The Buyer
Peter Richards MW on Tri Nations Challenge as Chile takes on NZ

Peter Richards MW on Tri Nations Challenge as Chile takes on NZ

As the Tri Nations Wine Challenges enters its fifth year, so we ask Peter Richards MW to comment on the wines of Chile and New Zealand as they battle head to head across six wine categories. For Chile it was the first time the country has entered the competition. How would it fare, especially in the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon categories? The results were a close run thing.

Roger Jones
6th August 2018by Roger Jones
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

Roger Jones introduces the concept of the Tri Nations Wine Challenges, and then Peter Richards MW takes us through the wines as Chile braves the challenge of New Zealand

Let battle commence: Anita Jackson, Wines of Chile; Roger Jones, Harrow at Little Bedwyn; Chris Stroud, New Zealand Winegrowers (l-r)

A late night (early morning) chat sharing a few South African wines in a hotel bar in Cape Town four years ago was the start of these Wine Challenges that now have a worldwide following.

The concept was quite simple, a 6-course Michelin Star dinner matched by two identical variety wines with each course served blind, involving South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Where shall we hold them was the next question? Another glass of fine wine produced the answer, “Let’s take them around the world!”

As the series evolved over the years, with an annual match held at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town every January and at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn every July we began to evolve the Challenges. Firstly by taking it to Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, hosted by Craggy Range and with California joining in as a ‘guest wine nation’ last year, it was hosted at The Vineyard Hotel in Stockcross, the home of California Wines in the UK.

The large percentage of the guests are consumers and guest numbers are based on 70-80, I work with local produce in each country and work very closely with The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, where they even send over a chef to train with me in advance of each annual event.

This year Wines of Chile asked to come on board and their first match was hosted at The Harrow last month, challenging the might of New Zealand. The event was an instant sell-out with a very keen interest by consumers to see how good prestige wines from Chile would show on the day.

I will let Peter Richards MW summarise the wines, Peter very kindly attended with his wife Susie Barrie MW.

Peter Richards MW

“The Chile-Kiwi show in July proved a stimulating and delicious occasion. In terms of overall votes it was a close run thing, as the generally impeccable quality of all wines merited.

Casa Silva Lago Ranco 2016 (27 votes) v Felton Road Bannockburn 2014 (37 votes) Paired with: Ceviche of Sea Bream, Wasabi and Cucumber Sorbet, Yuzu and Olive Oil Dressing, Wasabi Caviar

The Riesling pairing put a beautifully succulent, off-dry Felton Road up against an invigorating, pure, resonant Lago Ranco Riesling from Chile’s deep south winemaking frontier. Hard to judge apples and pears. A further complication was the (delicious) ceviche, whose wasabi sorbet clearly favoured the wine with higher residual sugar.

Calyptra Gran Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (32) v Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015 (35) Paired with: Fresh Torbay Crab Smoked Cod Roe, Vine Tomatoes, Crème Fraiche

Oaked Sauvignon was an inspired pairing selection, with two serious, weighty wines taking to the ring. The vote was achingly close – but the sumptuous, stylish Calyptra was just pipped to the post

Las Pizarras, Errazuriz Chardonnay 2015 (25) v Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 (43) Paired with: Pembroke Lobster, Indian Spices, Yoghurt, Bajee

The heavyweight Mate from Kumeu was always going to take some beating in the Chardonnay round (just ask all those Grand Cru Burgundies…) and so it proved. For what it’s worth, I thought the Pizarras a quite breath-taking wine, with wonderful structure, elegant complexity and thrilling structure.

Ocio, Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2015 (32) v Larry McKenna Escarpment Pinot Noir 2015 (35) Paired with: Char Grilled Octopus, Grilled Halloumi, Oregano

Another seriously close call in the Pinot Noir category – a huge vindication for Chile’s increasingly successful way with this variety, and a great vote of confidence in its future there, given how well the Kiwis do Pinot. In the event, voters just preferred the savoury tones of the Martinborough wine, although Ocio’s succulent, rounded berry fruit style ran it very close.

Aresti Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (50) v Vidal Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (18) Paired with: Rack of Lamb, Minted Cous Cous, Foraged Herbs

Chile swept the board in the Cabernet category, perhaps aided by the fact the Aresti married so beautifully with the loin of lamb.

Tococo Syrah, Vinedos de Alcohuaz 2015 (32) v Craggy Range Le Sol 2014 (36) Paired with: Venison, Blackberry, Salted Caramel

Syrah has great potential in both New Zealand and Chile so it’s no surprise this was another tightly fought category. The Tococo was seriously elegant and deftly put together – on another day it may well have won. Kudos to both wines.

Chile can take heart from this performance. The headlines won’t tell the true story. The truth was a very close run thing, and on another evening it may well have gone the other way. Chile should be proud of how far it’s come and to go toe-to-toe with New Zealand and emerge with this kind of credit represents a creditable showing.” Peter Richards MW

So Roger, the scores on the doors…

The final score was Chile 1, New Zealand 5, although the final scores show New Zealand just leading Chile with 204 points to 198 with many scores very close.

Roger Jones, Chris Stroud and New Zealand High Commissioner The Rt. Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae

Other guests to attend the event included representatives from all the wineries showcasing their wines, Wines of Chile, New Zealand Winegrowers and The New Zealand High Commissioner The Rt. Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine.

“We were delighted with a New Zealand victory in the latest Tri Nations series v Chile at The Harrow. Despite the friendly competition, however, these events are more about a great celebration of fantastic food and delightful wines on both sides, with some amazing food pairings. Roger, Sue and the whole Harrow team do an amazing job in championing New World wines in particular and showcasing the depth and quality of styles coming out of these countries and New Zealand is delighted to be involved.” Chris Stroud, New Zealand Winegrowers

“Congratulations on a fabulous night, and many thanks for hosting the Chile vs New Zealand Tri Nations Challenge. It was so much fun and the food was absolutely delicious, all the wines worked well, and even though we didn’t win it was a great opportunity to promote Chilean wines to people who appreciate good wines.” Anita Jackson, Wines of Chile

The series now continues with South Africa taking on Chile in Cape Town on Friday January 11th, before Australia challenge Chile on Friday 12th July back at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.