The annual Wines of Chile trade tasting found itself settling in at its new home this week, the MCC, or Lord's to the rest of us. Over 80 exhibitors turned up to showcase just over 850 wines, including some familiar faces, Errazuriz, Cono Sur, Valdivieso, and some not so familiar faces, Junta, Quebrada de Macúl and, one of my favourites, Quintay. The last three wineries are seeking UK agents so please, at least, someone pick up Quintay.
This year's show featured the Independent Zone and Focus Tasting. An initiative set up to attract, perhaps inspire, independent merchants and sommeliers alike to bring in wines currently not available on the high street. Sixty wines were set up based on style, price then colour. Wine writer, Quentin Sadler was on hand to offer advice when required.
A couple of highlighted wines in this area were the Quintay Q Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Casablanca, with some residual sugar on the nose and the palate offering up grass, lemons, grapefruit, noticeable minerals and acidity, good depth and with an rrp of £10.99, a bargain.
The red I chose was a blend from Berkmann Wine Cellars, the 2007 Haras de Pirque Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère,Alto Maipo. At £14.25 rrp, again, this wine shows a lot of character and value. Jam, lavender, black fruit, spice – take your pick, you should find all these characteristics on both nose and palate.
Sitting in the middle of the room were the award winners – the Chile Champions Focus Tasting. These wines had walked away with many medals from this year's major international wine awards and the annual Wines of Chile Awards. As before, 50 wines had been arranged by style, price and colour. My two highlights here were both Rieslings. The first comes from CyT UK – Cono Sur Reserva Riesling 2011, Bío Bío Valley. I love wines from Bío Bío, Chile's second most southerly wine-producing region. A cool-climate area producing classy fresh, almost Old World-style wines. It's as easy and delicious a Riesling you can get – fresh and juicy with some lovely citrus fruit and an rrp of £8.99.
The second, another from CyT UK, is Terrunyo Riesling 2011, Casablanca. Terrunyo picked up both a gold medal and a trophy from the annual Wines of Chile Awards. The wine exhibits rich grapefruit, lemon, some subtle stone fruits; juicy yet fresh on the palate with a touch of residual sugar (rrp £13.99).
Like Chile's New Zealand counterparts, sustainability is a becoming a key factor within the country's wine trade. In 2011 the Chilean wine trade identified the need to guide wineries towards sustainability. Three ‘code areas' have been devised, Green, Red and Orange.
The result will hopefully establish Chile as the largest supplier of premium sustainable wines in the New World. Currently 20 wineries have been certified sustainable.
- Green Area concerns all aspects of environment sustainability in the vineyard, water, soil, pest control and the ecosystem.
- Red Area strives to maintain wine quality, water and waste management, energy efficiency and improved working conditions.
- Orange Area focuses on the needs and requirements of the community, air quality, human resources and supplier relationships.
So what is it that makes Chilean wines so accessible? I think the answer is simple. Within its long, thin borders lies a country that has the climatic diversity to produce wines that are so obviously New World but still has the ability to produce great Old World-style wines. Let's not forget that some vines are producing wines from pre-phylloxera rootstock. Vines were transported across before the pandemic struck out in the 1860's. This means that as a New World producer they can offer up wines for all tastes.