In the minds of many who enjoy a glass of wine, Chile is the place to look for something fresh, fruity, easy-drinking and not too expensive – the sort of wines the Australians used to call ‘sunshine in a glass’. But that’s only part of the story: Chile is full of ambitious young winemakers eager to break away from the ‘cheap and cheerful’ tag and experiment with something more interesting that will appeal to those prepared to pay a little more.
Typical of this trend is the Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon I blogged about earlier this year but, for a much wider selection, I joined a tasting organised by the Bristol Tasting Circle recently and supported by ‘Wines of Chile’. Committee member and wine educator, Tim Johnson’s choice included wines from all the main international grape varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Pinot Noir. A particularly nice example of the latter (Falernia’s Reserva from the Elqui Valley, £14.95 from Great Western Wine) got my top mark of the evening.
Among the less well-known was Huaso de Sauzal’s País (also Great Western Wine, £22.95). País was brought to South America by the Spanish in the 16th century and, after decades, even centuries, of neglect, has recently attracted the attention of a number of winemakers who are coaxing lovely red and black fruit flavours out of this formerly unloved variety.
These days, no tasting of Chilean wines could be complete with examples of Chile’s ‘own’ grape, Carmenère. Once thought to be Merlot, it has been embraced enthusiastically since the error was discovered in the closing years of last century and, appropriately, provided the overall joint winners of the evening from Santa Ema (Tanners, £12.80) and Los Vascos’ Grande Reserve (Slurp, £13.95).
So, sunshine in a glass? Yes! But a whole lot more, too!
If you would like to join the Bristol Tasting Circle and enjoy tastings like this, please leave your details in the comment box below and I will pass them onto the membership secretary.