Where does Chile stand on the premium end of the market? Is there much call for these wines on top restaurant lists? Roger Jones attends the Sommelier Chile Challenge, organised by Wines of Chile, which sought to answer these questions – serving 51 wines from Chile blind alongside five ringers from other countries just to give the wines from Chile a benchmark in quality.
Apart from a list of the winners, Roger Jones picks five of his favourite wines from the Sommelier Chile Challenge and gives full tasting notes.
Having had Chile involved as one of our guest ‘wine nations’ in our Tri Nations Wine Challenges for the last 12 months, it has been interesting to have these wines compete against the might of New Zealand (last July) and South Africa (in Cape Town earlier in January), and I look forward to see how they will fare against Australia this July. (Note links to both Tri Nations)
Overall many newbies and I have been greatly impressed with the quality and, although the head to heads did not result in many wins for Chile, there were many close encounters where consumers and trade found it hard to highlight the Chile wine.
Recent stats show Chile to be the fifth largest importer of wines into the UK off trade, enjoying 3% growth in volume and value (June-Sept 2018). The on-trade, however, tells a completely different story for this period… Chile is still the fifth importing wine country into the UK, but saw drops of 13% in volume and 10% in value in the same timeframe.
This clearly is an issue, where it would seem that Chile is still not punching its weight in the on-trade especially at the premium end. Wines of Chile is trying hard to highlight the level of quality that winemakers can achieve in Chile but there are, of course, monetary, exchange rate and other issues that currently are not helping.
One excellent initiative from Wines of Chile has been the Sommelier Chile Challenge, a promotion which is aimed directly at sommeliers in the UK and has been hosted bi-annually for the past five years, in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Last week at 67 Pall Mall, Wines of Chile held the latest of these Sommelier Chile Challenges pitting their top wines (blind) against a handful of non-Chile wines. Although this did not really give a fair challenge what it did do was to benchmark the quality that Chile can produce, and tempered this with a select number of like-minded wines from outside of Chile.
51 wines were served with five of those being Non-Chile. The results were an overwhelming success for Chile. One could be negative and say the stats don’t add up fairly because there were 46 wines from Chile and only five from other countries, but without those five ringers one would not have had a benchmark to compare the standard being showcased on the day.
I certainly enjoyed the wines on show and was uplifted by the elegance and restraint in the red wines; I was also delighted to see at least three of the wines on show being on my current restaurant list.
It was also good to see an excellent turnout of well-respected sommeliers at the tasting. London restaurants that showcase great wines from Chile include Gymkhana, Coya and Ceviche.
In order of votes received, the results were:
- Siegel Unique Selection, 2012
- Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2016
- Siegel Special Reserve Viognier 2017
- Siegel Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
- Aresti Trisquel Series Altitud Merlot 2016
- Casa Silva Ranco Riesling 2017
- Siegel Single Vineyard Carmenere 2016
- VIK Milla Cala, Blend 2014
- Aresti Family Collection Blend 2014
- Valdivieso Caballo Loco No 17 Blend NV
The highest scoring non-Chile wine was; McManis Family Viognier from Lodi, California, which came in at twelfth. Out of interest the other four non-Chile wines were as follows;
2017 Domaine Vacheron La Reine Sancerre Blanche, Loire, France
2016 Rustenberg Shiraz, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa
2016 Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon, Victoria, Australia
2016 Mission Estate Merlot Cabernet, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand
Tasting notes from my top 5 wines from the Sommelier Chile Challenge
Siegel Unique Selection, 2012
(45% Cab Sauv, 35% Carmenere, 20% Syrah)
Brick red copper colour, hint of aged Rioja style, loved the purity, clarity and depth, the balance was pretty perfect. A seamless, lingering precise wine that is a pleasure to drink, and would grace any fine dining table. 14.5% ABV, Carson & Carnevale Wines
Siegel Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Delicate soft cedar, chocolate and plummy style, elegant smooth and seductive, very fine perfume on the nose, loved the elegance and subtleness of this wine. Note this is different to the Single Vineyard listed 4thabove with same name and vintage, and cheaper.14% ABV, Carson & Carnevale Wines.
El Principal Memorias, Maipo 2015
(75% Cab. S, 10% Cab Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Syrah,
I was convinced that this was a Margaret River Blend, with its lovely savoury and spiced flavours, certainly brought a smile, still young and will evolve beautifully. 14.5% ABV, Philip Von Nell Wines.
VIK Milla Cala, Blend 2014,
(50% Cab S, 35% Carmenere, 2.5% Merlot 2.5% Cab Franc,
Exuberant savoury nose, velvety and silky on the palate, ripe on first taste then a lovely depth and purity on the palate. 14% ABV, Copestick Murray
Casa Silva Ranco Riesling 2017,
Focused, clean, fresh, vibrant, Not an Aussie Dry style, more a Dry Rhine, with floral fruit to the front and a lovely succulent taste. 11.5% ABV, Jackson Nugent Vintners
The more I delve into Chile the more exciting it is getting, for me the reds shone on the day but there were some excellent white wines from Casa Silva, including a lovely Sauvignon Gris. Siegel had an excellent Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, and of course the Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay showcased how good Chile can make top class Chardonnay.
There is no question that these events help showcase the depth and quality that Chile can provide and we need to help grow this platform.