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09 July 2012

Chile: Viña Tabalí - Limarí

Viña Tabalí - Limarí Valley

Tabalí claims to be the first to have started planting in this northerly region in 1993 (now reaching a whopping 180 ha = 450 acres of vines), which might have raised a few eyebrows at the time as it's on the edge of the Atacama desert hence is pretty hot and dry, although being only about 30 km (less than 20 miles) from the ocean compensates for this (cool breezes, man). The company is mostly owned by Guillermo Luksic Craig and run by head winemaker Felipe Muller, whose team includes Christián Sepúlveda in the winery and Héctor Rojas in charge of vineyards. As you can see from the previously written snippet and older vintages reviewed underneath, I've been following Tabalí for a few years now and they seem to be making better and better wines. Their UK importer is Boutinot (£ prices below are approx retail in independent merchants), and their wines are also available in North America: more info @ www.tabali.com.

Reserva Viognier 2011 (13.5% alc.) - exotic peach aromas with yeast-lees edges, rich and rounded with apricot fruit vs juicy 'chalky' texture, long crisp finish. Very good. £8-£10
Reserva Pinot Noir 2010 (13.5%) - Lovely perfumed cherry tones, juicy and tasty with "sweet/savoury" edges, attractive ripe fruit and refreshing bite. £8-£10
Reserva Especial Pinot Noir 2010 (13.5%) - Smokier and edgier style, has a bit more grip and weight then fairly intense finish. Very good. £10-£15
Talinay Pinot Noir 2009 (14%) - Touches of oak, quite big mouthful with enticing perfumed "s/s" notes, a little tannin and fresh bite too, fair class overall. £15+
Reserva Syrah 2010 (14.5%) - youthful and ‘inky’ with a touch of oak, tight firm palate showing hints of chocolate oak, fair length though with sweet fruit vs dry tannins, closes up on the finish. Reasonable value at £9.49.
Payen 2007 (mostly Syrah, 14% alc.) - herby peppery nose with wild black fruits, subtle oak on a very concentrated palate, dry vs sweet texture and liquorice vs meaty finish. One of the best ones I tasted out of 50 Chilean Syrah/Shiraz wines last year (see link to report on those at the bottom). £15+
Reserva Especial red blend 2008 (mostly Syrah + Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot; 14%) - complex herbal berries with spicy edges, quite big and chunky with maturing savoury tones, attractive lush vs firm mouth-feel. Very good. £10-£15

And this is what I said and tasted five years ago by the way (copied from my Chile archive page): Their website says: "At 30º29’ latitude South, Limarí is currently Chile’s northernmost wine-producing region, although this is likely to change quickly as pioneering winemakers continue to push northward in search of new viticultural frontier." Indeed, according to Wines of Chile the Elqui Valley is the most northerly, although relatively recent for quality grape growing (there's only one major winery so far). Limarí is 400 km (250 miles) north of Santiago and close to the sea.
Fascinating, I hear you say, but there must be something special about the place, as I've now tasted a few very good wines from here. So, over to Tabalí (who, it has to be said, appear to have boosted their prices since winning a load of awards), tasted at Boutinot's tasting bash in the Tower of London (mind your head) in Feb 2007.

2005 Special Reserve Chardonnay - peachy and fresh v lightly buttered toast, nice acidity and elegant length. £17 87-89
2005 Special Reserve Pinot Noir - attractive herbal 'sweet and savoury' Pinot style with light creamy vanilla backdrop, soft v tangy mouth-feel. £17 87
2005 Special Reserve Shiraz - enticing smoked bacon and white pepper notes, firm and tangy v ripe and rounded finish. £17 87-89
2004 Special Reserve red blend (50% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Merlot 35% Syrah) - a bit reduced / funky on the nose? Piquant cassis and blackberry fruit, more concentrated than above with solid tannins and fresh bite too, needs time to come together. £20+ 88-90

More links to Tabalí and other Chile:

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.