Chilean wines with Tim Atkin MW
I've fallen in and out of love with Chile more times than I care to remember - I got excited about the potential, was underwhelmed by the bigger-is-better approach and eventually moved elsewhere for my oenological pleasures.
Well, Chile is back and it's looking better than ever.
The unspoken aim of this masterclass seemed to be a demonstration that Chile can do world-class, European-style elegant and restrained wines with the potential to age.
Tasted blind, these wines would have you thinking of Sancerre and Burgundy, not South America; lower alcohol levels, more freshness and elegant nuance were all here.
Tim started with a recap of Chile - the world's longest, thinnest country with cooling influences from the Andes and the Pacific, complex terroirs and two parallel ranges of mountains with vineyards at everything from sea-level to 2.2km altitude.
New information was about the level of vintage variation, a far more Europe concept than a New World one. As a result of the various influences of La Niña and El Niño, Chile has experiences significant vintage variation in recent years:
- 2016 was cold and wet (aka "European")
- 2017 was hot with fires
- 2018 cool, dry and balanced
- 2019 dry
- 2020 a dry year with early harvesting.(helpful, given pandemic lockdowns)
In practice, Chile has been moving away from US styles to freshness for many years now and factors like site, terroir and soil type are becoming key.
The world's seventh-largest wine producing country, Chile does volume (in a way), but seems much happier focusing on quality. Prices were reflective of this.
Casa Marin 2020 Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Lo Abarca (£19.00) smokey, saline Sancerre-esque Sauvignon with expressive, slightly pungent aromatics, tropical fruit and lime zest. Savoury, long and complex. Will age.
2019 El Principal Kiñe Verdejo, Maipo Andes (£9.99) rich, savoury, leesy, complex and long; a textured and substantial wine with influences of skin contact and battonage. Flavours of lemony citrus and orchard fruits and stone fruits.
2018 Viña Ventisquero Tara White Wine 1, Chardonnay, Huasco - Atacama (£42.00) old-school techniques giving a savouriness with orchard fruits; concentrated, textured and long, with a tension between saline-minerality and saltiness
2018 Errazuriz Las Pizarras Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Costa (£85.00) woodsy, expressive, Burgundian nose, concentrated dark cherry fruit; fresh, structured, long and harmonious.