Interesting too given the increase in importers popping up around the traps in Melbourne peddling South American wines!
Over the past decade Chile has maintained & grown its reputation around the world as offering wines of outstanding value for money. Winemakers continue to experiment with varietals and explore the Andean foothills and other agricultural extremes to maintain their foothold. The latest development is Chile’s Sustainability Code, where companies that meet specific criteria can use the ‘Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile’ logo on bottles & promotional material. Broadly, the Code is to encourage good practice in environmental sustainability, community & wine processing with the expectation that wine quality will improve by default. What the Code does provide is a better means of accountability, which appeals to international buyers.
Of the 80+ producers attending, I took the short cut and tasted through the Champions Table – gold medal winning wines from the 3 key wine competitions (IWC, Decanter & Sommeliers Awards). I found there were some superb, very well made, precise wines.
Good surprises were rieslings from the regions of Leyda & Bío Bío; the wines showed fine powdery acid, fine on the palate with good minerality. Carmeneres were generally green, the carignans heavily oaked, pinot noirs had become heavy & a bit stinky, while there were some lovely syrah from San Antonio & Limarí others had been lying alongside new oak for too long.
The picks of the tasting were a Petit Verdot from Colchagua (Casa Silva Gran Reserva Petit Verdot 2010), a curious Sangiovese which needed less oak but showed some promise (Errázuriz Single Vineyard Sangiovese 2009) & my favourite which I kept going back to was J Bouchon Carmenere Reserva Esepcial 2010 from Maule. This was atypical to the others I tried – it was floral, lifted & light. A true delight.
The least interesting were the cabernets – they lacked definition, and having spent several days tasting so many Bordeaux, suddenly it became clear how beautiful cabernet can be when grown in the right soils!