Wines of Chile took on Wines of Australia at a thrilling contest in the twelfth Tri Nations Wine Challenge. The challenge sees six wines from each country compete with one another, paired with food cooked by our contributing editor and chef at large Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. Chile has been making giant strides recently in proving that its premium wines can sit comfortably on a fine wine list, but are they good enough to be judged better than Australia’s across six varietal categories – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?
After the ‘scores on the doors’ heads of Wine Australia, Laura Jewell MW, and Wines of Chile, Anita Jackson, summarise the challenge
Roger and Sue Jones’ Festival of Wine has come to an end, the three weeks of events hosted in a marquee in their grounds included, Sparkling Sunday, The Mamba Awards (with proceeds going to The Benevolent charity), New Zealand Wine Celebration (on the day of the England & Wales v NZ cricket final, with over 90 guests attending despite the excitement of the cricket), The Oxford Wine Club, The Wine Society, and a charity lunch they hosted for The Welsh Guards, raising £20,000 on a Wednesday afternoon for 60 guests. Here we highlight their Tri Nations Wine Challenges hosted last Friday night.
The Tri Nations Wine Challenges were originally set up following a late evening of (wine) discussion at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town in 2014, with the inaugural event being hosted at the hotel on 9th January 2015. Such was the success and popularity of the first event that the Jones’ soon realised that we would need to elevate the challenge and not only make it an annual event in Cape Town but take it on the road. Craggy Range has hosted it in New Zealand, South Africa has hosted it five times, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn five times and The Vineyard at Stockcross have hosted it once, representing the home of California in the UK.
Each challenge involves two nations, with a six course gourmet meal matched with six wines from each nation, served blind, in bespoke varietal Riedel glasses with up to 80 guests at each venue voting for their favourite wine. Roger devises the menu using local ingredients and local chefs.
The original three Tri Nations (South Africa, Australia and New Zealand) have been joined by guest wine nations including California, Europe and, more recently Chile, who has been on the road to Cape Town this January and challenged New Zealand last year.
Last Friday night’s 12th Tri Nations Wine Challenge hosted at The Harrow, saw Chile battle Australia to the very end, with surprising and large wins in the Riesling and Syrah/Shiraz rounds with the Cabernet going to a re-count twice.
The Menu and wines (with RRP) after a Louis Roederer Champagne reception.
Porthilly Oyster, Vichyssoise, Siberian Caviar, Oyster Leaf
Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, Australia (£19.99)
Casa Silva Lago Ranco Riesling 2017, Osorno Austral, Chile (£19.99)
Torbay Crab, Pop Corn, Sweetcorn
Vina Ventisquero Grey Single Block Sauvignon Band 2017, Huasca Atacama, Chile (£18)
Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Adelaide Hills, Australia (£15)
Pembroke Lobster, Thai Tea, Pickled Cabbage
Errazuriz Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017, Aconcagua Costa, Chile (£42)
Stonier Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Mornington Peninsula, Australia (£45)
Monkfish Cutlet, Perigord Truffles, Chicken Consomme
Ocean Eight Pinot Noir 2017, Mornington Peninsula, Australia(£35)
Errazuriz Las Pizarras Pinot Noir 2016, Aconcagua Costa, Chile(£55)
Cardigan Bay Lamb, Shepherds Pie Croquette, Red Currant and Rosemary Jus
Cullen Diane Madeline 2015, Margaret River, Australia (£70)
Vina Sena, 2015, Aconcagua, Chile (£150)
Chicken and Foie Gras Ravioli, Cep Mushroom Jus, Bacon and Chorizo Crumbs
Houghton Thomas Yule Shiraz, 2014, Frankland River, Australia (£60)
Viña Leyda Lot 8 Syrah 2015, Leyda Valley, Chile (£44)
Cornets of Pimms Sorbet and Berry Parfaits on Sticks
Overall Australia won the rounds 4:2 with the individual scores here:
Riesling: Chile 35 Australia 22
Sauvignon Blanc Chile 20 Australia 38
Chardonnay Chile 22 Australia 36
Pinot Noir Chile 18 Australia 38
Cabernet Chile 27 Australia 30
Shiraz Chile 43 Australia 15
I will leave the Heads of Wine Australia (Laura Jewell MW) and Wines of Chile (Anita Jackson) to summarise the challenge
Anita how was it for you?
“Chile is viewed as good quality wine, but more often than not people overlook Chile as a premium wine producer and more for a good source of house/entry level wines. Chile needs more competitions such as the Tri Nations Wine Challenges to participate in, in order to prove that we can compete alongside other premium wine producing countries and that we do have stand out wines, and also to demonstrate that Chile’s wines can sit competently on a fine dining wine list and pair superbly with the dishes on offer, so this is why I can only view Chile’s journey in the Tri Nations as a positive and an event that we should compete in going forward in the future.”
And your views on the wines, and here you can get your excuses in !
“I felt that whilst the Smith & Shaw Sauvignon Blanc was fantastic the Ventisquero SB worked better with the lobster dish. The Seña was such a close call.”
“The Leyda Syrah was awesome, it had such depth, and layers of fruit and flavours, more French in style, and that wonderful tar attribute that Syrah sometimes gets, it was also more restrained than the Ozzie Syrah.”
Over to you Laura
“One of the great things about the Tri Nations Wine Challenges is that it is a unique opportunity to taste the wines blind, and to have them judged by a broad audience, not just the trade. Classic example of this was the Riesling round, where the Leasingham, with its 11 years age, was rich, textural and serious, whereas the Casa Silva was young, delicate, very Germanic in style and more instantly appealing to the audience. It was very impressive, given that Chile is not known for its Riesling.”
“The focus of the Tri Nations is on premium (but not too expensive) wines, which showcase the best of what each country can do. While the competitive element adds some fun, the pleasure of the evening is actually tasting the wines in carefully chosen pairs to explore the different styles and regional flavours.”
“The Ocean 8 Pinot Noir was outstanding from Mornington. The Shiraz/Syrah were closely matched and a good choice to show a cooler climate region, rather than the more obvious choice of Barossa. The Cullen was superb, but met it’s match in the Seña, both showing really well, stylish and elegantly showing what Cabernet can do in both countries.”
“We’ve probably not highlighted it to the winemakers as much as South Africa does, as the importers here are more involved, but I will be reporting back internally to Aus, and will be mentioning it at the exporter forum in August in Adelaide.”
“I just love the fact that you do so much for Chile/Aus/NZ and SA each year, and the Californians don’t know what they are missing.”
As an added bit of housekeeping the majority of the Chile wines were in cork, and all came in heavy wooden boxes whilst the Australian wines were all Stelvin and came in more eco friendly boxes. With the exception of the Seña, where every bottle was perfect we had three corked bottles of the Chile Syrah, two rejected bottles of Chile Pinot Noir and one rejected bottle of Chile Riesling. As a bonus we made good use of the Chile wood for our BBQ.
Eighty per cent of the guests were not in the trade.