Chile is now one of the two most innovative winemaking countries in the world, reckons Alistair Cooper MW, who delivered a perceptive, focussed masterclass at a recent Wines of Chile tasting – backed up by a tasting of 45 wines that Cooper picked to reflect Chile’s movement towards sommelier-driven styles. It is innovation, risk-taking, old vines and the resurgence of traditional varieties (made with a modern twist) that are working so well and Chris Wilson was there for The Buyer to further whittle these down to 10 that every sommelier should have on their radar.
Wilson’s 10 Best wines include a Muscatel from Miguel Torres and a Pais Viejo from Bouchon.
What was promised was a Chilean masterclass and tasting with Master of Wine and self-confessed Chile-ophile Alistair Cooper. What was delivered was something way beyond that, a sommelier-focussed romp through Chile’s key winemaking regions from north to south – so hats off to Cooper and Wines of Chile for one of the most informative and interesting tastings in a long while.
The focussed session at 67 Pall Mall began with Cooper offering an overview of Chile and its place in the modern winemaking scene, drawing on his experience of living and working there during his early days in the wine trade.
His MW research paper was on the Itata region and this was one of the winemaking areas discussed as we were taken on a journey down Chile’s long, spine-like regional wine map looking at the key geographical, viticultural and historical factors which influence each area.
“Along with South Africa, Chile is the most dynamic wine-producing country in the world,” said Cooper, who puts this down to innovation, risk-taking, old vines and the resurgence of traditional varieties made with a modern twist such as Pais and Muscadet.
“Chile is undergoing a renaissance spurred by a renewed interest in provenance and old vines. Young winemakers are travelling and coming back to Chile with global reference points,” he continued.
He says that when Miguel Torres first visited Chile he proclaimed that given its unique geographical and climatic features it was ‘a winemaker’s paradise’. “This is finally coming to fruition,” believes Cooper.
Given that the masterclass was targeted at the on-trade, many of the wines shown and the areas discussed looked at wines and styles which fit this market well. There are an embarrassment of riches on this front, said Cooper who’s keen to highlight the movement towards Chile’s sommelier-driven styles which – he hopes – are beginning to outweigh those often cumbersome traditional Chilean wines.
“Chile demonstrates a deep understanding of regionality and terroir and this has been key in the advancement of Chile’s wines in the past decade,” he concluded before kicking off the tasting, which featured 45 wines from across the country, all with a sommelier-bent, and all offering a glimpse of regionality, terroir or innovation.
Here’s our 10 Best wines picked from the bunch
Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Gris 2018, Paredones-Colchagua (Jackson Nugent Vintners)
A lively, sherbet-tinged Sauvignon Gris with a rich palate of pear and a mineral, chalky finish.
Miguel Torres La Causa Moscatel 2016, Itata (Fells)
Long, developed and complex, with dried tropical fruit, set honey and a crisp, lemony kick.
Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2016, Aconcagua (Hatch Mansfield)
A cool-climate Chardonnay that’s considered, long and tight. A truly focussed wine with a delicious saline finish.
J Bouchon Pais Viejo 2018, Maule (Condor Wines)
A super example of what this grape can be; delicate and floral with honeysuckle and strawberry notes and a chewy bite.
Casa Silva Romano Cesar Noir 2017, Colchagua (Jackson Nugent Vintners)
Bright with raspberry and strawberry fruit and a delicious juiciness. It ‘pings’ in the mouth and is utterly moreish.
Morande Adventure Mediterraneo 2016, Maule (Berkmann)
A heady blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Marsanne and Roussanne, this is silky and smooth with just enough tannin to give it teeth.
Sur Valles Toro de Piedra Carignan 2017, Maule (Condor Wines)
Smoky and savoury, this is full and bold with fresh redcurrant acidity and sparkling red fruit.
Luis Felipe Edwards LFE360 Series Cabernet Franc 2015, Colchagua (Bibendum)
A serious wine that’s big and broad with dark black fruit, liquorice and blocky tannins. Not to be taken lightly.
Emiliana Coyam 2016, Colchagua (Boutinot)
A delight; plums, black cherry, oak and smoke all scrap it out for attention. Has a depth that’s warming and familiar.
Valdivieso Caballo Loco No.17 NV, Valle Central (Bibendum)
Minty, herbal and fresh with bags of red and black fruit and some heat and spice. Peppery, juicy and delicious.