Chilean Offerings

Wine columnist Clare Morris has over 10 years’ experience in the drinks industry consulting with, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars across the UK. She is currently studying for a Diploma at the WSET London Wine and Spirit School.

Let’s face it, the Chileans had a pretty bad year last year. Incredibly, this time last year 33 miners were still trapped underground, awaiting their rescue which wouldn’t be until mid-October. The huge earthquakes which struck the country in February and March 2010 tragically destroyed lives and homes, but also much of Chile’s exports. Many thousands of cases and barrels of wine were lost from the 2009 harvest which represent a crucial part of the country’s economy.

Thankfully the Chilean wine market has a good enough reputation these days that will ensure its full recovery over time. Long gone are the days of Chilean wines occupying ‘house’ slots alone, and they are increasingly producing award winners in a range of styles and price points.

The miners missed out on celebrating their national day on September 18, which marks Chilean independence from Spain since 1810. I’m willing to bet that they, along with the winemakers, will be toasting a more successful year this time round. Why don’t we join them in a glass this month?

I’ve chosen some wines which you might not expect to come from Chile. When we think of South American wines we think of hot, baked grapes with concentrated fruit and high alcohol. However the beauty of Chile’s diverse climate and topography means that a whole range of grapes can be grown in their most suitable habitat – whether low or high altitude, cool or warm. Here’s a couple of wines that love the cooler climates available.

Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva

Is a great example of one of Chile’s growing hero wines. The Casablanca Valley is also gaining a great reputation for Pinot Noir as its cool temperatures allow a long and steady ripening period. This grape is known as the diva of the wine world because it’s so difficult to grow. Cherry and strawberry flavours dominate here with a silky finish – versatile enough to cut through rich pork and poultry dishes but also to partner vegetable concoctions. Just don’t try with venison! There’s a great range of options to try at the Duke of Cambridge in Farnham, hidden away amongst the pine trees of Tilford Wood, where you’ll find local and seasonal produce in abundance. In all fairness you can’t go wrong with the excellent sausage and mash here, although chicken stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in Parma ham would be equally hard to refuse.

Cono Sur Single Block Vision Gewurztraminer, Casablanca Valley

Gewurztraminer. From Germany and the Alsace, right? Surprisingly Chile Casablanca Valley is making a name for itself in this most fabulous of aromatic grapes. Cono Sur’s Single Block Vision Gewurztraminer has it all – lemon, lime, rose petal, violet, pear and lychee. Phew! A complex wine but pair it with the right food and it’s utterly divine. You’ll find some incredibly good food matches at the Mendip Inn in Oakhill, just outside Bath. The team comes from a mixture of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant and Rugantino Restaurant at Ancient Gatehouse – so the credentials speak for themselves. Gewurztraminer is great with cheese, spicy options and fish dishes due to its perfume, acidity and fruit flavours. Try the seared scallops and black tailed prawns to start, followed by goats’ cheese ravioli. One of the desserts even contains Gewurztraminer crystals – surely an excuse for another glass?!

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