Winery Visits – Chile

Besides helping with the harvest at Viña Alpa, I took advantage of my time in Chile to visit several other wineries: Viña Cousiño MaculConcha y Toro, and Kingston Family Vineyards.  The first two were just outside of Santiago in the Maipo Valley, and the third was in the Casablanca Valley.   The Maipo Valley was one of the first wine regions in Chile, and it is known for Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is the specialty of Cousiño Macul, and their Cabernet Sauvignon is highly regarded throughout the world.

Both Cousiño Macul and Concha y Toro are old vineyards that were started in the 1800s and have continued to grow and expand.  Today, Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in Chile and is actually one of the largest in the world.  I visited the original Maipo facility, but they now have vineyards throughout Chile.

The third vineyard, Kingston Family Vineyard, is a much smaller vineyard in the Casablanca Valley that has only been in the wine business since the late 1990s.  The Casablanca Valley had been established as a wine region for white grapes, especially Sauvignon Blanc, but Kingston partnered with some Californian vineyards and brought Pinot Noir to the region.

These three vineyards were all quite different and provided a nice intro to the breadth of the Chilean wine industry.  Chile has 12 wine regions, with a huge variation in climate and soil, so there is still so much more to see, and I need to plan another trip someday . . .

Grape Harvest at Viña Alpa

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Viña Alpa during the grape harvest.  Viña Alpa is a small estate producer in the Coquimbo region of Chile.  This region is mostly known for Pisco production, but Viña Alpa focuses on red grapes such as Syrah, Carménère, and also has some small plots of Grenache and Mourvèdre.

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 Viña Alpa participates in the World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms program to  recruit volunteers.  For this year’s harvest, there were six of us volunteering.  It was hard work, but the scenery was gorgeous.  We worked up and down the rows to hand snip the grape bunches off of the vine.  As we collected the grapes, the full buckets were transported up to the barn, where they were destemmed and crushed.  The juice and skins were funneled directly into tanks to begin fermenting.  

Winemaker Arnaud Faupin shared his expertise with us and taught us how to monitor the fermentation by measuring the temperature and the density.  The vineyard is organic and the wine-making is done with minimal use of electricity and machinery.  The results of this artisanal process are unique and delicious small batch wines, only available in Chile.

Chilean Pisco

DSC_0791 (1)Pisco is a brandy made by distilling grapes.  The brandy is produced in Peru and the northern regions of Chile and is most often made from the Pedro Jiménez, Torontel or Muscat grapes.  Chilean Pisco is usually aged in oak for several years, while most Peruvian Pisco is bottled straight out of the still.  There is a debate between the two countries as to who makes the better Pisco, as well as who can lay claim to the Pisco Sour as their national cocktail.   The recipe for a Chilean Pisco Sour is quite simple: pisco, lemon juice, and sugar, shaken vigorously with crushed ice, and optional bitters.  The Peruvian version uses lime juice and bitters, as well as an egg white for froth.  Although, I have not been to Peru, there are many Peruvian restaurants in Chile, so I able to try both styles…  They are both refreshing and perfect as an aperitif.  However,  I slightly prefer the Chilean style, without the egg-white foam.  ¡Salud!

 

Chilean Wine – A Brief History

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After WWII, Chilean wine production declined dramatically, and the Chilean exports were reduced to a few large producers.

However in the 1980s, there were changes in the government’s economic policies and a renewed interest from international wine makers, which started a resurgence of the wine industry in Chile.  One of the key international players was Spain’s Miguel Torres, who purchased a vineyard in Chile and introduced modern wine making technologies to the Chilean wine makers.  Torres was a key inspiration of Alfonso Chadwick Errázuriz of Vina Errázuriz, who spent a great deal of time in Europe to gain recognition for Chilean wine.  He organized the “Berlin Tasting” in 2004, which pitted prestigious French and Italian wines against 6 Chilean wines.  To the surprise of all, two of Errázuriz’s wine came in first and second place, beating out the famed Chateau Lafite.   Even with renewed international appreciation, the Chilean wine industry continued to be dominated by larger wineries such as Concha y Toro.  However,  recently there is a push to provide more opportunities for smaller, artisanal producers, with organizations such as MOVI and VIGNO.

In the coming weeks,  I will be traveling to Chile, and I hope to share with you much more insight and inspiration for drinking Chilean wines.  Salud!

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chilean Wine Varietals

 

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Chile has a long history of wine production, dating back to the 16th century, when the Spanish  colonists brought vitis vinifer.  Later various French varieties were imported, and in the 20th century, Chile established itself as an important player in the global wine market.  Vineyards can be found throughout the country, growing both red and white grapes.  The most common varietals are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Carménère
  • Syrah
  • Pinot Noir
  • Carignan

Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape,  Carménère has become the signature grape of Chile.  Originally a French variety, it was believed to have been lost during the  phylloxera epidemic in Europe, but was rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s.  You can read more about Carménère in last year’s April Grape of the Month post.

For more information about Chilean Wine…

http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/07/beginners-guide-to-chilean-wine.html

http://www.winesofchile.org/en/wineries-trade-ted

http://www.chilean-wine.com/chileanwinecountry/

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/learn/wine-regions/chile

http://www.winemag.com/gallery/understanding-chiles-wine-regions/

http://winefolly.com/review/the-best-wines-to-try-from-chile/

Tasting Menu at Semilla

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of enjoying a lovely tasting menu at Semilla, an 18 seat restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The food was vegetable focused and delightfully inventive.  We added on the drink menu for the full experience.  The wines were impressive in age, variety, and suitability for the meal.  I was so busy enjoying the wonderful  wine and food that I did not take adequate notes or pictures, but here are a few highlights…

I was thrilled to start the meal with a 27 year old German Riesling (Wallufer Oberberg Kabinett Halbtrocken, J.B. Becker, 1990, Rheingau, Germany).  This is probably the oldest wine that I have drunk, and it was wonderful.  The aging really mellowed the sweetness and added depth to the wine, so it was perfect for the subtle, earthy sweetness of the Beet Tartare.  My favorite course of the evening was the salt-crusted sunchokes.  These were served with a Chardonnay (Les Ammonites, Domaine Buronfosse, 2014, Jura, France).  Although, I’m not always a fan of Chardonnay, this was unoaked and balanced out the saltiness of the dish quite nicely.  The meal finished off with two lovely desserts (and who doesn’t want  two desserts? ).   I’ve included the full menu below and would highly recommend an evening at Semilla for a night of creative and delicious dishes.

Menu from 2/2/17

Apple & Smoked Mozzarella Soup

Beet Tartare with Pickled Chanterelles & Whole Wheat Crackers

Salt Crusted Sunchokes with Fermented Ramp Aioli

Rice & Peas with Crab & Bergamot

Butternut Squash with Za’atar & Squash Vinegar

Celeriac Tart with Pickled Okra & Green Coriander Vinaigrette

Burnt Cabbage Roll with Preserved Lemon & Coffee Jus

Sunflower Seed Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon & Flowers

Angelica Semifreddo with Hazelnuts & Pickled Blueberries

Wine online

Wine clubs have been around for a while, and they only seem to be gaining in popularity.  As an obvious wino, I started receiving some targeted ads online for various wine subscription sites.  With the incentive of wine AND discount codes, I decided to try out a few…

Naked Wines funds independent winemakers and then sells those wines directly to their members.  I loved their mission and was happy to be investing in new winemakers; plus, there wines were delicious.  However, due to shipping restrictions to New York, I was only able to buy wines from domestic winemakers, which was disappointing.  Also, I had to order a full case (12 bottles) at a time, which was a bit more than I wanted to order on a regular basis. (No set price, pay by the bottle)

Naked Wines tasting notes:
Jacqueline Bahue Cabernet Franc
F. Stephen Miller Black Label
Cabernet Sauvignon Foothills Reserve
Bruno Chenin Blanc
Angels Reserve Merlot
JC Van Staden Pinot Noir
S&A Amador Touriga

VineBox is a monthly subscription that sends 3 pours of  wines from international wineries that are exclusively imported by Vinebox.  It was so convenient to have these individual pours around the house for those evenings when I didn’t want to open a full bottle. It also provided the opportunity to try some rather fancy wines. ($35/month)

Winc is a wine club that makes their own wines, sourced from small batch vineyards around the world.  I enjoyed the wide range of grape varietals, and they provided good tasting notes with videos. (No set price, pay by the bottle)

Winc tasting notes:
Supercluster
Porter& Plot Grenache Blanc
One From The Quiver Torrentes

Wine Awesomeness is another wine club.  Each month the box has a different theme or “adventure”.   They provide extensive notes, as well as suggested pairings and recipes and even music playlists. ($45/month)

Overall, the main perk to buying wine online was the availability of wine made by unique producers.  However, the shipping regulations and the need to sign for the packages cancelled out the convenience of delivery.  Lastly, I missed visiting my local wine shop(s), where I can attend tastings and talk with the staff, so for now, I’m cancelling my subscriptions.