Chile Revisited

Back in November I wrote a piece entitled ‘Chile: Still a Teenager?http://sniff.com.tw/?p=579. The question being asked was whether Chile was on the cusp of a potentially exciting adulthood or still stuck in a period of indecision about its identity. Having recently read Jancis Robinson’s illuminating report (http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/the-new-chile) on the palpable sense of change that she feels is being experienced in Chile and following conversation with Taiwan’s own Stephanie Lee during her trip to this most elongated of countries, I felt a rapid re-assessment of my previous post was in order.

Some twenty-five years ago, the wine producers of the Languedoc in southern France, realised that they could produce oodles of ‘easy’ wine capable of competing with the same fruit forward styles emanating from the New World. Since this phase in their history, many in the region have become more interested in the grapes and places that first shaped the Languedoc as a vinous entity. This has lead to a greater appreciation of previously maligned varieties such as Carignan (especially the old vines) and to the delineation of particularly prime sites such as the Boutenac ‘Cru’ in Corbieres. The same elemental change appears to be happening in Chile.

Pais is a grape variety with which you are most likely unfamiliar. It was brought to South America by the Conquistadores and has been used for making brandy and cheap plonk ever since. Deemed rustic, acid and low in fruit (a commonly held view of the aforementioned Carignan), old vine Pais is now being championed as a variety capable of much more. The ‘re-discovery’ of Pais, is a significant step in Chile’s maturation to ‘adulthood’. Chile never needed to fashion expensive Bordeaux style blends to be deemed successful or ‘mature’, but it did need to create, or be associated positively with, a style or variety all of its own (think Argentina and Malbec). Pais from its historical home south of Santiago in the regions of Maule and Itata, can be that variety as the two wines reviewed below amply demonstrate.

Torres, Reserva de Pueblo, Pais, 2012, 12%
Grape: Pais
Wine-making: Some carbonic maceration which helps soften the tannins and maximise the berry like fruit style.
Note: Bright eyed and bushy tailed this is exuberant and delicious reminding me of a cross between Beaujolais’ Gamay and Southern France’s Cinsault but with a little of Carignan’s pleasant rusticity. Medium in body and light(ish) in alcohol, this is perfect red wine for lunches and for serving cellar cold as the temperatures begin to rise with the arrival of Spring. Delicious.
Price: Currently available at a promotional price of 499NT, a rare and real bargain for Taiwan, buy some.
Score: 15.5-16/20
Available from: www.finesse.com.tw 

Torres, Estelado, Rosé Sparkling, Pais, 12%
Grape: Pais
Wine-making: Traditional method (like Champagne). 9 months on lees in bottle and only 9g/l dosage (so Brut style)
Note: Without any confection and showing some real elegance this is one of the best sparkling wines I’ve had at this price point for a long time. Fresh, zesty and red-fruited, a welcome change from the ubiquitous Prosecco.
Price: Very good value
Score: 16/20
Available from: www.finesse.com.tw

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