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July 2021: new tasting feature covering the latest developments in Chile, from an online tasting hosted by Tim Atkin MW: Chile review 2021 masterclass.

Otherwise, this page includes articles and blogs on De Martino, Ventisquero (and John Duval), Tabalí, Leyda, Matetic, Nuevo Mundo, Casas Bosque, Errázuriz, Viña Casablanca, Carmen, Montes, Cono Sur, Luis Felipe Edwards, Concha y Toro, Santa Rita, Casa Marín, Caliterra, Secano Estate, Morandé, Darwin, Montgras, Raiz, Indomita, Tirazis, Cremaschi Furlotti. And Carmenere, Syrah, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

Most recent stuff on Chile is below with links to each post:
Varietal wines of the moment: Finest Valle de Leyda Chardonnay 2020 by Luis Felipe Edwards (April 2021).
Red & rosé wines of trying times: some great Pinot Noirs including Errázuriz Cuvée Aconcagua, Errázuriz Wild Ferment, Viña Casablanca Céfiro 'Cool Reserve' & De Martino Lote 02 (Jan 2021).
White wines of the cosmos: Cono Sur Viognier & Riesling Reserva, Zuncho Chardonnay Viognier (Luis Felipe Edwards) (Jan 2021).
Wines of the moment and other strange fruits: more Pinot Noir from Montes Limited Selection, Carmen Wave Series 'Right Wave', Root 1 by Ventisquero and Tierra y Hombre by M&S (Feb 2020).
Wine with Indian or Chinese: such as Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer (July 2019).
Winter wines of the moment: 'Taste the Difference' Pinot Noir by Errázuriz (Feb 2019).
Cabernet & Merlot: France, Chile, Australia: El Recurso Vineyard 'Block 18' Cabernet (Feb 2018).
Riesling: Australia, Chile, Germany, California: Cono Sur Reserva Especial (Oct 2017).
Syrah-Shiraz wines of the moment: Los Molles Reserva by Tabalí (March 2017).
Pinot Noir of the moment: Bubbly, Burgundy and Beyond: Cono Sur Sparkling Rosé Brut (Dec 2016).
American reds of the moment (North and South): Marques de Casa Concha Syrah (Oct 2016).
White grape varieties of the moment: Santa Rita 120 Chardonnay (Sept 2016).
Chile: Syrah, Pinot Noir and other wines of the moment: Casa Marín, Cono Sur, Caliterra, Secano Estate, Morandé, Darwin, Montgras, Tabalí, Raiz, Indomita, Tirazis, Cremaschi Furlotti, Santa Rita. (July 2016).
Chile: Viña Ventisquero & John Duval: featuring Grey Glacier, Pangea, Vertice, Enclave (Feb 2016).

North & South America wines of the momentErrázuriz and Secano Estate (Nov 2015).
Cabernet Sauvignon (April 2014).
'White of the mo' = Casas del Bosque Sauvignon (Dec 2013).

De Martino, Isla de Maipo
Carmenere vertical tasting and more (March 2012).

Marcelo Retamal 
Welcome to the "dark side of my winemaking," as De Martino's winemaker Marcelo Retamal put it, tongue in cheek, as we tasted the 2007 vintage of their single-vineyard Carmenere. Fortunately for us, he didn't don the full-monty black cape and dodgy breathing apparatus and convert to the dark side permanently. In fact, he saw the light again and came back down the righteous sky-walk of sensible winemaking and vineyard practices. So, this is the tale of one variety, that elusive Carmenere, its performance and potential over a measured period (vintages 1996 to 2010 and counting) from a certain site (Alto de Piedra, their "best vineyard" for it) and of "men" (to use a French-style macho "hommes" cliché): Marcelo, Sebastian and the rest of the De Martino family and winery team. The setting was a fascinating tutored tasting at the timeless Naval Club in the heart of London's Mayfair back in October 2011.
Alto de Piedra (meaning something like "rock high" or "top of stone") is a 5.5 hectare (14 acre) block found in the Isla de Maipo subzone of the Maipo Valley, not far from Santiago. 1996, noted below, was the first year they labelled this wine as a varietal Carmenere: "it was easier for us as we only had Carmenere here, with no Merlot mixed in." Unlike in most of Chile, by the way (another long, connected yet separate story...), when DNA tests definitively revealed that a lot of what people thought was Merlot was in fact Carmenere! "Fifteen years later, we've been trying to understand it and we're still learning!" Marcelo ventured. The vines shaping this wine were planted in 1992, and more were added here in 1997-98, which marks the transition from "conventional" viticulture (i.e. using systemic herbicides etc.) to organic with certification following in 2001.
A touch of geological and techno data is inevitably required to help paint a picture of what and why suits the successful growing of Carmenere, or doesn't, without getting too tedious I hope. The Alto de Piedra vineyard is ungrafted, meaning the vines are on their own rootstocks rather than grafted ones resistant to that vine pest phylloxera (among other things, depending...), which presumably means it hasn't reached this area, or isn't able to, otherwise this would be very risky. There are 4166 vines planted per hectare (not particularly dense although sounds about right given the water supply and soils here: see comments further on) in rows running east to west, which are trellised and pruned as 'double Guyot' (with two canes on wires). This method allows them to better control the amount of buds, shoots and then leaves they want per plant throughout the season, thereby balancing its vigour and what it produces.
We also learned that an important part of De Martino's organic farming process is the use of natural compost as fertilizer and "vegetation covering" between vine rows, including certain green plants in less vigorous spots (they return nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil) and grasses in more vigorous spots (increasing competition for water and nutrients). I rather like their term "flower-based wildlife corridors" in the vineyard, much more poetic than the over-trendy 'biodiversity' you see bandied around nowadays. Apart from these measures, they also have to resort to the classic organically sanctioned practice of sulphuring against oidium, or powdery mildew.
Isla de Maipo is formed of alluvial terraces (= created by rivers), where the Maipo River deposited volcanic rock brought from the Andes to the valley, well, a long long time ago (the Quaternary/Holocene Period I'm informed - geo-geeks can Google away to find out more). This rendered a mix of clay, silt, sand, stones and rock; you find more clay as you move towards the ocean and more sand as you move towards the mountains (with silt inbetween), moving on to more limestone or schist in the south. "Torres was one of the first here actually (the south, in the Maule region)... I think it could be interesting planting Carmenere in schist," Marcelo speculated excitedly. To get this variety to produce good quality, well-drained soils are crucial... "but not too dry!" he quickly added. "It needs a bit of clay here... it's better a bit further from the river but without too much sand or rock," and where any rocks are buried deeper in the soil (between one and two metres down).
Looking at the “detailed files” provided alongside each vintage tasted (don’t panic, I’ll be selective…), the harvest dates stand out as a good lesson in how methods and wine styles changed almost from one extreme to another, then took a couple of steps back again in a saner direction. The Carmenere grapes for the 1996 and 1997 were picked in the last week of March, which jumped to mid April in 1998 and steadily increased each vintage to a mid May picking date in 2003. Things started happening a little earlier again in 2007, and harvesting took place on April 23 and 22 in 2009 and 2010, which is now the norm more or less. In fact, 2011 was picked at (only) 13% potential alcohol, “although with no greenness in the grapes.” Well, so what?
As Marcelo confirmed: "we're not picking so late now to control the alcohol." Looking at the alcohol content of the vintages skimmed over above, it went from around 12.5% soaring to a head-banging high of towards 15% in 2003 and 2005 (thanks to picking later and later); then edged downwards as those critical dates were slowly reined in. This was happening, and still is to an extent, just about everywhere else in the world too, and can be attributed to fashion, basically, kickstarted by globe-trotting consultants obsessed with total fruit ripeness (especially red grape tannins on the skins and in the pips) at the expense of balanced final alcohol in the wine. "Although here, the pips are never totally ripe anyway," our man also commented.
At the same time, it's telling to glance over the winemaking data that goes hand in hand with this trend. Later picking and hence higher alcohol were accompanied by longer wood-ageing and using more new French oak - peaking in 2006 at 19 months and 100% respectively - as well as pushing up the total maceration on skins (meaning greater extraction). Except in 2001 for some reason, which was one of my favourites in the line-up and saw 14 months maturation in 25% new oak casks, although for sure those ten-ish years in bottle have bestowed a certain amount of charm too. Their barrel-buying and -ageing policy has since been overhauled, which should shine through in the wines from vintage 2011: see below (at the end of the tasting notes) for more details. Well, they say you learn from your mistakes, and having the courage to change fashion perhaps, and Marcelo's refreshing honesty helped put all these ideas and techniques nicely into context with the wines. As he threw in mischievously at one point: "I prefer Bordeaux from the 90s and earlier, as they all taste the same now!"
Finally, the conversation with and probing questions to Marcelo and Sebastian turned to general trends in viticulture in Chile. De Martino already works with 22 growers from north (Elquí) to south, "so we can source varieties as per region, such as Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca, Chardonnay from Limarí..." One possible future vineyard site with potential has been pinpointed to Coyhaique in the far south (Chilean Patagonia), "on the same latitude as Central Otago," (roughly between the middle and south of New Zealand's South Island) which is quite cool and wet. "Maybe in the north too although it's very dry,Sebastian pitched in. Marcelo also believes there's "more future at altitude, heading into the Andes up to 1000 metres, rather than (more) coastal vineyards. And Carmenere is too green if it's too near the ocean, it's best in the middle."
Chile's fairly unique geography/geology can be neatly summarized as: "from Aconcagua Valley (north of Santiago) heading north, there aren't any flat valleys in between (the sea and Andes), just hills or mountains. Heading south, the rollercoaster terrain forms, pretty consistently, a pattern of (left to right, so to speak) "sea then coastal hills then valleys then the Andes." Most of the rock is volcanic - there still are "lots of volcanoes... and earthquakes every 25 years or so" - creating ash soils around Santiago, for example, "which is no good for varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon... but, in the south, there's a new area with Sauvignon Blanc planted on ash that's very good." Chile's various rivers flowing from the mountains through the valleys have created alluvial terraces, as mentioned earlier. Hence, we return conveniently to Carmenere: "the key thing is it isn't a cool climate variety but it's not a very warm one either." Marcelo continued: "I think an average summer temperature high point of 26 to 28 degrees (C) is best... not (much) over 30 or under 25." In addition, around 900mm of rainfall per year is ideal: over 1000 is too much yet much less than the former is too dry. Fussy little sod isn't it!
Refer to further comments on climate, vineyard and winemaking weaved into my notes, which seemed relevant to particular characteristics of certain vintages. Photos taken from demartino.clOh, another thing: you may well raise an eyebrow over my use of "soy sauce" in tasting notes referring to Carmenere! I guess it's that certain kind of slightly elusive 'sweet / savoury' or 'tangy vs rich' characters that are a little unique to wines based on this variety; and I pinched the expression from Ed Flaherty, one-time winemaker at Errazuriz among others who now runs his own consultancy business. Also interesting to note perhaps is this story posted recently on Decanter.com suggesting a reawakening in the variety's homeland, so to speak: Bordeaux 2011: Brane Cantenac to use Carmenere in Grand Vin.

Organic Carmenere

1996 Santa Inés Carmenere (the wine was originally called this, 12.3% alc.) – quite browny/orange on the edges vs purple/black/brown hues in the middle; intriguing herbal minty notes vs roasted red pepper and 'soy sauce' vs cassis and liquorice hints, quirky and complex turning meatier with light 'tar' tones even. Similar taste profile with dark soy and liquorice flavours, ripe 'sweet' vs savoury fruit and soft melted tannins; quite elegant with tasty mature finish, although there's still a touch of freshness and bite; subtle finish with tangy herby vs sweet maturing fruit. Very good.
1997 Santa Inés Carmenere Legado de Armida (12.6%) - similar colour but a little deeper; richer 'sweeter' nose with vanilla undertones, less herbal and red pepper with more dark soy, black cherry and savoury notes; maturing 'cheesy' undertones too, more Bordeaux like. A little rounder and grainier vs sweeter fruit too, a touch more tannin vs black cherry and liquorice with peppery edges; still quite lively although the tannins are drying a little vs sweeter oak/fruit (this was a warmer drier vintage than above). Perhaps has more up-front charm yet is less interesting in the end.
1998 De Martino Carmenere Reserva de Familia (13.6%) - much deeper purple ("smoke on the water...") in colour with lightly browning edges; coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and dark chocolate dominating the nose vs gently maturing dried red fruits and slight red pepper undertones. More textured mouth-feel with firm vs rounded profile, liquorice and ripe raspberry/cherry fruit flavours; weightier palate but not too much alcohol, it's concentrated as well with subtle wild herb nuances vs sweet fruit and chocolate, still fairly solid vs complex mature notes. Attractive style and length, more seductive because of the oak perhaps!
1999 De Martino Carmenere Reserva de Familia (14.1%) - similar colour to above, a tad deeper perhaps; back to hints of herby red pepper vs fuller alcohol weight, darker fruit and grainy coconut oak. Pretty full-on chunky style, a little out of kilter showing too much grainy oak and extracted tannins; more 'impressive' to taste maybe but overall it's clumsier, harder and has less character.
99 was a very dry vintage, which probably partly explains those tannins: there was no rainfall at all in spring and just 58mm over the year! Compare this to the, from memory, ‘El Nino’ year of 98 which brought buckets of rain (759mm); and it's difficult to give a norm looking at the data for all vintages we tasted here. Excluding these two extremes, it ranged from under 200mm to over 500mm per year, which would put this area on a par with dry Mediterranean wine regions.
No wine available from 2000 and 2004 vintages because of earthquakes that destroyed their cellar and stock!
2001 Santa Inés Carmenere Legado de Armida (14.1%) - quite dark colour and more subdued nose with alcohol tones and spicy wild berry fruits; fairly closed up at first with firm punchy palate, concentrated though with underlying red pepper and soy sauce vs liquorice and black cherry. Tight solid mouth-feel although has nicer tannins than the 99, fair power too but shows much better balance the 99; long 'sweet/savoury' vs spicy and structured finish. Very good, still more to come.
2002 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.6%) - much richer purple/black colour with lush dark cherry/berry fruit vs herbal edges, hints of soy and liquorice too plus a splash of choco/coco oak. Chunky tannins and punchy alcohol, again another tasting competition monster with extracted tannins and grainy oak, very grippy still with unbalanced clumsy finish.
Marcelo added in continuing candid style: "this wine was very popular and liked at the time, now I think it's the worst!"
2003 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.8%) - blackish/purple colour, malty biscuity coco oak on the nose with roasted red pepper undertones vs richer black fruits. Big 'impressive' palate, concentrated and extracted with high alcohol and rounded texture, quite grainy too with dry coating; sweet vs minty flavours and tobacco tones, powerful finish although this wine carries it better and is less OTT than the 02.
2005 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.8%) - more complex and savoury with dark soy and spicy peppery aromas, floral black cherry/berry vs red pepper and maturing tobacco notes. Concentrated lush and powerful vs more attractive tannin structure and style with better balance, enticing 'sweet' fruit with spicy edges, texture and grip but not too heavy handed.
2006 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.7%) - black cherry and sweet oak aromas, dry grainy texture vs ripe fruit vs alcohol; a touch overpowering and peppery although has a lot of extract and coated tannins vs sweet/tangy berry. Again 'impressive' and a bit clunky, although there's a certain amount of natural concentration underneath.
2007 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.5%) - slightly dusty grainy oak with biscuit and vanilla notes, a little tart vs punchy on the palate with oomph roundness and sweet black fruits vs high acidity (and alcohol). The choco coco oak lingers a bit, and it lacks charm with that tart vs 'sweet' and punchy combo. This was one of the coolest vintages. As Marcelo said, this typifies the "dark side" of his winemaking!
2008 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.1%) - biscuit and coco tones with black cherry vs herbal edges and back to 'soy' again; rich and gripping mouth-feel, less punchy though with similar sweet fruit and dark choc profile as above. Big chunky mouthful showing more of those 'tar' and tobacco notes, still quite hard tannins/acid yet it does have more charm than some of the previous ones.
From this vintage, Marcelo explained that "we started to change our thinking, but it was only with 2011 that we actually changed the winemaking equipment."
2009 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (14.4%) - similar nose but more closed up; coco grain with dry grip and punchy on the palate, pretty lush and concentrated though with dark wild berry, liquorice, tobacco and savoury hints too. Muscular finish yet definitely better balanced; good stuff in the end, should come together more over the next few years. One of the hottest years, by the way.
2010 De Martino Carmenere Single Vineyard, Alto de Piedra (13.6%) - much more youthful berry and black cherry fruit vs minty spicy and red pepper edges; rich and concentrated with lovely pure fruit vs dark soy and wilder notes, chunky tannins and grip but much nicer texture, power/alcohol is better integrated on a tight structured backdrop. Shows a classy touch with good length, depth and lingering vibrant ripe cassis fruit and peppery tones; lovely wine.
The 2011 harvest was picked at (only) 13% potential alcohol, “although with no greenness in the grapes.” They also decided "not to buy any more new barriques (225 litres) this year," but are buying 5000 litre tuns (from Austria); the wine will age in two- then three-year-old barrels from now onwards. Look forward to trying it/them...

And these Carmeneres (including one of the wines above), and an old-vine Carignan actually, were tasted on De Martino’s UK importer's stand, Les Caves de Pyrene, at the Wines of Chile annual trade show a few weeks before:
2010 Estate Carmenere, Maipo (13.5% alc.) - nice 'soy sauce' and red/black cherry tones on the nose, attractive soft-ish palate with 'sweet/savoury' flavours. £8-£10.
2010 Legado Carmenere, Maipo – more concentrated with 'soy' and darker fruit profile, tangy tight mouth-feel showing more substance; less obvious at this stage but should develop nicely. £10-£15
2009 Single Vineyard Carmenere 'Alto de Piedras', Maipo (14%) - quite rich and concentrated with touches of chocolate/coconut oak and dark 'soy' fruit, weighty and firm palate vs lusher finish. Still young, good stuff though.
2009 Single Vineyard Carignan 'El León' (50+ year-old vines, 14.5% alc.) - soft 'sweet' fruited palate, quite intense and delicate yet full-bodied too, attractive lingering 'sweet/savoury' flavours and long finish. Very good.

Viña Ventisquero & Pangea

A tutored tasting led by Ventisquero's head winemaker Felipe Tosso Bruna and John Duval, slightly well-known consultant for their Pangea "icon wine" (to use the marketing babble-speak), proved to be a laid-back and educational medium for launching the 2005 vintage. John's name may be familiar: he was Penfold's Grange winemaker for 29 years before setting up his own label in 2003. Ventisquero is baptized after a glacier, and apparently there's a particularly grey one (probably all that pollution drifting down from North America): hence the name of three of these wines.
Grapes are sourced from the company's "coastal vineyards" - relatively, then again Chile is essentially one very long coastline quickly followed by small mountains, narrow valleys then big mountains - in Maipo, Rapel, Casablanca and Apalta (Colchagua region, 160 km/100 miles southwest of Santiago). The latter valley (pic.) houses the Syrah for making Pangea, more specifically a selection from two main blocks at 250m/800 feet altitude, where vine age is only 8 years (bodes well for future quality looking at what they're already getting). Otherwise it's a high-tech viticulture, oak (new, French, longer) and bottle-age thing (they say 12 months before release).
These wines are mostly listed in restaurants in London and certain posh wine shops like Roberson (Kensington) and Harrods, for about £25-£30 (ambitious, then again owner Gonzalo Vial has sunk $50 million into the brand I'm told). Anyway, here are my (rather long-winded) notes and scores on the half-dozen premium reds tasted at London's Vinopolis on 26/6/2007:

2004 Ventisquero Grey Merlot - plus a touch of Cab Sauv; 04 was a cool vintage for the area. Perfumed and floral with light red pepper complexity, plum and rhubarb fruit tones; nice texture with chocolate oak backdrop, ripe v tart fruit, quite elegant and well balanced; also shows subtle intensity with fresh acidity, fine choc tannins, weight of alcohol and slightly bitter blackcurrant and plum twist. 87+
2005 Ventisquero Grey Carmenère
- plus a touch of Syrah and Cab Sauv; 05 was a more generous vintage. Richer black cherry and olive even with soy sauce and leafy red pepper notes, more powerful alcohol and again the oak's not too obvious; bigger mouth-feel, a little more choc and spice in fact, fresh bite v fuller alcohol but not over the top; sweet v sour fruit, attractively textured tannins and elegant length. 87+
2005 Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon
- plus 15% Syrah. Enticing blackcurrant raisin and plum fruit, a tad of wood spice and perhaps the Syrah comes through too; a little more vanilla than choc oak, adding sweet texture v blackcurrant and blueberry fruit, again has that herbal dimension; oakier style yet shows more concentration, alcohol weight comes through although still has fresh bite, firmer but rounded tannins; nice finish although the oak is a little intrusive, however this wine has vibrancy and depth of fruit. 88+
2005 Ventisquero Vertice Carmenère Syrah
- herbal notes on fragrant black cherry and olive fruit, light choc and coco oak; tastes more toasted on the palate yet concentrated and weighty, chunky sweet fruit v compact tannins; a little hot and toasty at the mo, should come together better as structure and depth are present. 89+
2004 Pangea Syrah
- plus 5% Cab Sauv. Fairly charred coco oak with herbal spicy black cherry underneath, quite complex nose actually; juicier fuller palate, nice fruit purity v choc oak texture, again sweet v sour character; quite punchy but fresh, moving towards delicate on its length; tightens up on the finish, promising: hopefully that oak will integrate successfully. Tasted again a bit later, a currant sweetness is already developing. 88-90
2005 Pangea Syrah
- richer black cherry and olive fruit with peppery wild herb edges, aromatic and pure, the oak sits better in the background; attractive cherry fruit v solid dry tannins with mouth-coating texture, the alcohol kicks a little but this certainly has depth and concentration. Ripe v fresh v toast v alcohol, it needs to come together but should go further than the 04; similarly coming back to it, there's a sweetness and vibrancy beginning to show. 90+

Latest 'Grey' Syrah 2009 tasted here.

Viña Tabalí - Limarí Valley
Update here (July 2012).

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 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 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

Viña Casa Marín - San Antonio
Update here (March 2012)!

Continuing the geeky 'Chile's xxx-est' extreme location theme, the Casa Marín winery and vineyards are found in the San Antonio region "only 4 km from the coast... currently Chile's closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean," as their website duly informs us. This new-ish wine area is west of Santiago and south of the more established Casablanca valley. Anyway, enough of the geographical blah blah; here's a few of Casa Marín's tasty wines, sampled at Boutinot's tasting in the Tower of London (mind your head again) in Feb 2007:
2006 Cipresses Sauvignon Blanc - piercing grapefruit and green pepper aromas set the scene for good weight on a rounded, off-dry leaning yet still fairly intense finish. £12.50 87-89
2005 Estero Sauvignon Gris - oilier showing fatter citrus fruit, quite rich with creamy edges, nice bite on its entertaining finish. £13.50 87-89
2004 Lo Abarca Pinot Noir - a bit oaky to start but soon reveals quite sexy 'sweet and savoury' Pinot style, freshness v gentle fruit. Not a bargain though at £18.50. 89-91

Gold & Trophy winners reviewed May 2006

The third inevitable instalment of this yearly competition was held in Santiago back in January 2006, and I had the opportunity to taste most of the trophy and gold medal winners at the London Wine Fair in May. Convincingly proves that Chile is making some excellent wines, and many of them still at affordable prices. Highlights: Don Max Estate (pic. right), Cono Sur, Arboleda, Leyda, Falernia, Matetic, San Pedro, Terramater, Lurton, Santa Rita Casa Real and Viu Manent.
I've only included 90 pointers, in my humble opinion, which is a bit clinical and 'life begins at ninety'; but I wasn't so enamoured with other wines e.g. Malbec and Carmenère. Make a mental note of which regions these wines come from: not just a coincidence that the best areas for Sauvignon, Chardy and Pinot are Casablanca, Leyda etc; and Cachapoal, Colchagua, Aconcagua for Merlot, Cabernet... There are also new things from Errázuriz here including the sublime 2002 Viñeda Chadwick. Prices and stockists quoted are in the UK; contact the wineries for outlets in other countries.


2004 Visión single vineyard Riesling, Viña Cono Sur, Bío Bío Valley - classic perfumed oil and honey aromas lead to a citrus and mineral palate, graceful yet energetic with long intense, 'savoury' finish. £7.99 Majestic & the Wine Society. 92+

Trophy: best value white

2005 reserve SB, Viña Valdivieso, Casablanca Valley - piercing gooseberry and grapefruit nose, zingy mineral tones v blackcurrant leaf fruit; very crisp and long with attractive intensity, needs goats cheese! £7.49 Bibendum Wines. 90+
Trophy: Sauvignon
2005 SB, Viña Arboleda, Leyda Valley - more herbaceous blackcurrant leaf than above, complex and subtle; slightly fatter citrus palate yet crisp and fine with softer finish. £8.99 Select Vineyards/Lay & Wheeler. 92

2004 Lot 5 wild yeast Chardonnay
, Viña Leyda, Leyda Valley - deliciously pure and creamy with green fruit intensity underneath, well handled toasty oak, fat v crisp acidity; has power but also nice oily buttery fruit then fresh length. £10.95 Harrods & the Wine Society. 92+

2004 20 Barrels limited edition Chardonnay, Viña Cono Sur, Casablanca Valley - smokier yet more complex nose too, tropical and buttery v toasty v fresh green bite; weighty with some elegance, although still finishes a touch cloying. £12.99. 90

2005 Pinot reserve, Casas del Bosque, Casablanca Valley - light touch of coco oak but also offers pure red fruits with savoury herbal and smoky edges; silky sweet 'n' savoury fruit with fresh firm mouthfeel, needs 6 months+ to open up. Serious bargain at £7.49 from everywine.co.uk. 90+

2004 Lot 21 Pinot, Viña Leyda, Leyda Valley - seductive smoky sweet 'n' savoury aromas, quite rich berry fruit on the palate then tarter and more structured than above; good balance of fruit v salty notes v fresh acidity. £12.95 Harrods & the Wine Society. 90+


2004 Don Reca limited release Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, Viña La Rosa, Cachapoal Valley - herbal rustic plum and berry fruit, pretty concentrated powerful and firm yet has depth of fruit, smoky complexity and nice length. £9.99 Hedley Wright wine merchants. 90+

2004 single vineyard reserve Malbec, Viña Valdivieso, Lontue Valley - perfumed and plummy with more generous fruit than the other malbecs; spicy raspberry intensity leads to solid yet rounded palate, ending up quite elegant and intricate. £10 Bibendum Wines. 90+

2005 Carmenère, Viña Echeverría, Central Valley - slightly reductive, earthy spicy and inky tones, nice tangy liquorice fruit with softness v firm and fresh bite; impressive for the price. £5.99 Avery's, casevalue.com, everywine.co.uk. 89
2004 Casa la Joya Carmenère reserve, Viña Bisquertt, Colchagua Valley - soy sauce and herb overtones, tangy liquorice mouthfeel showing quite soft texture then chunky weighty finish. £7.99. 89

2004 Alta Tierra Syrah, Viña Falernia, Elqui Valley - spicy smoked bacon nose then rich meaty palate, sexy black fruits with savoury tones, light toasty oak v plump texture, firm yet rounded. £7.49 Laithwaites. 93+
Trophy & Best Wine of the Show
2004 EQ Syrah, Viña Matetic Vineyards, San Antonio Valley - complex wild aromas with tar and blackberry backdrop, powerful and concentrated yet somehow understated; rich texture without extraction, harmonious framework of tannin/acid/alcohol, very promising. £18 Stone Vine & Sun, Oddbins. 95+

Latest Matetic here.

2004 CS select reserve, Viña Porta, Aconcagua Valley - savoury cassis nose leads to solid meaty yet sweet-edged palate; offers fair class for the price. £7.99 Thresher. 90+
2002 '1865' CS reserva, Viña San Pedro, Maipo - intricate wild herb and blackcurrant aromas, lush concentrated and funky, tight tannins on a long finish. £10. 92-94
2004 Altum reserve CS, Viña Terramater, Curico - less forthcoming and firmer than above, pretty thick cassis and herb flavours lurking underneath; powerful structured yet fruity with considerable length. £10.95 92-94
2003 Gran Araucano CS, Jacques & Francois Lurton, Colchagua Valley - spicy oak tinged with herbal cassis fruit, chocolate tones yet funky too; solid and strong displaying austere yet luscious ripe fruit. Wow, needs time. £19.95 Corney & Barrow. 94+
2002 Casa Real CS, Viña Santa Rita, Alto Jahuel (Maipo) - Smoky cassis v red pepper notes, rustic richness v muscular tannins but deliciously drinkable too. £19.99 everywine.co.uk. 95
2003 Don Maximano founder's reserve, Viña Errázuriz, Aconcagua Valley - complex berries and wild herbs develop to plum pudding and chocolate, compact and weighty with closed up finish showing hidden subtleties. £21.99 Thresher. 95

2004 Semillon late harvest, Viña Viu Manent, Colchagua Valley - gorgeous marmalade and orange peel, exotic fruit v zesty lime; luscious and sweet v tight acid framework cleansing the mouth; lovely and great value. £7.95 half-bottle El Vino. 95

Viña Errázuriz new releases

2005 Wild Ferment Chardonnay - aromatic and pungent with creamy backdrop and subdued oak, toasty yet cut by zesty fruit and acidity. 89+
2005 Wild Ferment Pinot Noir - perfumed 'sweet n savoury' style with nice bite and freshness set against cherry fruit and subtle oak. 89
2004 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon - attractive ripe cassis with tangier herbal notes, powerful yet elegant and long. 89
2004 La Cumbre Shiraz - smoky bacon and black fruit nose leads to chocolate texture and firm peppery finish. 88+
2004 Caliterra reserve Malbec - spicy and rustic raspberry tones, soft yet crunchy mouthfeel with lovely fruit. 90
2002 Viñeda Chadwick, Maipo (Cabernet Sauvignon) - complex herbal cassis, earthy yet refined too, richness v firm structure, vigour and class. 95


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