Chile: Still a Teenager?

Although Chile has been producing wine for many years, the drive to match grape variety to both soil and region with its raft of concomitant factors of aspect, altitude, fog etc, is a concept not much older than my teenage daughter. Like any adolescent, Chile is still in the throes of discovering itself, deciding through experience, some triumphs and the occasional mistake, what to do and how to be.

The move towards greater regional delineation within Chile is somewhat confusing. The division of the landscape into three zones that run north to south: Costa (coastal) Entre Cordilleras (between the mountain ranges i.e it’s the flat bit) and Andes; sounds straight-forward but isn’t. Many of the valleys where viticulture thrives, run from east to west resulting in the likes of Limari, Elqui and Aconcagua having vineyards in two if not all three of these zones. Yet any confusion around zonal identity has not prevented some Chilean regions from producing wines that do have a sense of place. This is the Holy Grail not just for winemakers but for those marketing the wine and ultimately us the consumer. Why? Because it makes buying wine easier. Most wine-drinkers know what to expect from their glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Barossa Shiraz; Chileans in Leyda or Casablanca want to create a similar situation where the name of their region is definitively linked to both style and variety/s.

In a recent tasting of wines from Chilean producer San Pedro, in the company of their engagingly frank and amiable winemaker, Gonzalo Castro, wines in their more premium range were clearly expressing a sense of place. Chile may not have, as of yet, the same number of iconic wine styles as do the likes of Australia and the USA but an increased focus on matching place and variety bodes well for the post-adolescent phase of the Chilean wine industry’s development.

Below are the three wines from this San Pedro tasting that I found most engaging.

1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda, 2014, 13.5%
Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: Almost water white in colour with an overt, musk and passion-fruit character. Crisp acidity, fresh and with a moreish and palpable intensity.
Price: 1250NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Finesse 02-2795-5615

1865 Limited Edition Blend, Cachapoal Valley 2011, 14.5%
74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Syrah
Wine-making: 100% French oak of which 60% was new.
Note: Fragrant with a slight herbal edge letting you know that Cabernet is present. Bright, sweet, black and dark fruit, some grainy, mouth-coating tannin, fresh acidity and balanced alcohol make this a harmonious whole.
Price: 1550NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Finesse 02-2795-5615

1865 Limited Edition Syrah, Elqui Valley 2011, 14%
This was the most exciting wine. Deep purple with more black fruit than red, a little floral/violet character and some smoked meat. This really showed how good Elqui could be for Syrah as it seems able to provide density and freshness in equal measure, a region to watch over the next ten years.
Price: 1550NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Finesse 02-2795-5615

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