|Geoffrey Dean blogs from Errazuriz vertical icon wines tasting|
|Written by Geoffrey Dean|
|Monday, 24 September 2012 16:02|
While the Goring in London may have gained appeal for housing the Duchess of Cambridge on the eve of her wedding to Prince William, many in the wine trade were lured to it last week for an altogether different reason. Hatch Mansfield, UK distributor for Vina Errazuriz, used the hotel in Victoria to lay on a remarkable vertical tasting of the icon wines of one of Chile's most notable wineries.
The celebrated Chadwick, Sena, Don Maximiano, Kai and La Cumbre brands were all there, making up a dazzling display of heavyweights. "Never before have we had all these icons together, and never before with such a range of vintages," Patrick McGrath MW, the wholesaler's managing director, said.
Drinking beautifully was the Chadwick 2000, the Cabernet Sauvignon single varietal which famously came first in the blind Berlin Tasting of January 2004 when leading European judges ranked it ahead of both the 2000 and 2001 vintages of Chateaux Lafite, Latour and Margaux (as well as Solaia 2000). The Sena 2001, which came second, was not available at the Goring, but the fourth-placed 2000 (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 6% Carmenere) was there and showing well.
It was hard to split these two great Chilean wines: both were multi-layered, boasting lovely fruit, beguiling complexity and great length. The tannins were soft and silky and each wine was perfectly in balance, the alcohol of 14% of both being barely noticeable. The Chadwick, though, is regarded as Chile's finest wine, and apart from the 2000, we tasted the 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010 vintages. The latter, a big wine of 14.5% with beautifully integrated tannins, has the potential ultimately to become the best of the lot.
By contrast, the 1996 vintage of the Sena and the oldest wine on display, the 1989 Don Maximiano Founders Reserve, both came in at 12.5% abv. Those days of lower alcohol levels are over for most Chilean red producers now, although Francisco Baettig, Errazuriz's executive winemaker who was present at the Goring, said he is trying to keep alcohol down where possible. Indeed, the 2010 Sena was half a degree lower (14% abv) than the 2009.
Sena's hillside vineyards, founded jointly by Eduardo Chadwick, the dynamic Errazuriz president and Robert Mondavi, has now been certified biodynamic. The Maximiano was named after Chadwick's ancestor, whose decision to break with contemporary convention and select a vineyard site in 1870, not in the outskirts of Santiago but to the north in the Aconcagua Valley, proved a beneficial legacy for future generations of the Errazuriz family. The 1989 was still remarkably fresh and had tremendous length. The beautifully balanced 1995 (95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc) was the most appealing of the three. The 2009 was a big wine with great structure and a long life ahead of it.
Of Errazuriz's heavyweights, only the fruit for the Chadwick, which is grown on an old polo field at the family home in the Alto Maipo Valley to the south of Santiago, is not produced in the Aconcagua Valley, which McGrath considers unique. "It's the only place in the world," he said, "where, in a single valley, there are all these different terroirs and you get so many different grapes grown - from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah in the coastal Aconcagua to the Bordeaux blends inland that are competing with the first growths."
The Aconcagua Costa wines had, McGrath revealed, impressed Goring tasters. So too did the Kai, the Carmenere single varietal, which McGrath only has in stock for six months of the year. "The biggest demand is for the Kai," he added. "It demonstrates how good a wine Chile can make from this grape. We also get small allocations of the Sena, which is snapped up in the Far East. Don Max is more available, but about four times more of it is made than the Chadwick. That is still Chile's number 1 wine, and the number 1 Parker-rated." For the record, Parker seems to have fallen completely for the Sena too, awarding it between 93-6 points for six consecutive vintages between 2003-8.
Errazuriz were the first winery in Chile to produce a Syrah single varietal wine, in 1996, and La Cumbre (meaning ‘The Summit'), which is made from the grape, does not disappoint. Its three vintages - 2001, 2008 and 2009 - were slightly overshadowed by the other stunning wines on show, but its quality is not in doubt. Big, rich and brassy - a cross perhaps between northern Rhone and Barossa examples of its kind. As the least expensive of the ‘fab five', it may even be the best value.