News from Chile’s vineyards and wineries: quality, identity and value
At this week’s Wines of Chile tasting in New York, the winemakers proved they have not only found their country’s best terroir, but they are making wines that express it too. Long known for the international varietals such as sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, Chilean producers are coming to the table with plenty of carmenere and malbec, too.
Sauvignon blancs were uniformly good, with a range of nice herb and sweetgrass aromas, and plenty of acidity and minerality. Global warming is affecting these grapes, and the winemakers are being careful, for the most part, to see that they plant these vines in cooler areas so the wines don’t become insipid or flabby.
They area also opening up new territories far to the north (in higher altitudes) and south of Santiago. Some valleys, like Elqui and the (fun-to-say) Bio Bio are so small and son new they have only one major winery so far: Vina Falernia in Elqui and Veranda in Bio Bio. Fruit and the white pisco grapes have been grown there, already, so people understand the climate and soils enough to plant wine grapes appropriately without wasting a lot of time.
More and more wineries in Chile are starting to farm organically. When asked why, they reply: “Because we can.” The climate is so dry they don’t have problems with mildew and pests. In fact there is no phylloxera in Chile, so at Demartino in the Choapa Valley, for instance, they actually plant on their own rootstock.
At our house, we seem to go through a fair amount of value wines from Chile, including Los Vascos’ cabernet sauvignon and Santa Rita’s sauvignon blanc. I can now add the Luis Felipe wines to the value category I’ll look for in stores. I wouldn’t hesitate to try any of the Chilean sauvignon blancs, carmeneres and malbecs. And I’d look to Chile for more value-oriented cabernet sauvignons.
Retasting wines I haven’t experienced since I visited Chile some years ago, I notice that overall quality has either remained high or improved. Notable wines I looked at today include: Errazuriz (all the current releases), Cono Sur’s 2008 organic cabernet sauvignon- carmenere, Terra Andina’s 2007 Reserve carmenere and carmenere-carignan, and Viu Manent’s single vineyard malbec.