Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
Q: Guru, what wine should I drink to forget about Donald Trump?
A: One with a high alcohol content!
Q: I'm trying to impress a lady. Should I give her Champagne in a bath?
A: When I want to impress Lady Amanda I usually fill a bath with Champagne!
Q: Have you ever thought about owning a vineyard?
A: I love visiting vineyards, but I'm a man who likes to put the minimum of effort into his drinking. It is just too much like hard work.
Q: What's your favourite wine book?
A: One that tells me where I can buy the cheapest wine!
Q: What is a sensible time to have a glass of wine?
A: Just after you get up in the morning. Don't drink in bed as red wine stains can be a devil on the sheets!
Q: Where is your next wine adventure?
A: I leave the planning to Tony and he's mentioned somewhere exciting, beautiful and alcoholic. I think it will be revealed in the next edition of Winefullness.
Q: Who is your wine guru?
A: That will be my grandfather. He thought that the way to a man's heart was through his wine collection!
Questions and Answers
The Last Edition
Just a quick reminder of what was in the last edition.
A Stay at The Vineyard
(Well maybe not all things, because we've sent The Guru to crash the party)
I imagine that until a few years ago the wines of Chile would have started and ended with Carignan and some cheap red concoction without a suitable viticultural area to call it's own. Now, when wine enthusiasts get together to party, Chile brings the enthusiasm, the excitement and a range of flavours that are showing what can happen when investment is placed into areas where variety and experimentation are king (or queen. Let's not be sexist about this).
An ideal climate, variety of soil types and an unusual lack of diseases that seem to grip vineyards the world over have all played their part, but there is so much more to Chilean wines that can be dealt with in such a short article.
At first, it was their love of French wines that lead producers on a quest towards Bordeaux varieties. It was suddenly discovered that a lot of the Merlot they were growing was actually a nearly extinct variety called Carmenere and in next to no time Chile had developed it's own point of difference, and it has not been slow at using the grape to create exciting variations on a theme.
Chile is so much more than just one grape variety though, and recently I attended an online tasting of fifteen wines where producers were eager to demonstrate what has been taking place in the vineyards and laboratories of that interesting destination. They ranged from an earthy Sauvignon Blanc originating in the Casablanca region to a Pinot Noir from Malleco, via a Syrah coming from Limari, and all had something of interest to bring to the party (yes, I'm trying to make their wines sound as fun as they taste).
What still surprises me, as I write this, is the cost of these Chilean wines. Sure, there are one or two heavy hitters (VIK £110) but they are producing so many wines that are so inexpensive and beautiful that they are begging to be taken home (regularly) and when the public outside of Chile and the wine loving fraternities of the world latch on this industry it's going to have a hell of a job keeping up with demand.
1: Casa del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc Reserva - Casablanca £12
Tangy fruit, peach lychee, pineapple, grass, green pepper, white pepper, grapefruit, pungent earthy, are waiting patiently to grab the attention. For a Sauvignon this is so clever because it's so different. You can taste those Pacific influence and it takes a lot of New Zealand makes it grow.
2: Viña San Pedro Tayu 1865 Pinot Noir - Malleco£16
What a Beautiful colour and a simple taste of lovely dark strawberries, peppers and cherries. At the end there's spice and red fruit. A wine with potential. Keep an eye on this one!
3: Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir Casablance £40
This is a darker ruby colour than I would expect. Flowing bouquet, even before the nose dives in. The odour is jammy with heat. There's medium acidity and that wonderful mixture of strawberry and red cherry with hints of cream. Bags of flavour with red fruit continuing, cherry cola and white pepper coming strongly through. It's a medium to long finish and tickly tannins.
4: Casa Martin Miramar Syrah Lo Abarca - San Antonio £34
Pepper comes through first, followed by minerality and salt on the nose. It's quite a full-bodied number with high acidity, zingy tannins and flavour sof pepper, stone and box wood
5: Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserve Tarapacá Carmenere - Maipo £15.25
A wonderfully dark blackcurrant colour greets the eye. There's an initial woody nose and light red fruit smell before the liquorice and blackcurrant sweets start. A lovely dusty fruit grows in the mouth and the get out is fizzy, leaving a spicy forest floor and pencil taste.
6: Viña Marquis Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - Colchagua £17.99
This enticing wine contains creamy dark fruit and comes across as a typical Bordeaux blend, but wait! On the nose there's minty dark fruit, green pepper and a racy jam. To taste, it is smooth with round tannins, graphite mixes with wood and nut. The feeling is of plush dark fruits brought freshly to the surface.
7: VIK - Cachapoal £110
At the start this oozes great charm and colour. On the nose there's wood and cream, dark fruit, bramble, peppers and high alcohol.
Take a taste and it is elegantly drinkable with bags of fruit, particularly black cherry, black fruit, box wood and earth. Wow!
11: Viña Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir - Leyda £29.50
What a delightful candy and garnet colour. I'm getting a toffee apple nose, especially the outer candy, There'a tickle of black spice and jammy heat
The taste is full-bodied with a hint of leaf, cranberry and that old friend cherry cola.
12: Aresti Trisquel Series Altitud 1245 - Curicó £16.95
There's an intriguing rich ruby colour that leads me into a smokey, peppery wine. It's constantly on the move and I'm now getting burnt toast and dark fruit.
The taste is dark plum, smoke and tannins that I'm finding a little too grippy for me. That doesn't stop me really enjoying it while thinking that it's a little youthful.
13: Viña Sutil Limited Release Syrah - Limari £16.95
The slightness of the colour is interesting, very interesting if you're a wine enthusiast. The odours are variations on the red fruit theme of plums and berries meeting up against smoke and earth.
In the mouth this baby fills out and the red fruit continues speaking. The tannins are bold and grab the side of my mouth while the growing mixture of black cherries, prunes and jammy alcohol take you out.
14: Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Sauvignon - Maipo £25
This is the colour of deep red that I always find holds a lot of promise, but will it live up to that promise? It's creamy and for a Cabernet I'm finding that on the nose the red fruits make the early running with strawberry laying claim first. The black fruits aren't going to take this lying down and they grow steadily as one tastes. Blackcurrant, oak, graphite and cigar box are your friend at the end.
15: Valdivieso Caballo Loco Number 17 - Valle Central £40
They say that you should save the best until last and with this I think the statement holds true. I love that mixture of garnet and brick that colours this wine.
The bold nose is smoky, jammy and predominately candied dark fruit. Taste it and you know you've got a bold wine in your hands because the full-bodied black cherry and plum demands attention with bramble slipping in under the net. There's a stone mouthfeel at the end and I've got to say that this is a wine I'll be tracking down again.
8: Viña Carmen D.O. Florillôn Apalta - Colchagua £25
The colour is watery and greenish, but don't let that put you off. The nose is floral and perfumed with white stone and slate leading the way before tropical fruits like pineapple and guava say hello.
The taste is bold green apple, more stone fruit, lychees and citrus, particularly lime.
9: Viña Morandé Adventure Creole - Itata £24.99
It's the colour of candy apple Fender guitars with a watery outer rim. The smell is red cherry, red plum, raspberry and cherry coke. The taste continue the red fruit feel with cherries, cherry stones and violet flowers bringing up the rear.
10: Espiritu de Chile Intrépido Patrimonial Mezcla Tinta - Maule £10.95
A medium purple meets the eye and I'm not sure. I am really sure that the mixture of blackcurrant tropical and sour fruits is right up my street. The taste is a battle between red and black fruit with pepper and cherries making themselves heard. At the end the slight tannins cry out like a demanding baby.
First Growth's fight for attention with Burgundian Pinots while Napa's cult wines look calmly on.
What a job it must be to be the curator of this little lot?
I joke with Francesco and another wine advisor (they don't use the term wine waiter here) that there Christmas choice of wine must be something from here or a £10 bottle from the local store. Their knowing smiles tell me that the local store never gets a look in.
Our tour ends at the edge of the restaurant where I'm overlooked by a collection of Peter Michael wines, and Francesco introduces each as though they are old friends he's eager I should meet.
Tour over, he takes me to the edge of the bar where six empty Riedel glasses await. 'The Judgement of Paris Tasting' is so popular that a lot of people include it as part of their meal.
It is a fun recreation of that famous wine event that took place in 1976. The one which put California wines right on the map. It is probably a result of this tasting that
Sir Peter decided to go west in search of his vineyard.
I'm told that the six glasses are to be put into three groups of two, and of these one will be French and one will be Californian. With guidance from Francesco I'm supposed to identfy which is which. I'm also to tell him which one I prefer. I didn't know I was going to have to drink for me supper!
Behind the bar, Francesco operates as though he is now a mad scientist concocting potions secretly. I cannot see what he is pouring into measuring receptacles, but he is browsing and pondering what to offer with the precision of a chess grandmaster. Last time I was this nervous I was taking my WSET examinations.
The wine is now poured into the glasses, but Francesco is only half done. He has to place The Vineyard wine information disks under each glass. These are usually placed around the stem, but here Francesco carefully looks at each one as though he is a Monte Carlo croupier checking his hand.
Before I'm allowed to try each wine, Francesco gives me a detailed tour of the varietal and what I should expect to taste. The first two will be Sauvignon Blanc, then it's Chardonnay before Pinot Noir brings up the
rear. This might be fun, but the tension reminds me of the scene in CASINO ROYALE where Bond is about to play a winning hand, but loses the lot. I haven't even got a Martini for company and I worry that my tasting skills might be found wanting!
First off the starting block is a Chateau de Rouillac versus a Peter Michael L'Apres Midi. There's a gravelly minerality to one and that familiar Californian nose to the other. Round one to me and I breathe a sigh of relief and start to feel a little steadier.
The second round is Chateau de Citeaux against Tally Vineyard. I take my time as I ponder these two and worry that copious sniffing might make my nose tired. Exchange the cards for wines and this is definately 'James Bond' territory. Suddenly, that familiar scent of California appears hovering above the glass and I tell Francesco that I'm sure which it is. Just to confirm, I take a taste and then I'm cursing because there's turmoil on the palate as I now feel the Californian is the French. I'm so confused and don't know what to do. Finally, I follow my tastebuds. The wine that I smelt as Californian was the Tally Vineyard. I now realise, for the first time, that California white wines, when served correctly, have a familiar odour at the edge of all those other smells.
It's one round each as the final hand is yet to played. My early confidence has taken a dent because of those blasted Chardonnays. This time it's FEL from California against a Geantet-Ponsiot Marsannay. The stakes are high as I smell and taste. Then I repeat while wondering if I dare venture an opinion.
The first one I taste has the upfront California smell supported by bags of fruit that isn't hiding anywhere. The second has a little bit more integration and sophisication. I throw my metaphorical chips down on the first one being from California and I hold my breath.
When Francesco tells me that I've got it correct I daren't tell him how elated I actually am, so instead we discuss various wines we have enjoyed and areas of the world we're hoping to try.
Finally, it is all over and Francesco shakes my hand while ordering me to finish the wines at my leisure (oh the trials of being a wine writer!).
If you ever visit The Vineyard and get the chance to try 'The Judgement of Paris Tasting', treat yourself. It is a light way to explore a variety of wines and learn or confirm something. You'll also enjoy the excellent company of people whose enthusiasm for their job is so contagious that if you were to win a few million you might employ one of them to buy and stock your wine cellar.
'A lovely dusty fruit grows in the mouth.'
'The cellar is beautifully kept with a precision that would make a wine search a pleasure...'
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'First Growth's fight for attention with Burdundian Pinots?'
With the riches of wine and food that are on offer, it is easily possible to overindulge and I'm sure that I did. You'd be a fool not to if you visit The Vineyard.
Of course it's fairly expensive, but when you consider the luxurious accommodation, the 30,000 wines that are available to choose from, the politeness of the staff and the depth of wine knowledge on display, I think that you'll come away and realise just how much value it is for the money.
I'm looking forward to my next visit and I know that if I cannot always make a trip to the Wine Country of California this isn't a bad substitute.
One to Try
Chile is Hot
A Sip of California in Rural England?
'At the start this oozes great charm and colour.'
Understated but not undervalued
Right is Guillaume Sorrel
As I put down my glass. I take a little time to work out what just happened, because where I'd been expecting above average wines I found such quality, such depths and bargains that it is impossible not to be moved by what is happening in the Chilean vineyards. Listen to the producers and enthusiasm is never far from the surface. These are people who are eager to share a good thing with those they feel are missing out, and if you dare to underestimate the wines of Chile you are going to be the one who is missing out. Did I mention just how cheap these wines actually are? I must stop writing the Chilean section of my local wine merchant is calling.
Wines Built To Last
'What a delightful candy and garnet colour.'