Showing posts with label Chilean Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chilean Wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Look at Sauvignon Blanc in Chile

Those who know me, know I love Sauvignon Blanc. And I also have a fondness for Chilean wines. Put them together and you have some expressive wines with great value. I spent the last month of summer tasting some Chilean Sauvignon Blancs to see how the flavour profiles change with each growing region in Chile.

Although winemaking in Chile dates back a couple hundred years, it was only in the 1990s that the country really landed on the viticultural map. Sauvignonasse was originally planted in some regions, a similar varietal that produces wines of lesser quality; it was mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc. Plantings are being removed with authentic vines replacing them. Chile tends to focus on producing fruit-forward Sauvignon Blancs with tropical nuances and less on the herbaceousness that old world wines tend to showcase.

Coquimbo is the northernmost wine region in Chile, and the Elqui Valley sub-region is becoming known for producing some excellent Sauvignon Blancs. This is likely because of low annual rainfall amounts, which would help control the growth of the vigorous vines. Plenty of access to sunlight and cooling mountain breezes also help to improve the quality of the grapes.

Falernia's 2012 Sauv Blanc is fresh and fruit-forward, full of passionfruit, pineapple and underripe green apple flavours. Hints of anise and a white pepper finish add complexity. The body is strong enough to handle dishes like roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.

South of the Coquimbo region and north of Santiago lies the Casablanca sub-region of the Aconcagua Valley. White varietals dominate in the vineyards due to cooling fogs and ocean breezes, ideal conditions for growing Sauvignon Blanc. Mild winters also extend the growing season by approximately one month longer than other winegrowing regions in Chile.

The Quintay Clava Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was my personal favourite of these wines, with tropical notes of passionfruit and pineapple up front and a beautiful nuance of sweet peas. Crisp acidity and a hint of minerality rounded out the palate. Well-balanced. Great for sipping on a patio with grilled salmon and mild cheeses.

The Central Valley consists of sub-regions that include the Maipo, Rapel, Curico and Maule. The Curico Valley is the southernmost region of these, with average high rainfall amounts and nutrient-rich soils. Although Curico does have the reputation for producing inexpensive blends and once was a haven for growing Sauvignonasse, some good Sauvignon Blancs have come from here of late.

One such example is the Montes Classic 2013. Notes of underripe apricots, leafiness and basil lead into a high, mouthwatering acidity that carries on through the finish. This wine has the power and structure I love about a good Sauvignon Blanc. Pairs well with seafood dishes, especially clam and bacon linguine.

Concha y Toro makes a Sauvignon Blanc on their Casillero del Diablo line that sources grapes from their vineyards in the Limari, Casablanca and Rapel Valleys. All regions are well represented here. Notes of pear, lemon and snap peas combine with a delightful hint of grilled pineapple on the finish. The zesty acidity makes this wine great with rich foods like quiches and hors d'oeuvres in puff pastry, but is also light enough to pair well with more delicate shellfish like scallops.

I was surprised to find hints of herbaceousness and leafiness in more of these bottles than I thought I would. Otherwise, each wine truly does reflect the style of Sauvignon Blanc that Chile seeks to produce, with approachable fruit flavours and crisp acidity at a good value. If Chile continues to focus on and improve quality in both the vineyard and in the winery, I truly believe their Sauvignon Blancs have potential to become world-class, like their Cabernet cousins from Puente Alto.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vina Casa Silva: Harmony from Vineyard to Bottle

Last Wednesday night a girlfriend and I attended a wine tasting hosted by Vina Casa Silva, one of the more prestigious wineries in Chile. Although the Vina Casa Silva brand was founded in 1997 by Mario Pablo Silva, the family has been in Chile since 1892 when the first generation arrived from the St Emilion region of Bordeaux. Since then, five generations have been devoted to wine production and are considered pioneer winemakers of the Colchagua Valley.

Vina Casa Silva places high priority on sustainability, quality, and family. The winery strives to live life in harmony with the environment, and to produce the finest wines possible. They have achieved 100% vineyard certification under the Sustainability Code of Wines of Chile, one of only three wineries to do so. Their tasting panel consists of 3 Silva family members and two enologists that work closely together to ensure the best possible quality of the wine from vineyard to bottling. Vina Casa Silva also prides itself on using manual viticultural and vinification techniques in conjunction with modern technology. They were Wine and Spirits Winery of the Year in 2010 and the awards continue to roll in for their wines every year.

Vina Casa Silva was showcasing 5 different wines at this particular tasting:

-Dona Dominga Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon 2012
-Sauvignon Gris 2011
-Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere 2011
-Carmenere Reserva 2009
-Quinta Generacion 2009

The 2012 Dona Dominga Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon is well balanced, with an intoxicating bouquet of passion fruit, pineapple and fresh cut grass. The refreshing acidity lasts well into the long finish. If you prefer a fruitier Sauvignon Blanc blend, this is a must try! Pairs well with salads and mild cheeses and is excellent on it's own as well.

The 2011 Sauvignon Gris has more minerality than the Sauvignon Blanc. With a flavour profile of ripe bananas, green apple and steel, this wine shows great intensity and is also well-balanced. It's surprising complexity makes it stand out compared to other white wines.

The 2011 Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere is a fun, juicy and fruity red with aromas of blackberries, spices and coffee. The ripe tannins are well integrated to the body and structure of the wine. This wine pairs well with more casual foods like pizza and burgers, as well as with meats like venison and prime rib. An easy drinking, mouth-pleasing red wine that is a steal at $14 CDN!

The 2009 Quinta Generacion is a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. The wine is beautifully structured with elegant tannins, fresh acidity and a full-bodied mouthfeel. Complex aromas of cloves, black pepper, capsicum pepper, leather, and hazelnuts. Smooth, expressive and seductive. This wine can age another 5-7 years in the cellar, or can be opened and enjoyed today. Another great value wine at $31 CDN and is too beautiful not to try!

My personal favourite of the night was the 2009 Carmenere Reserva. Carmenere is a Chilean specialty, and Vina Casa Silva makes a beautiful representation that really shows it off! The perfumed bouquet reflects notes of cherries, leather and spice. Wonderfully balanced with soft tannins and a full mouthfeel. A hint of red bell pepper, a tell-tale sign of the Carmenere varietal, shows the expressiveness of the wine. Another fantastic deal at $18 CDN. I will likely be drinking this wine over and over again as it has become one of my favourite value reds!

The tasting was hosted by Marcelo Pino, Casa Silva's Sommelier Ambassador. He has been working with the winery for years, and is also certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. What makes him stand out from others is that he won the Best Sommelier in Chile award in 2011! He is also a water expert and originally trained as a chef before studying wine. He allowed us to grab a picture with him after the tasting-I am on the left.
The Chilean wine region has plenty to offer it's fans; it is the only wine region in the world that is free of Phylloxera, and their use of modern viticultural and winemaking technology has raised the quality of their wines to be on par with some of the most well known wine making countries in the world. Vina Casa Silva takes Chilean wine to the next level with the great care they take in the vineyards, to the quality measures taken in the winemaking techniques they use. Their wines reflect the terroir of Chile and the Colchagua Valley and are well balanced and complex, making the wines a great value and must not be missed. 

For more information on Vina Casa Silva, click here to go to their website. 
They also have a great video on YouTube that provides an overview of the winery, available in both English and Spanish. Click here for the English version.