Archive for the ‘chile’ Category

Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.



White Wine, Good Value and the Butterfly Effect

April 7, 2010

Not talking here of the white, fine hail that whipped me on my bike last evening, in Burnaby Heights, my hood. I want to feature a few whites that you should taste. Whites are ever more relevant in the market. I figure that, after a long time being sidelined by consumers, now that they are accepted by mainstream critics and writers, they start to shine. The more open you are  to enjoying something, the more you will enjoy it. Until last year I heard constantly “no, I don’t drink white” or “white wine gives me headaches” or even worse “they have lots of sulphites.” And lots of people still resist white wine; but a lot more are starting to appreciate it for what it is and for it can give to you. No red can exhibit the levels of refreshing acidity a good white can. And with good acidity, flavors are highlighted, focused, sharpened, delimited, underscored. Not to mention aromas. A red offering floral whiffs is like a few flowers, perhaps a bunch. A good aromatic white is like sniffing in the whole garden.

From the top.

Casas del Bosque 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. $17.99. Are you kidding me? 18 bucks for this Chilean gold medallist (Concourse Mondial du Bruxelles 08)? Geologists love minerals and critics love citrics and this one has both plus plenty of alluring fruit.

Jackson Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. You enjoy Sauv Blanc from New Zealand? This is the one you should pick. 20 dollars of pungent grass and persistent tropical, guava flavors that surf down your palate on a wave of shiny acidity. No wonder why the empty spots on the shelves.

Domaine de Grachies 2009. This blend from Cotes de Gascogne will turn heads –and open wallets- at 11.99. Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc join forces to render an impressive table white.

The Hermit Crab 2008 by D’Arenberg. $21.99. Oh yummy Viognier/Marsanne blend. Fleshy and refreshing, with solid pear fruit.

Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc. $10.49. When looking for a budget white, look at this cheapie. Tropical and limey, with vibrant acidity and  slight background “Southafrican” aromas. Another reason? Great label! Click on pic.

Two in the Bush 2008 Chardonnay. $20.95. Chardonnay lovers, rejoice. A basket of fruit led by ripe banana. Smooth, creamy and nicely oaked.

Claar Cellars Riesling. $22.99. A Southafrican sounding name for this Columbia Valley Riesling with checks in all the right boxes. Bright acidity, check. Lip smacking citrus, check. Sweet tropical fruit, check.

Go white. Have you heard of the Butterfly Effect? It works, its true. If all of us drink more white, the sun will show up more often. Serious.

More Wines of IVSA March 21st

March 30, 2010

The week before IVSA, Alejandro Salinas of Marful Consultants told me about some Garagiste wines from Chile they are importing. So I was curious to taste these new products. Finally, on the evening of the 21st at the Four Seasons Alejandro poured the Polkura 2006 Syrah from the Colchagua Valley. I had to concur with Alejandro’s comments: the Polkura deserves all the recent scores garnered left, right and center. 90 Parker points, 90 Wine Spectator, Gold Medal at Syrah du Monde 2008. Decidedly Languedoc-ish in style (must be the dash of Mourvedre and Grenache Noir), smoky and full flavored, plus a very attractive, classic packaging, this Syrah rivals that other Chilean delicious Syrah, the Montes Alpha. The Polkura will retail in Vancouver at around $29. Don’t miss it. 

Robert Smith of Wine Quest was pouring the increasingly popular Scurati Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007. I already lauded this product but there’s always better things to say about it. This unoaked Nero d’Avola is all about being jammy, plump, intense and satisfying. I am sure Vancouver wine enthusiasts will learn to love Nero d’Avola through this rendition. 24 dollars well spent. When Robert poured me a sip of the Brunello di Montalcino Col d’Orcia (a 2003, 92 Parker pointer) he knew I would love it. He asked me, however, for my thoughts on a market for this wine in the 375ml format (32 dollars). I totally believe people will snatch this one. The demi-bouteille market is decidedly full of room for growth. The nose on this wine is so densely packed with aromas of ripe fruit and tobacco and mineral that one might forget to drink it. On the palate, outstanding balance in the medium plus body and great staying power. 

Enoteca Bacco didn’t have the delicious –and rare- Vigna Pedale Nero di Troia on this edition. Where can you buy this wine? I must find out for the benefit of the reader. Instead, signore Bellantoni poured me some Chateau Mourgues du Gres, the 2008 Costieres de Nimes Les Galets Rouges. 92 Parker points for this 20 dollar bottle don’t come across as an exaggeration at all. One of my favorite reds of the night, seething with the spicy waft and red fruit marmalade of a well achieved Syrah-Grenache blend. All the charm of the appellation plus an Argentinian sweetness in the tannins. 

David Herman Wine & Spirits Merchants’ booth was pretty busy and with all good reason. They were serving the Benegas 2006 Luna Cabernet Sauvignon ($19) and the Benegas Don Tiburcio blend ($22), both hailing from Mendoza. The former confirms previous assessments with its ripe dark fruit, sweet tannin and juicy, peppery full-bodiness. The blend, a passé-touts-graines sort of mélange that includes Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon was a surprise indeed, a very well balanced, smooth blend. These two I knew from before but the surprise was the Paradou Viognier and the Paradou Syrah-Grenache. From Cotes du Ventoux and both at 14.99, these are the little siblings of the well established Pesquie (Les Terraces and Quintessence) line of products. At this price they deliver all the quality you would expect from such a competent winery.  

 Sabrina Hira, of Appellation Wine Marketing briefed me on a set of newcomers to Vancouver, the Decero wines from Mendoza. The fairly recent winery has been making waves from the start and the wines tasted here did not disappoint. The Decero Malbec 2008  ($25.99) keeps in line with the plummy, juicy, slightly rustic style that comes to mind when you think of a good drop to push down barbequed steak, lamb and sausages. An “asado” wine. At the same price, I enjoyed the Decero Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, which starts with a breeze of dark fruit and eucalyptus globulus. Rich and satisfying, I see a good future for this CabSav in Vancouver. The Mini Edicion Petit Verdot was the darling at this booth, a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec. Intense color and fragrant eucalyptus on the nose, medium body and dark fruited closing with a barrage of fine tannins falling on the palate like hail. Not everybody’s cup of tea (??) but surely will have a legion of loyal followers.

 The last Malbec of the night hails not from Argentina but from Australia and it is brought to Vancouver by International Cellars. The Bleasdale Second Innings  Malbec ($16) pleases with its rich plummy fruit and sweet, smooth tannins. You will not miss your Argentinian Malbec if you go for this one. From the Upper Galilee, where vineyards now thrive where decades ago tanks exchanged fire, Galil Mountain brings its Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of sweet fruit seethe in the warm nose, followed by a pleasant medium body. This wine is Kosher, tasty and inexpensive: it will set you back only 17 dollars.


La Minga Red Blend, Outstanding Value

June 15, 2009

Exclusive to Everything Wine, La Minga is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.minga red Medium bodied and smooth, this wine is a real bargain. Red fruit, acidity and alcohol enjoy a balance that is rarely found in a budget wine. Soft aftertaste, easy drinking and just perfect for a week day or a party.

Product: La Minga

Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Sur Andino

Origin: Apoquindo, Chile

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 10.99 (Everything Wine)

La Minga Chardonnay

June 15, 2009

Exclusive to Everything Wine, La Minga Chardonnay is again a really good deal for a wine priced LaMinga1 chardunder 11 dollars. Lightly oaked and lively, this product dodges the monikers of “fat”, “overoaked” and “overdone” that plagues inexpensive Chardonnays. Refreshing and with a pleasant finish, is a must for the recessionista wine lover.

Product: La Minga

Variety: Chardonnay

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Sur Andino

Origin: Apoquindo, Chile

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 10.99 (Everything Wine)

Grassy Sauvignon Blanc by Errazuriz

June 10, 2009

The invasion of drinks appropriate to this premature summer, which promises to be scorching in mid July, continues. From the Casablanca Valley, Chile’s powerhouse of white wine, comes this aromatic Sauvignon Blanc by the always reliable Errazuriz winery. Intense nose of sweet grass and gooseberry precedes a medium body with integrated acidity, refreshing and tongue-tingling. Flavors of green apple and lime reverberate in a medium finish for this good value summer sipper.

Product: Sauvignon Blanc

Variety: Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Errazuriz

Origin: Casablanca Valley, Chile

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 13.99 (Everything Wine)

Good Pinot Noir Without Breaking the Piggy-Bank

June 10, 2009

The cool evenings of the Limarí Valley in central Chile provide an excellent setting for growing Pinot Noir. tabaliTabalí takes advantage of this terroir to give us an elegant Pinot for the money. The nose is classic with strawberry, floral and light herbaceous tones. Tannin and acidity in check with the fruity, earthy and slightly jammy medium body, leading to the finish, which has a bit of cloves and is just a tad too alcoholic (mind that this quality of Pinot, coming from Burgundy would be $30-35). In its price range, Tabalí performs more than satisfactorily against popular Pinots from New Zealand, namely Mudhouse and Oyster Bay.

Product: Tabali

Variety: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2007


Origin: Limarí Valley, Chile

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 24.99 (Everything Wine)

Some Carmeneres are Better than Others

June 10, 2009

As Chile’s wine industry tries to affirm its signature grape –Carmenere- on the world stage, some results are cs_terranoble_reserva_06better than others. The Terra Noble rendition, from the Maule Valley, is a mixed bag of blessings and curses. Starting with the latter, it has a funky nose, very pronounced, reminiscent of decomposing matter. Past this point, this Carmenere is not bad, with jammy and dark fruit notes in the medium-plus palate. Earth, black cherry and capsicum are also part of the ensemble, although the organic -meaty- note persists and the herbaceous streak –a hallmark of Chilean reds- is more evident than what I would wish for. Good level of tannins and intensity of aroma and flavors will have a good synergy with BBQ’d meats. As a wine to sip on its own is no match for less expensive Carmenere varietals, like Cremaschi Furlotti or Anakena.

Product: Carmenere Reserva

Variety: Carmenere

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Terra Noble

Origin: Maule Valley, Chile

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 18.99 (Everything Wine)

Montes Alpha M. A Superb Blend

June 10, 2009

I had the good fortune to meet Aurelio Montes, winemaker of this prestigiousmontes alpha M Chilean house. Back then we shared and discussed his Selection and Alpha lines of products, all of which were consistent in quality and smoothness. I recently had the chance to try Montes’ top wine, the Montes Alpha M, a Bordeaux-style blend. Elegant and not too fruity, the wine displayed a good nose with black fruit and tobacco. The herbaceous streak that curses many Chilean reds was toned down and showed as a hint of mint. On the palate, this medium body red offers cedar, tobacco, chocolate, black cherry and fig flavors. High level of soft tannins and a long lasting finish make for a solid drink, with enough fruit level to give it ageing potential.

Product: Montes Alpha M

Variety: Bordeaux blend

Vintage: 2005

Winery: Vina Montes

Origin: Santa Cruz de Apalta, Chile

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: 82.99 (Everything Wine)

Equus Carmenere

May 30, 2009

equus carmenereA Carmenere with an atypical nose by Viña Haras de Pirque (viña, meaning vineyard, pronounced “veenya”). If the name of the product is indication of any quality, then they got it right, as this Carmenere, like a nervous equine, comes with a 15% alcohol kick. The wine is deep purple, inky. On the very pungent nose there is spice, red cherry, herbaceous tones and smoked bacon. Medium-plus body, vegetal and white pepper flavors accompany the dark fruit of the palate. Soft tannins and a finish with good persistence. I have tried other Carmenere varietal wines that are perfect to sip on their own, smooth and velvety. This one will surely be better appreciated with barbequed meats.

Alcohol Percentage: 15.0%

Product: Equus

Variety: Carmenere

Vintage: 2007

Winery: Viña Haras de Pirque

Origin: Chile

Alcohol: 15.0%

Price: 14.99 (Everything Wine)