The irresistible Wines of Chile

Tony Chung

Upon departing an event or a dinner party where Chilean wines are served, my appreciation of the wines’ amazing value and unique characters tends to go up a notch, every time!

More of my wine loving friends or shall I say, more wine loving folks in general, when it comes to Chilean wine, share a common mood these days, the mellow mood so provided by the flavors and diversity brought forward through Chilean wines. A country with different regions of varied terrines and climates blessed with elements for wine production, yet their wines are so affordable and consumer-friendly that both our palates and wallets are well looked after.

Besides their Spanish neighbours, influence from French and Italian wine makers, years of quality evolution, along with advanced vineyard management and winemaking techniques, all factoring into making Chilean wines premium in quality and super in value.

My recent “Wines of Chile” tasting experience gives me an update that impresses me even further.

Cabernet Sauvignon is undoubtedly reliable. Depending on where planted, the range of taste can be broad. In Concha y Toro’s Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, I taste cherry - riped, round and smooth, tannin is obvious with long after taste. I am especially impressed by San Pedro’s Cabo De Hornos 2006 fromMaipoValley (96% Cab and 4% Petite Verdot) for itsBordeaux like elegance and bouquet and velvety texture.  Smooth and deep with lots of cassis and black current, hints of cocoa or toffee, plenty of oak, well balanced and enduring finish. Some quoted similarity as theMedoc style. Imagine the pairing with roasted prime rib, barbecued duck!

Carmenere used to be one of the key varieties in making greatBordeaux wines.Chile is one of the best producers for this signature grape. Carmenere’s low acidity provides more fruit such as berry and plum flavours with soft tannin. It pairs perfectly with barbecues, roasted pork and tomato based pasta. Amongst the tasted, I like Carmen’s Gran Reserva for its fuller body and good balance.

Pinot Noir is beginning to catch some attentions. Grown mostly in cooler regions, I am surprised by Cono Sur’s Vision Pinot Noir for its silky texture, fruitiness and soft tannin, very easy to drink! Try pairing with smoked salmon, ham and sausage. It can also go well with Asian and Chinese meat dishes with sweet soy, oyster sauce or hoi-sin seasonings.

Chardonnay has become Chile’s hallmark white grape and gained its recognition like its brother reds in Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.

Amayna’s Chardonnay 2009 catches my attention with its richness and complexity. It has light, refreshing lemon lime aroma and smooth mixture of vanilla and green apple. This chardonnay is so inviting I take sips after sips -  one of the best Chilean Chardonnay I have tasted so far!

Sauvignon Blanc in Chile seems to be picking up some impressive paces. Not used to be a big fan myself, I am this time amazed by Caliterra’s Reserva 2010 for its refreshing green plum and watermelon flavors, a great summer patio wine for sure! Also standing out as a valued brand is Carmen’s Reserva, a delightful wine full of citrus freshness, touch of grapefruit and cucumber, a clean and crispy delivery.   

Viognier reminds me of floral scents, apricot, peaches and citrus peels. Albeit may not be a wide spread varietal due to cooler climate favoured but Cono Sur’s Viognier 2010 is very appealing with its jasmine and green apple aroma, very crisp and refreshing. I would surely enjoy it as an aperitif or sip alone on the patio. This wine is a good match with green salad, chicken in a creamy sauce or prawns, crabs and scallops.