Friday, October 9, 2009

Chile Travels North

Once a year, just before Thanksgiving - Canadian, that is - the Wines of Chile tasting makes its way to The Distillery District in Toronto. You can always be guaranteed that some good value wines will be found because Chilean wine is almost ridiculously priced lower than most wines available on the market today. Although it is easy to find wines that are so-so, disjointed or, in some cases, overpriced for what is in the glass, I certainly found a large number of white wines yesterday that were amazing and fit into the great value category. Now, last year, after looking back at my blog entry from the 2008 tasting, I saw that I only found two really outstanding wines but this year, there are seven plus three that, at the very least, earn an Honourable Mention. Check out my reviews below as well as ordering information.

Vina Botalcura 2009 El Delirio Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
$13.95 per bottle
Available through H.H.D. Imports Inc.
Aromas of stone fruit, pears, herbal and floral with flavours of gooseberry and citrus – mostly lemon. There is great balance and a lively mouthfeel to this wine that makes it thoroughly enjoyable. At $13.95 a bottle, this is definitely one of those wines that would pair well with a number of seafood or fish dishes, although I would avoid anything that has a cream sauce with this wine. Definitely one of many good value wines tasted this afternoon.

Vina Carta Vieja 2007 G7 Gran Reserva Chardonnay
$17.95 per bottle
Available through Small Winemakers Collection
The aromas on this wine are really, really subtle but you can detect slight creamy, buttery aromas and slight stone fruit. The flavours are a continuation of the creamy, buttery aromas but with a distinct thread of minerality weaving its way through. A slight hint of peach, apple and pear on the finish makes this a truly lovely wine. Would be great with Roast Chicken or Turkey or any cream sauce pasta.

Vina Concha y Toro 2008 Trio Reserva White
$12.95 per bottle
Available through Select Wine Merchants
Please note that at the moment, this wine is currently not available anywhere. Select Wine Merchants advised that it is slated to be a part of the Vintages March release so you will have to wait but I can guarantee you that if you enjoy white blended wines, this is definitely one you have to try.
This wine is a blending of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc although, in previous vintages, instead of Pinot Blanc, Riesling has been used. The aromas on this wine are huge and plentiful like – I believe – any white blend wine should be. Lots of citrus aromas – mostly mandarin oranges and lime but there is a healthy mix of fig and grapefruit to add complexity. The palate has great balance to it and along with the aromas mentioned above there is a good threading of minerality through the flavours. There is an almost lively structure to the palate and a great finish making this wine a definite must try and must buy!

Vina Concha y Toro 2007 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay
$17.95 per bottle
Currently in Vintages, CSPC #342857
The LCBO is currently showing 50 bottles available throughout Ontario of this wine. If you are interested in purchasing this wine, do so quickly!
This wine was barrel fermented on its lees in 1/3 new French Oak and 2/3 second and third fill French Oak barrels making this a rather big, over the top Chardonnay. Aromas of pear, fig and hazelnut meld seamlessly onto the palate where they are super concentrated, have great balance and a silky smooth texture. It has a vibrant mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish. Super Yummy and although it is a little higher priced than what I would call a value wine, it is definitely worth every penny they are charging for it.

Vina San Pedro Tarapaca 2009 Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc
$14.99 per bottle
Available through Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits
This is every aroma and flavour of Sauvignon Blanc known to man wrapped up into one wine. Mineral, citrus, green onion, gunpowder and even a touch of sea salt are the aromas that greet you when you swirl this wine in your glass. The flavours are more of the mineral and fruity character you find in the aromas but along with the green onion there is a rather distinctive hint of thyme and then a very tart finish. Just like tannins will give you a pucker feeling in your mouth with a red wine, this particular white wine gives you the pucker feeling from the distinctive lemon finish.

Vina Santa Rita 2009 120 Series Sauvignon Blanc
$10.45 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General List, CSPC #23606
This is not my first time trying this wine. Back in July I attended a label redesign release party for Santa Rita wines and the 120 Series was a major part of that party. The aromas and flavours of this wine are mostly grapefruit and lemon but with slight hints of tropical fruit and herbs. What the bottle does not tell you is that the winemaker added in 2% Semillon to add some complexity to the wine which is where those tropical fruit aromas come from. In addition to the typical Sauvignon Blanc flavours of citrus, lemongrass and gooseberry, the 2% Semillon adds pineapple, mango and papaya to the flavour. Although the term “fruit bomb” tends to be associated exclusively with fruity RED wines, this white wine could easily qualify for that term.

Vina Santa Rita 2007 Medalla Real Chardonnay
$18.95 per bottle
Currently in Vintages, CSPC #303628
In most cases, Chardonnay goes through the crusher/destemmer when it comes in from the fields. In the case of this particular Chardonnay, 75% of the grapes went through this process but the remaining 25% went through whole cluster pressing instead of ever spending time in the crusher. This whole cluster pressing might account for the interesting olive green colour in the glass, since Chardonnay, and especially oaked Chardonnay, tends to have more of a goldenrod yellow colour. The aromas are a very interesting combination of both fresh and dried fruits as well as mineral. The palate has distinctive flavours of tropical fruit, slight creaminess and a backbone of peaches and nectarines.

Vina Valdivieso 2007 Single Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay Wild Fermented
$22.60 per bottle
Available through Carriage Trade Wines & Spirits
I have never been a major fan of Chardonnay and the other Chardonnay on the table from this winery was definitely not one that caught my attention in the way that this Single Vineyard Wild Fermented Chardonnay did. In general, a lot of wineries shy away from using wild yeast to ferment any of their wines. If you do not understand the complexities of wild yeasts it can be an extremely tricky and sometimes disastrous result to what could be a really great wine. Now, that is not to say you should never try it and if a winemaker knows the process and tricks to working with wild yeast then as a consumer you will have the opportunity to try a very interesting wine.

The aromatics on this wine are, simply put, powerful! Grapefruit, citrus marmalade, vanilla and a major mineral component are the major aromas in play here and they continue on to the flavours where there is major fruit concentration and balance. The mineral component from the aromas is definitely the backbone of the flavours in this wine and then there is this delightful and pleasant spicy kick in the finish.

Vina Caliterra 2009 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
$8.95 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General Listing, CSPC #275909
Sauvignon Blanc with a tropical fruit aroma – guava, grapefruit and tangerine abound in this glass. These aromas transfer on to the palate where there is a mingling with mineral and then a crisp, lemony finish. The lemon is not overpowering though – it is just a perfect kick of refreshing crispness right at the back of this wine.

Vina Caliterra 2008 Reserva Chardonnay
$8.95 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General Listing, CSPC #257147
I did something yesterday afternoon after I left this trade tasting that I have never done in all the fifteen years I have been a member of the food and beverage industry. I went and bought not one, but three, bottles of this wine which I had just tasted less than two hours previously. It is not a conscious decision on my part – it is just something I have never done. This wine impressed me enough that, without first checking to see which LCBO stores in my area might be carrying it, I just went to the closest LCBO to the train station.

The aromas are tropical fruit – mostly pineapple – with the distinctive creaminess that tells you that this wine spent just the perfect amount of time in oak barrels. The flavours on this wine can only be described as WOW!!! Just about every type of tropical fruit you can imagine – pineapple, mango, papaya, even a bit of banana and many more I could list – with just the right about of cream and crème fraiche. This wine sells for $8.95 a bottle but they could easily make a killing in the stores even pricing it at $20 a bottle.

Now, there were three wines that deserve honourable mentions. The first one is actually more of a situation than an actual wine. When we arrive at tastings like this, aside from getting our tasting glass we are given a booklet where we can make our tasting notes in. They list all of the wineries, with their contact information and – for international wines – their importer’s information and all of the wines that are available at their tables that day. When it is a large tasting it is always smart to take a moment to glance through the booklet and see if there is anything really unique or really outstanding that has to be tried. At yesterday’s tasting the one wine that caught a lot of people’s interest is a Gewurztraminer. Vina Nativa is based out of Santiago, Chile which has a large German population and, combined with the fact that their winemaker was educated in Europe, they have planted one of the most well known German varietals out there. I would not call this an outstanding wine and, at this point, it is not available for purchase in Ontario but I think they deserve a mention for making an effort at trying a cool climate varietal in a decidedly hot climate winemaking region. Hopefully, at some point in the future, this wine will come into its own and be an exciting new varietal for this region.

Now, the other two wines that deserve honourable mentions from the tasting are the two red wines that I had a chance to try after trying hundreds of white wines. Please read the tasting notes below:

Vina Santa Alicia 2008 Reserva Malbec
$11.95 per bottle
Available through Eurovintage International Inc.
Chilean Malbec is very, very different from Argentinean Malbec which is definitely the more known of the two in terms of Malbec producing regions. If you are looking for a red wine that is out of the ordinary, this is definitely a wine you should stop and look at. Aromas of bell peppers, prunes, herbal and even a hint of cocoa, the flavours are similar but also add cinnamon and floral to balance it out. The mouthfeel on this wine is full and plush – it’s almost as big as a Napa Cab – while the tannins are well structured, rounded and complex.
They are showing this wine as not yet available in Ontario but if you contact Eurovintage, they may be able to give you a better time frame on when you will be able to get your hands on this wine.

Vina Santa Alicia 2006 Gran Reserva Carmenere
$18.95 per bottle
Available through Eurovintage International Inc.
Carmenere is a grape varietal that is almost unique to Chile. It used to be in Europe hundreds of years ago but disease knocked the entire crop away and now can only be found in Chilean vineyards. Although it can be commonly confused with some of the heartier red grape varietals, it does have some unique qualities not found in others. The aromas are mostly spice, coffee and raspberry while the mouthfeel is big, round and supple. This particular Carmenere could easily be confused with an Aussie Shiraz given the aroma and flavour profiles but, at this price, it is clearly Chilean. One thing you can always say about Chilean wineries – they know what they are good at and they do not mess with it.
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