Wines of Chile
This month we're launching a four-week long special menu highlighting the wines of Chile. When I began visiting Chile in the 1990s, the country’s industry was just emerging as a player internationally, and Chileans had begun to plant popular international grape varieties and produce wines that addressed the tastes of export markets like the US. The quality price rapport of the wines was impressive. The most striking thing to me about the six trips I have taken there since is how dramatically Chile’s wine industry keeps evolving. Today Chile is the largest net exporter of wines in the world outside of Europe. A lot of the excitement currently involves higher elevation hillside plantings, significant reductions in crop yields, and pushing the envelope to grow grapes in cooler climate areas exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean’s cooling maritime influence.
My most recent wine tasting trip to Chile earlier this year yielded a number of sensational discoveries and left me more convinced than ever that the quality of Chile’s wines remains among the best-kept secrets on the American market. A viticultural paradise, completely dry during the growing season with abundant sunshine and snowmelt from the Andes to irrigate, Chile is able to ripen grapes with rare levels of concentration, brightness and flavor intensity. Sparse rainfall has enabled the country to establish itself as one of the worldwide centers for organic and biodynamic grape growing. From the new generation of coastal cool climate whites to the world-class reds produced in areas like Colchagua and Cachapoal, Chile has something to suit every palate, including a bounty of less familiar grape varieties, of which we see very little in the US yet because they remain out of the mainstream. In addition, a new emphasis on climatic differences, distinguishing the Andean foothills from the coastal mountain ranges within the classic, long-established wine growing valleys such as Maipo and Colchagua, is a major subject of discussion. Based on each vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific or to the Andes, this new way of thinking has many Chileans now speaking about East/West vineyard location as a more significant determinant of a wine flavor profile than the familiar North/South axis.
As part of our celebration of Chile, we are excited to welcome two of the leading lights of the country's wine industry to present wine dinners at our Boston Park Square Wine Cellar. On October 25th, we welcome Rodrigo Soto, winemaker at Ritual Winery in coastal Casablanca. Rodrigo is an expert in organic grape-growing, and played a significant role in Sonoma in assisting the Benziger Family Winery’s conversion to biodynamics before returning home in 2012 to take over the reins at Ritual. Among the wines he will be showing are some rarities, including two 92 point rated Robert Parker wines, Supertuga Chardonnay and Monster Pinot Noir, and a 92 point rated blend mixing Cabernet Sauvignon with Carménère (the country’s signature grape variety). We still have some space, so if you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. On November 14th, we welcome another old friend, Italo Jofre from Concha y Toro (Chile’s largest winery) to showcase some great powerhouse Maipo and Colchagua reds. The menu for this dinner is still in development.
Among the lesser known wines from other producers we’ll be featuring during our promotion, I’m particularly excited about the De Martino “Gallardía” Cinsault, from the Itata Valley. This is one of the red grape varieties that is included in the Rhône Valley’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its mix of dark cherry, violet and black pepper aromas are enticing, and the wine’s delicate red fruit flavors make it an ideal red for fish. It’s also an amazing value!
We’re also very proud to have secured some 2011 Milla Cala, a red “Bordeaux” blend produced by VIK winery from fruit grown in the foothills of the Cachapoal Valley. A mix of roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère and with some Cabernet Franc to add aromatic interest and finesse, VIK is pure velvet. Its chocolatey, black currant, smoky flavors are enticingly delicious. Aged in all new French oak barrels, and produced by French-born winemaker Patrick Valette, this sets a high standard for elegance.
There are several other gems, including a fantastic dry Riesling from Undurraga’s “Terroir Hunter” series and my favorite South American Sauvignon Blanc, the racy and mineral-like Casa Marin “Les Cipreses," made from grapes grown in San Antonio, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. So please stop in anytime between October 23rd and November 19th and experience the bounty of Chilean wines with us.
Sandy Block, MW