Showing posts with label Chile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chile. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chile's Aresti Family Wines. Plus A Lovely Albarino.

The Aresti Family, Highly Rated Chilean Winemakers
Jon (right) with Yours Truly
Though established in 1951, it was 1999 before the Aresti family began producing wine under their own label on their Bellavista estate in Chile’s Curicó Valley. Now, according to Wines of South America, they have “one thousand cultivated acres”. Their signature line is the Aresti Family Collection (also carried by SuperValu). 

Their winemaker, since 2005, is the experienced Jon Usabiaga, highly respected by fellow Chilean winemakers and a regular visitor to Ireland. I met him a couple of years back and he told me: “The main aim for me is to show the real character of every variety. If someone is choosing a Cabernet Sauvignon, it should taste like a Cabernet Sauvignon”.

Aresti Bellavista Reserva Merlot Curicó Valley (Chile) 2015, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
Unusually, there is a truck on the label. It is the first truck, “La Perica”, that arrived in Bellavista, the founding vineyard of Aresti. Both the truck and the vineyard date back to 1951.

Colour of this Merlot is ruby. It boasts aromas of ripe red fruit, hints of vanilla too. The juicy palate has strawberry flavours and spice too, tannins are mild, and the finish is long and dry. Highly Recommended.


Aresti Bellavista Reserva Chardonnay Curicó Valley (Chile) 2016, 13%,  €12.99 (offer €10.00 until 6/09/17) SuperValu.
This is another of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced wines, an increasingly important part of their wine offering. “Delivering new and exciting wines to cater for all tastes is top of our agenda,” says Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of Wine.

Like the Merlot, the Chardonnay is produced at Bellavista (note the lorry again!), the original Aresti venture. You’ll also find Bellavista Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in SuperValu.

The colour is straw, with tints of green. No need to get really close in this instance as intense tropical fruit aromas rise from the glass. The fresh fruit features too on the creamy palate and good acidity keeps all in balance. A long dry finish lingers. This harmonious wine is Highly Recommended.



A Lovely Albarino
Bodegas Gallegas 'Abellio' Albarino, Rias Baixas (Spain) 2016, €12.99 (€10.00 when on offer) 12.5%, SuperValu

We leave Argentina now and cross the Atlantic to Spain, to Galicia and this attractively labelled Albarino. I know Kevin O’Callaghan is very proud of this one as he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines).

Winemaker Xoan Casiano Rego Ribeiro (call him Joan for short) is a defender of Galician wines, of the native varieties in particular, and has done a great job here with the hand-harvested Albarino fruit. 



The wine has the typical mid-gold colour.With its excellent aromas (white fruit) and flavours, it is ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. It is smooth and intense on the palate, with refreshing minerality and well balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at www.preignes.com


Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau


Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.



Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau


Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.


* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The All Whites. Including a Mendoza Double.

Valle Aldino Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Central Valley (Chile), 13%, €12.70 Karwig Wine


Have you been reading The 24 Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson? At €6.80 (Waterstones), it is well worth getting. 

In a section called Be Adventurous, she lists 15 pairs, one wine The Obvious Choice, the other tagged The Clever Alternative.  In Sauvignon Blanc, the obvious is Marlborough while the alternative is Chile.

The alternative, she says, can “be sometimes cheaper, often more interesting”. This Valle Aldino is certainly cheaper and, while not more interesting than the better Marlboroughs, is a good alternative at a decent price.

Colour is a light straw with tints of green. Fresh and grassy aromas, white fruits there too. Gooseberries and citrus flavours, with strong melon-y notes too, on the zesty palate, plus a decent finish. Recommended.


Mendoza’s Domaine Bousquet
A Blend Double

In 1990, the Bousquet family from Carcassonne in Southern France began to explore wine-making possibilities in Argentina. In 1997, they settled in Tupungato (Mendoza) in one of the highest vineyards in the world.

It is no less than 1,200 meters above sea level. There is a large difference between day and night temperatures. This variation (the thermal amplitude) helps create fully ripened grapes with good acidity. The heat of the day promotes the ripening, the chill of the night preserves acidity. Grapes are hand-picked and the vineyard is certified organic.

Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay - Pinot Gris Reserva 2010 (Tupungato, Mendoza, ARG), 14%, €18.80 Mary Pawle Wines
Colour is a light gold, clean and bright and a ring of bubbles stay around the rim for a while. It is strongly aromatic, some exotic white fruit and floral notes too. Concentrated white fruit flavours announce its arrival on the palate and the acidity ensures a happy balance. It is an elegant style with a dry and pleasing finish. Highly Recommended.

The mix is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Gris. And the Reserve apparently means that the grapes have been picked from the best plots.

Domaine Bousquet Cameleon  Selection Torrontes - Chardonnay 2014 (Tupungato, Mendoza, ARG), 14%, O’Donovan’s Off Licence.

The Cameleon, one of their brands, symbolises the family story of Jean Bousquet, the leaving of France and adapting to the new life in Argentina. Adapted quite well going by this bottle, also Highly Recommended.

The blend here is fifty fifty. Aging is in stainless steel plus four months in bottle. Ideal, they say for seafood, fish dishes and cheeses. I say fine on its own and worth a try too with white meat and Asian dishes.

Colour is a light gold, clean and bright, much like the first bottle above. Aromas are of white fruits, floral notes too. On the palate there are fresh white fruit flavors, some sweet spice, an oily mouthfeel, more body here, that expected acidity and a long, dry and very pleasing finish.

This is what the family wanted from the blend and from their soil. “With its subtle attunement, this Chameleon is a conspicuous presence in a landscape of indistinguishable wine.” Don't know what the neighbours made of that statement!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques
No water? No problem to Casa Silva at Paredones 


Don’t particularly want to be anywhere else during this current spell of warm sunny weather but offer me a stay at the guesthouse in the Chilean winemaker Casa Silva and I wouldn't hesitate.

It is best best known for its Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc but, having sampled five of their wines in Jacques in a very convivial tasting last Tuesday, I'll be adding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the list!

David Prentice, Casa Silva’s European Commercial Director, was our host at Jacques and we soon had their delicious unoaked Chardonnay in hand. It may be their “entry level Chardonnay” but this comes from one of the country’s top producers and is well worth seeking out. You may get it for €12.50 at www.winesoftheworld.ie.
Two Cool from Paredones

David said: “We prefer to make the wine mainly in the vineyard. No oak here as there’s no need for it. The vineyard is 25km from the coast, cool at night and there is a short hot spike during the day, ideal conditions. Yield here is very close to that of Chablis.”

Five generations - a 6th on the way - show that Casa Silva is a family affair. “The first generation brought their vines from Bordeaux, in 1892! And the aim is to keep the business within the family. Seventy year old Mario Silva has dedicated much of his life to recovering the old vineyards and wine cellar and has acquired a unique understanding of the terroir in the Colchagua Valley.  He still works every day, still checking, still tasting.”

In Chile, you can find a micro-climate for virtually any grape. The long narrow country has the Andes to the east and the ocean to the west, desert to the north, ice to the south and, in between, there is a great diversity of soils and climate.

 Our next wine was the Sauvignon Blanc 2015 reserva and that went down very well indeed. By the way, David emphasised that they use natural local yeast in the majority of their wines.

They are not afraid to be brave. The grapes for the second Sauvignon Blanc, the terrific Cool Coast 2013, came from the Paredones vineyard, in an area where no vines had been grown previously due to lack of water. But Casa Silva pumped the water up from the river (filled by winter rains) and that storage “lake” is the centerpoint of the beautiful vineyard, now earning quite a reputation.

Here there is “granite, older than the Andes” and this Sauvignon is “more chiselled”, “more friendly than New Zealand counterparts, intense aromas, refreshing acidity. Paredones is very interesting,  has a great terroir, ideal temperature range (23 by day, 8 by night).”

And there was further proof of that with the next bottle, the Cool Coast Pinot Noir with its red robe that bit deeper than you’d expect, its inviting aromas of raspberry and strawberry, excellent balancing acidity, refreshing flavours and long finish. Very impressive indeed.

Such has been the success of this new vineyard that one or two other wine producers are now moving into the area. Los Lignes is another famous Casa Silva vineyard and the source of our final wine, a top notch 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. “The Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon planted here reach extremely high quality with unique character.” We could see that in our glass! Superb. The Carmenere is now on the wish list.
David Prentice (left) with Yours Truly

And with all that acidity and freshness calling out for food, the kitchen in Jacques stepped up to the plate, as they always do. Our first dish was Goats Cheese with Rhubarb and Orange on Toast, the second Fresh Crab and apple in lettuce, the finalé a terrific slice of rare beef, complete with potato, horseradish cream and a surprising smoked tomato!

So thanks to Casa Silva, to David, to Kate Barry and her crew from Barry Fitzwilliam and to the 38 year old Cork restaurant for a very informative and relaxing evening of good wine and food. Don't forget to check out the Casa Silva wines at www.winesoftheworld.ie, in your local restaurant and in selected off licences

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wines Of Chile With Francisca Jara. But Not As We Know Them

Wines Of Chile With Francisca Jara
But Not As We Know Them
Some of the wines.
Pic by Francisca.
Chilean wine-writer Francisca Jara started her Wednesday Chilean tasting in L’Atitude by saying that a new style was to be shown tonight. “Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.”


“Wine writers, including Jancis Robinson, are talking about a Chilean revolution. In the last ten years, a new generation of winemakers has emerged with a new mindset...with a challenge to the big wineries. The wine revolution is no exaggeration.”


This is the second revolution in the South American country. Chile has a tradition of winemaking going back for centuries but, “in the last 36 years, everything changed”. That big change, to a more professional approach, in both the vineyard and winery, was sparked by the arrival of Spanish family Torres.

The newest revolution is also noted in the World Atlas of Wine: "No other country has been sprouting new wine regions as rapidly as Chile...viticultural limits are being tested in all directions. Her wines are becoming more refined, and more regionally distinct."

Francisca Jara
The new generation that Francisca was talking about are inclined to the organic, inclined to make the best of the lesser varieties and that we would see as the evening unfolded. There are two organisations spearheading this new approach: MOVI and VIGNO. And they in turn are spurring the established wine companies to better things.

Jancis Robinson: “The MOVI and VIGNO crew are a cheeky lot and have clearly enjoyed cocking a snook at the old guard of Chilean wine, which makes it all the more remarkable that there has been such a rush to copy them from precisely the big companies that they set out to shake. Casa Lapostolle, Miguel Torres, Santa Emiliana, Undurraga, Valdivieso, De Martino, the American Jackson Family Estates and now the biggest of them all, Concha y Toro, have all asked to join the VIGNO club and use its eye-catching logo on at least one of their labels.” Read the full article here.

It was appropriate that we had Torres among the six bottles tasted. They had two as did Vinos Frios. Perhaps the most remarkable was the Carrigan from the “Wild Vineyards”. Francisa also cooked the matching bites, all excellent, though my favourite was the Beans and Reins Stew!

1 Miguel Torres Dias de Verano Reserva Muscat 2014
“This is the Chilean summer, a simple wine to drink.” Peach and floral aromas, nice acidity, good balance and a lovely match for seafood as we confirmed when we were served with the Ceviche, a traditional Chilean coastal food.

Chile has over 8,000 acres of this prolific Muscat, much of it used in the production of Pisco, the national spirit. Did you know that Chile is ranked 10th in the world in terms of wine acreage but only 35th in the consumption league? That leaves a lot for export and Ireland takes up a good deal of the slack! “Wish we Chileans drank and enjoyed like you Irish,” joked Francisca.
Juan Alejandro Jofré of Vinos Frios del Ano

2 Vinos Frios Del Ano Rosado 2014 (Grenache)

Rosé is a relatively recent development in Chile, according to Francisca. “Before it was very sweet, now they are making good rosé.” Purpose made, not as an careless afterthought. “I’m happy,” she said. “I wanted to try this one myself.”


It is the first Chilean rosé to be made from Grenache, no oak but with three months on lees to improve the body. It was juicy and vibrant from an innovative winemaker, Juan Alejandro Jofré,  and went very well indeed with the smoked mackerel.




3 Luis Antoine Luyt 2013 tinto (Cinsault)

Now we were on to a natural wine (available from Le Caveau) with its striking label, based on old Chilean bus signage. “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

The consensus was juicy and fruity, strawberry aromas, with tannins “a bit rustic”. “This is the wine that a farmer might pour a glass from a barrel in the yard for his visitor and serve with an empanada.” Rustic or not, it features in John Wilson’s Wilson on Wines 2016. Oh, by the way, it went really well with that terrific empanada.

To know more on this wine, check here.

4 Villalobos ”The Wild Vineyards” Carignan 2010
The vineyards for this wine were planted in the 1950s (maybe 1940s, no one knows for certain!).  The Villalobos family came there in the ‘70s and the ten acres of vineyard were “full of weeds and briars.. cows were eating the grapes there.”

A long time later, “they eventually decided to make wine, they made it in a rustic way.” It was successful and a few years ago they went commercial. The Carignan grape is getting very popular in Chile and there is an association, the VIGNO mentioned above, of Carrignan producers.

This has a lovely colour and the aromas are rather unique: red fruit, herbs, meaty. It is fresh, fruity, with good acidity and “easy-drinking” and is available from Le Caveau. “It is good to pair it with meat, stews, cheese.” Francisca paired it with the traditional Bean and Reins, a kind of cassoulet, “a comfort food for the winter. Every Chilean family, rich and poor, eats it.” I could see why!


To know more of this wine, check here.

5 Vinos Frios Del Ano Tinto 2014 (blend)
Many of you will have heard how a French ampelographer Jean Michel Boursiquot re-discovered Carmenere in Chile and how it went on to become almost the national grape there. As Francisca put it: “It became another good-a story for Chile”. It just underlined the theme, diversity, of the evening and, unusually, was served chilled. Carmenere is just part of the blend here with Carignan (40%) and Tempranillo (40%) the major components.

The nose featured berries, spice, and floral elements. There was a lovely fruit and freshness, good acidity, good body, quite a personality. But don't forget to serve it chilled! Francisca said it goes well with fatty and oily food and the Ummera smoked duck was just perfect. By the way, the Chilean wine-writers are “loving this one”.
6 Miguel Torres Reserva de Pueblo 2014 (País)
This ancient grape has been historically used by farmers for home-made wines but País became less and less significant as the bigger wineries, concentrating on the major grapes, became more important.

The new generation though has sparked a comeback and “now we can feel proud again of our previously neglected varieties. This has more fruit, no oak used.” It was paired with Hegarty's Cheddar and that was a treat. By the way, Torres make a sparkling wine, Estelado, from this grape.

That was the last of the wines of this very interesting tasting, a very enjoyable and informative one. “I hope I have shown you that there is more to Chilean wine than the supermarket. Hope you enjoyed!” We certainly did, Francisca!

  • Francisca is a wine journalist from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She worked in TV and magazines until 2012 when she moved to the Food and Wine Magazine LA CAV, where she wrote until she moved to Ireland in 2015. In 2013 she obtained the Chilean Wine Diploma in Wine Production and Tasting, in the same university where she studied Journalism.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Sides of the Andes

Cabernet Sauvignon
From Both Sides of the Andes
Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado in the Opera House last year.

“The Los Cardos wines are readily available and are among the world’s great values.” So says the recently published Wines of South America. Not that readily available around here but did find this one in the city centre Tesco a few weeks before Christmas and alongside it was the Block 18 which is made by Cono Sur winemaker Adolfo Hurtado who, coincidentally, was hosting a wine tasting in the Opera House at the time. “That will be good,” he told me. And he was right, as he usually is! The prices at the time of purchase were €18.00 for the Doña Paula and €20 for the Block 18 (a Tesco Finest).
Cabernet Sauvignon makes wine that can age for decades. The two below are very young but don’t worry. “South American Cabernets...are bursting with flavour at only a couple of years old.” declares Grapes and Wines. I think this pair confirm that.

Doña Paula Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza (Argentina), 14%
Los Cardos means thistles, “a sign of good terroir” according to the bottle. The vineyards, by the way, are at about 1050 metres up. Doña Paula is the Argentinian arm of the Chilean company Santa Rita. Malbec is their signature wine but they are also well respected for their Cabernet Sauvignon and more as you can see from the Wines of South America endorsement.
Despite the large size of the company, they make quite a lot of wine, including this one, from estate grown fruit. Colour is deep ruby and the aromas are quite expressive, featuring mainly dark fruit including typical blackcurrant scents. Quite an intense attack from this one, smooth fruit, spice and fine tannins and a long finish and Highly Recommended.

El Recurso Vineyard Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Valle de Maipo (Chile), 14%,
This is also a dark ruby and the aromas are a shade more intense with dark berries and plums to the fore. It is smoother and rounder and more complete on the palate, more full bodied than the Doña Paula and the long lingering finish too is superior. Twelve months in French oak has had the desired effect in terms of complexity and smoothness. Very Highly Recommended.
The El Recurso Estate has vineyards divided into blocks and the grapes for this wine, carefully selected by Adolfo, come from number 18, selected for its privileged location in the upper north east Maipo Valley. The rocky, alluvial soil here contributes to the impressive colour and marked intensity. Great with grilled, roasted or barbecued meat.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

White Across The World. Chardonnay-Riesling-Gruner Veltliner

White Across The World
Chardonnay-Riesling-Gruner Veltliner

El Grano Chardonnay 2013 (Chile), 13.5%, €14.30 Le Caveau
Sun, the snow capped Andes, and the Pacific Ocean have all influenced the character of this El Grano Chardonnay. So too has the French father and son winemaking team of Denis and Gregoire Duveau. Chile is their Pays de Rêves, their country of dreams, and their organic wines are known for their very pleasant roundness.

Colour is quite a pale gold. There is a nice aromatic drift of white fruits and blossoms. The palate is loaded with fruit, fresh and round and smooth, a very pleasant balance and long echoing finish. Does this please me? Answer is a resounding yes. Very Highly Recommended.


Finca Pasion Mi Vida Chardonnay 2012 (Argentina), 13.5%, €13.50 Karwig Wines
Another everyday wine, unoaked, from Mendoza. If giving this as a present, you can add your own personalised greeting on the specially designed back label.

And there’s no reason why you wouldn't give it as a gift. Its colour is a light gold, very bright. White fruits and floral notes on the nose, a good feel, flavours and finish from a lively and pleasant wine. Recommended.


 Carl Ehrhard Rudesheim Riesling trocken 2014, Rheingau (Germany), 12%, €16.50 Karwig Wines


Colour is a shiny light gold, totally clean; micro bubbles cling to the glass. Aromas are citric and orchard, even a weak drift of petrol. Tempting flush of fruit on the attack, crisp with a little tingle too in the mouth, a refreshing acidity and a long flavourful finish. Another thoroughbred from the Ehrhard stable and Very Highly Recommended.


Johann Strauss Gruner Veltliner 2013, Kremser Sandgrube Kremstal DAC (Austria), 12.5%, €16.15 Karwig Wines

Colour here is a light to medium gold, not quite as golden as the famous Strauss statue in the Stadtpark in Vienna. White fruits in the aromas, some blossom too. Minerality and fruit front the initial attack and then refreshing flavours take over, yet balance is perfect; all combine for an excellent finale, little wave after little wave.
The Kremser has long been recognised, the Romans among its early fans, as excellent for viticulture and this Gruner is Very Highly Recommended. The producers suggest matching it with asparagus, fish, pork and scallops. I found it excellent too as an aperitif.