Friday, April 13, 2012

Tasting Chilean Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc With @DrinkChile

I was invited to taste again with the Wines of Chile trade group, with whom I had tasted a variety of Chilean wines last year. The format, using Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer as the moderator of a tasting session with winemakers and bloggers, was unchanged. At the studio in New York, he had a chef preparing some delicious looking seafood recipes to showcase these white wines. We bloggers were sent these recipes, I chose to simply taste the wines though, in order not to fill my apartment with distracting aromas.

Our theme this time was Coast to Toast, featuring white wines from the coastal areas of Chile.

1. Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Colchagua Valley: At first I said this wine was trying to be a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, with its green grass, gooseberry, and lemon zest bouquet. I still think it is, but also has taken on a Chilean twist. There's a note of briny ocean air to go with the aforementioned bouquet. On the palate, lemon zest and more asparagus. A clean mineral profile adds depth and complexity but isn't enough to overcome the lack of interesting flavors. 13.0% abv. $25

2. Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Casablanca Valley: A wine that for me started out dull and insipid, but grew into something vastly more interesting. While this wine isn't an extraordinary experience, I respect the fact that it is unpretentious and very quaffable. The nose is mildly astringent with notes of grass, grapefruit, and stem. On the palate the Los Vascos is dry, clean, and simple. More of the citrus with hints of asparagus and a nice bit of minerality. The very definition of crowd-pleaser. 13.5% abv. $14

3. Cono Sur Visión Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Casablanca Valley: Way more lime juice than initially detected, some three hours in. Hints of minerality and a strange, not unpleasant lettuce aroma. Barely-there tropical fruits too. On the palate, bursts Meyer lemon, pineapple, and light grassy flavors dominate. The finish is really evaporative though, which disappointed me. 13.0% abv. $15

4. Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011: Earlier during the tasting I said this wine started to gently veer towards a Sancerre, and it still does three hours later. That stated, there are more cut-grass aromas now, pushing out some of the stone fruit and limestone I picked up before. This isn't a bad thing though because it gives the bouquet nice complexity. The mouthfeel is great, acidic and cleansing. Nice citrus - lemon zest to me - along with a kick of pear help this wine achieve lofty status as the best QPR of the night. 13.8% abv. $13

5. Veramonte Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Casablanca Valley: I kind of dogged all these wines when I first opened them. There was a stunning amount of homogeneity, but then I re-tasted and this Veramonte is making me smile. The bouquet is still sauvignon blanc, redolent of limestone overlaid with grass that someone squeezed a ton of limes over. On the palate, there's a smoothness here, a depth from the subtle oak treatment. Anthropomorphically speaking, it's like a girl who's grown up from a saucy teenager to a classy, Ivy League educated 20something. 13.5% abv. $18

6. Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay 2010 Leyda Valley: Aromatically pleasing, think wet rocks and buttered popcorn co-existing with a bowl of sliced pears and apples. On the palate, light and kind of sultry, somewhat unexpected. Pears really show through, that and some grassy notes, even a bit of granitic mineral quality. My only knock on this wine is that it fades away awfully quickly. 14.0% abv$18

7. De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay 2010 Limarí Valley: This wine was very interesting, but not necessarily in a good way. I tasted it right after opening, when it had some acidity and flavors of tropical fruit. About two hours later, when I smelled it, I thought of rotting grass. Decidedly unpleasant, and this sharp, pepper-like note also showed up. On the palate it's relatively simple, peach and golden apple notes, acidity, but more of the strange rotting grass type flavor. Could very well be a bad bottle. 13.5% abv. $16

8. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009 Limarí Valley: I like the bouquet here, green apples mixed with cinnamon-spiced wood. There's a pleasantness this chardonnay has that keeps drawing me in. On the palate it's creamy but also balanced, the acidity shows up as a lemon and apple flavor. There's also noticeable oak here but it isn't in a bad way. In between the oak and citrus, a hint of tropical fruit - think papaya - shines through. A sweet, mineral-laden finish continues the intrigue. This chardonnay begs for king crab legs dipped in garlic butter. 14% abv. $19

What can we take from this tasting? First off, the wines we tasted were all interesting and while none were world class, all but one were very drinkable. Out of the lineup I did enjoy the Veramonte and Vina Casablanca bottles, and two of three chardonnays exhibited some pleasant characteristics too. If you are out and about, looking for an inexpensive bottle of wine that will pair with seafood or appetizers, buy any of these with confidence. The quality levels are high (save for the De Martino) and the wines are easy drinking.

From an educational standpoint, each wine showcased an area of Chile that can clearly produce high quality wines. As the winemakers in Chile gain experience with their diverse micro-climates, the onus will shift to the consumer to educate himself or herself and seek out specific regions. Personally, I enjoy syrah and sauvignon blanc from the Colchauga and Casablanca valleys, respectively. Others might love Maipo cabernet sauvignon or Maule Valley carmenere. It's so important to keep exploring countries like Chile because they're constantly discovering new areas that are conducive to grape growing.

Visit the Wines of Chile website to find out more information about the wines we tasted tonight, including some helpful links for where to purchase each one. Follow @DrinkChile on Twitter to learn more about Chilean wine and tastings in your area.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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