On a blisteringly hot day in Shoreditch the quality of Chilean wine was on show at Mercado Chileno. The tasting showed how far Chile has come in terms of producing excellent sparklers, coastal Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, old vine Carignan and some interesting red blends.
A small selection of wines from each of the tasting categories at Mercado Chileno, picked out by The Buyer for you to consider putting on your list.
Chilean winemakers brought a drop of their sunshine to London this year for Mercado Chileno, the annual generic tasting, that was held at the Old Truman Brewery in deepest trendy Shoreditch.
There were times you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in deepest Santiago mid-Summer instead. Those wearing suits were positively wilting, while many retreated to the giant electric fans to cool down at regular intervals.
Despite the climactic challenges, the wines held up, thanks partly to an excellent team of helpers that were keeping things running at an efficient pace. Grouping self-pour themed tables around Super Sparklers, The Carignan Club and Chile Champions – wines that have been winning international awards of late – was also a welcome move and took a lot of pressure off the individual stands.
So in the semi-tropical heat where better to start than looking at the 20 sparkling wines on the show tables.
This is a new category for Chile and it was impressive to see how far they have come. The wines were a mixed bag, where they were lacking was in over-abundant mousse, yeasty nose and a general lack of experience in the cellar and in handling, but where they were good was in the leaner, citrus-driven, big structure Bruts and Blanc de Blancs that were, dare I say it, in the English sparkling style – bright, acidic with tasty lemon and grapefruit on the palate.
There were three producers I would single out.
Valdivieso of Chile from Curicó had three wines on show, a Brut Nature that was fine, but their straight Brut and Blanc de Blancs were very good indeed.
The Brut, which is a blend of Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (10%) and Semillon (10%) had a lovely floral bouquet, a tempered mousse, good structure and impressive length. With a UK rrp of £10-14.99 this was seriously good value. The Blanc de Blancs NV, (100% Chardonnay obviously) was also well-balanced and a wine to consider stocking as a Prosecco alternative, or cheaper ‘Champagne’ method.
Vina Echeverria, also from Curicó, had three wines too. The Blanc de Blancs was pure grapefruit zest, tight acidity and freshness, the Brut Rosé was pleasingly sharp, but for individuality I picked out the Nina Demi Sec, Pinot Noir NV which was light, with bags of redcurrants and an attractive slightly sweeter style. The commercial label I can see working with a fairly defined demographic.
Organic producer Tierra Sur from Santa Alicia had two wines – the Sparkling Tierra Sur Rosé Pinot Noir NV that was my favourite pink sparkler on the table and packed a punch at 14%ABV. I preferred, however, their Sparkling Tierra Sur Brut Chardonnay that had bags of fruit, good balance and a lot of texture. All of these sparklers were in the £10-14.99 range and well worth checking out.
Chile is reknowned for producing some of the world’s finest old vine Carignan and this section celebrated these with 14 wines, all from unirrigated plots in Maule. Although all the wines I’ve selected are high in alcohol 14.5% – 15%ABV, you wouldn’t know it, as all three wear their strength well.
Three wines stood out in this section for me.
The first was the mid-priced Specialities Dry Farming Carignan, 2012, from Vina Santa Carolina in Cauquenes. Amazing that you can get a wine retailing in the UK for under £15 from 80 year-old vines and made to this standard. This had some attractive farmyard aromas, and on the palate was intense black, juicy fruit with savoury undertones.
Also impressive was Vigno 2013 from Vina Undurraga, which is from 60 year-old vines. This is a full-bodied wine with lots of black fruit aromas and flavour, a good grip from firm but well integrated tannins. It has been matured in oak barrels for 16 months and has a lot of freshness.
I also liked the £25+ CIEN100, 2012 from Luis Felipe Edwards that is made, as the name suggests from 100 year old vines in Cauquenes, hand-picked and matured in oak. From Edwards’ Prestige selection this has an intense hit of black fruit on the nose (cherries, blackberries, chocolate), great texture in the mouth, a good balance between fruit and acid profiles, velvety tannins and an all-round great expression of the terroir. Standout.
The table which celebrated Chile’s diversity and strength in white, red and blends was this 34-wine strong selection that were all wines that had won Gold and Trophy awards from the year’s big wine competitions. There were many great wines here but to represent the range I picked out the following:
Chilcas Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, from VIA Wines in Itata. This was more like an old school Australian style Chardonnay but with an attractive green edge to it. It was rich in fruit, with an attractive creamy butter on the nose and a nice linear structure to it in the mouth. I couldn’t believe it was 14.8% ABV. For Chardonnay I also liked the ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Chardonnay 2014 from Errázuriz.
Pais is very much a curate’s egg, some persisting to call it a bulk wine with little potential apart from blending.
Personally I think that viewpoint is out of date – I like it a lot and think that it suits the contemporary whole-bunch pressed style. In the right hands, this ancient grape is making attractively lean and crisp wines, that offer the wine list something different. I liked the Chilcas Single Vineyard Pais from VIA Wines that had minty, eucalyptus notes, but personally I think the J.Bouchon Pais Salvaje 2015 from Bouchon Family Wines in Maule has the edge. Both wines have an attractive pale purple hue, but the Bouchon has delicious notes of redcurrant on the nose, raspberry on the palate and a dry almost challenging finish.
Of the single red varietals (apart from Carignan) I liked best the T Limited Release Carmenere 2012, Vina Tamaya from Limari that was a big, rich fruit bomb and mixed notes of black fruit, tar and liquorice with front-facing tannins, classic structure and length with just a hint of cedar on the finish.
There were some good value Northern Rhone-style Syrahs on the table but better still was the red blends. Lahuen Azul 2013 in particular is a blend of 85% Cabernet Suavignon, 8% Malbec, 4% Syrah and 3% Petit Verdot. This had an appealing bouquet of fresh strawberries, fresh black fruit on the palate, with nicely integrated tannins. One of the standout wines for me at the event.
Also recommended was the Oveja Negra Lost Barrel, 2012, VIA Wines from Maule which was a 45% Carignan, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 25% Petit Verdot which was a medium bodied wine with everything in its right place. Yummy.