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Saturday, 2 October 2010

South American tasting at Cambridge Food and Wine Society

Bellwether Wines is a newly-established independent wine merchant based in Peterborough set up by Louise Steel with her brother, Michael. Louise recently took time out from the trials of running a successful start-up business to present some of her South American wines (mostly Chilean) to the Cambridge Food and Wine Society.

"Any colour as long as it's
black", a Ford Model T
Louise, the most charming lady you could meet who obviously knows a lot about her subject, started her career in the drinks industry working for family firm Adcocks; founded by her ancestors 100 years ago next year, in 1928 it took delivery of a then state-of-the-art Model T Ford for deliveries.

Several decades later, Louise's father was bottling and manufacturing soft drinks which were delivered locally to shops and licensed premises. Needless to say, there was never a shortage of Cherryade and Dandelion & Burdock in the Adcock household. From Adcocks, Louise gradually moved into the world of wine via Coca-Cola and later beer giant, Molson Coors.

Before setting up Bellwether, Louise also worked with Champagne houses Lanson and Taittinger and Chile's Concha y Toro, with whom she retains links and from where she sourced a number of the wines for this tasting. Earlier this year, she also spent a week in Bordeaux becoming an accredited CIVB tutor - a highly prestigious achievement as there are just 23 of these in the UK.

For this south American tasting, Louise brought along a range of good wines, including a sweet Malbec wine which was first for most people on the evening.

We kicked off with two wines from Cono Sur; founded in 1993 with the aim of making "premium, expressive and innovative wines conveying the spirit of the New World", the company now has 1,800 hectares of vineyards and is perhaps one of Chile's best-known wine producers - the first of these was a refreshing and very drinkable unoaked Chardonnay, with a good balance of acidity and fruit followed by a Riesling with good acidity and balanced fruit, probably best with food.


Concha Y Toro © Michaël Lejeune
CC-BY-SA-2.5, Wikimedia Commons
 The next wine was a Viognier from Argentinian winemaker, Trivento (actually owned by Concha y Toro) - to me, Viognier is something of a poor-man's Chardonnay and this wine one of the few disappointments on the evening, but reasonable given the price.

The next wine was from the Emiliana winery whose Pinot Noir I tried a while ago - this was a Gewürztraminer with subtle fruit on the nose followed by complex flavours on the palate and some residual sweetness on the finish.

Next, and slightly out of the usual order, was an excellent sweet Late Harvest wine from Concha y Toro - fresh, without any cloying characteristics, it was excellent value for money. Louise suggested trying with savoury starters, but that may have been a little radical for some of the audience.

The first of the reds was an Argentinian Shiraz from Trivento again - this was a typical Shiraz with nutmeg and black pepper aromas, and toast and chocolate notes from oak aging.

Chile has something of a reputation for making very drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon and the Marques de Casa Concha (another Concha y Toro label), bursting with fruit in the mouth and restrained tannins, was no exception.

Carménère grapes
Long mistaken for Merlot, Carmenere is perhaps Chile's signature red grape this 2006 wine again from Concha y Toro had 94 Parker points and was worth every one; deep in colour, it was well-structured and mouthfilling, with bitter chocolate, sweet tannins and a long finish with spice and hints of tobacco.

The last wine was something a little unusual - a port-like fortified wine made from the Malbec grape. Unfortunately, it tasted like a thin port which didn't work for me.

The Wines (prices ex-VAT from Bellwether)

1. Cono Sur, Los Gansos Chardonnay - £5.63

2. Cono Sur, Maiden Flight Riesling - £7.12

3. Trivento, Tribu Viognier - £4.83

4. Emiliana, Adobe Gewurztraminer (Organic & Biodynamic) -£6.64

5. Concha y Toro, Late Harvest - £4.89

6. Trivento, Reserve Syrah - £5.88

7. Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon - £8.11

8. Concha y Toro, Terrunyo Carmenere - £11.36

9. Malamado Red, Familla Zuccardi (Sweet
 Liqueur Wine) - £ 12.76

Links

Cambridge Food and Wine Society - http://www.cambridgefoodandwinesociety.org.uk/

Bellwether Wines - http://www.bellwetherwines.co.uk/

Cono Sur - http://www.conosur.com/en/

Concha y Toro - http://www.conchaytoro.com/

Emiliana - http://www.emiliana.cl/

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