Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guild of Sommeliers - Wines of Chile Tasting: Undiscovered Gems of Chile

On April 26th I had the opportunity to attend a double-barreled tasting co-produced by the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation and the Wines of Chile and held at the Downtown-Fort-Lauderdale location of Morton's Steak House.  The goals of the event were met by a combination of the wines, the format, and the personnel utilized by the organizers.

The tasting was titled The Real Deal in Chile and was presented in two flights of six wines each.  The first flight was called Undiscovered Gems of Chile and met that moniker by providing unfamiliar varietals, or unique blends, or wines from unfamiliar regions.  The second flight was titled Icon Wines: Old and New and presented an opportunity to taste older and more recent vintages of three "Chilean Icons."  This flight also allowed us to taste similar vintages of some of the wines and so explore the impact of terroir.

The tasting was led by Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier and Wines of Chile Educator and he was assisted by Andrew McNamara (Master Sommelier, Premier Beverages) and Eric Hemer (Master Sommelier, Southern Wines and Spirits). Lori Tieszen, US Director of Wines of Chile, was also present at the event.

Given the large number of wines tasted at the event, I will cover the two flights as separate posts.  This post covers the first flight, Undiscovered Gems of Chile.  The wine regions of Chile have been covered in a prior post.

The first wine in this flight was the Falernia Pedro Ximinez Riserva 2010.  This wine is 100% Pedro Ximinez varietal grown in the semi-arid Elqui Valley.  According to Fred Dexheimer, Elqui is home to a number of agricultural products and they have only recently begun growing wine grapes there.  The Falernia winery, Chile's most northern estate, has been producing wine in the Elqui Valley since 1975.  In the region, the cold air from the snow-capped Andes causes the diurnal shift that is one of the enablers of high quality wine.  The soil in the vineyard is comprised of rubble, resulting from mountain erosion, and alluvial sand and silt from riverine deposits.  The grapes for the wine are handpicked and immediately pressed; fermentation in stainless steel tanks follows.  The alcohol is 13.5%.  This is a clean, fresh white wine exhibiting hints of peaches, pears and white fruits.  The wine has medium plus acidity and good weight on the palate.  Hemer indicated hints of grapefruit and citrus and was reminded of a Sauvignon Blanc minus the grassiness.  He attributed the wine's crisp acidity  to the cold evening temperatures in Elqui.  McNamara saw the wine as being a cross between a Sauvignon Blanc and an Albarino and thought that it would go well with seafood.

The second wine, Casa Marin Miramar Vineyard Riesling 2008, is a 100% Riesling from the family owned winery of the same name located in the San Antonio Valley.  The wine has green flecks in the glass and, on the nose, expressions of citrus, tropical fruits, petrol and a little asphalt.  On the  palate, high acid with a floral finish which is long but lean.  A hint of spiciness.  Hemer sees the petrol and lime as reminiscent of an Australian Riesling.  McNamara has the wine screaming minerality and as a "dead ringer for an Eden Valley Riesling."  This wine was fermented in stainless steel fermenters and the alcohol is 14.1%, rather high for a Riesling.  Dexheimer said that the pronounced petrol notes in the wine, normally a developmental characteristic of Riesling, suggests that this wine should be drunk early.

The third wine tasted was the Kingston Family Vineyards Alazan Pinot Noir 2009.  The Kingston Vineyards sit at 1640 feet elevation on 200 acres of a north-facing hillside of red clay loam and decomposed granite in the Casablanca Valley.  The valley's climate is mild, influenced by the surrounding hills and the cooling effects of the Humboldt Current.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir with alcohol levels of 14.5%.  The wine has an intense color and an initial sour note on the nose.  In addition, there are hints of walnut, red fruit, strawberries, and ripe tomato.  Rather complex nose with a back current of oiliness.  The wine expands slowly on the palate -- ripe fruit, vanilla, and spiciness.  This wine has good weight and a long finish.  The alcohol is apparent.

The fourth wine is the Morandé Edición Limitade Carignan 2007.  This wine is 100% Carignan with fruit planted in the Santa Elena Vineyard in the Lancomilla Valley of the Maule Region.  The grapes are hand-harvested and the selected fruit are subjected to cold maceration prior to fermentation.  The fermented juice is stored in medium-toast American oak barrels for 20 months.  The resulting wine is 14.5% abv.  The wine shows dampness and dankness on the nose initially along with hints of baking spices.  Red raspberry on the palate.  Somewhat austere with a hint of piney greenness coating the palate.

Wine 5 was the De Martino Single Vineyard "El León" Carignan 2007.  De Martino is the second largest organic wine producer in Chile and, in 2009, became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America.  Grapes for this wine come from a dry-farmed vineyard in the Maule Valley.  The vineyard is 90% Carignan, 5% Malbec, and 5% Carmenere, the same composition as is the final blend.  The wine is matured in French oak for 14 months before bottling.  There are hints of red fruit on the nose.  Weighty on the palate with a rich, round mouthfeel.  Creamy richness.

The sixth wine was the Emiliana Coyam 2008, a blend comprised of 41% Syrah, 29% Carmenere, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvedre, and 1% Petit Verdot.  Coyam means oak forest and references the ancient oaks surrounding the vineyard in Colchagua Valley.  The valley experiences a day-night temperature inversion during the summer and low rainfall during the course of the year.  The soil is alluvial with good drainage and moderate permeability.  The wine is fermented for 13 months in 80% French and 20% American oak barrels.  Alcohol is 13.5%.  This is an unusual blend and is deeply concentrated in the glass.  On the nose, a certain bramblyness, sweet baking spices, and black fruit.  On the palate juicy black plums, cassis and some blue fruit.  The wine opens with roundness on the palate but then falls off as the mid- and back-palate show a certain coyness.

The Icon Wines will be covered in a subsequent post.

No comments:

Post a Comment