Wines of Aconcagua Chile and the San Antonio Valley

July 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

San Antonio is approximately 1 hour north of Santiago.  This is a relatively new wine area planted in the mid-90’s.  The regions vineyards are planted along the rolling hillsides just 2 ½ miles from the coast and like the Casablanca Valley the climate is strongly influenced by the cool waters of the Humboldt Current.

The wines from San Antonio benefit from the clay soil and cool air and are noted as crisp, lean, mineral fresh whites and spicy reds.

The San Antonio Valley is a smaller wine district with 327 hectors planted.  If you are interested in trying a wine from San Antonio try a Syrah, Pinot Gris or Merlot-Malbec blend.

San Antonio Valley Wines of Note:

Matetic EQ Syrah 2007
Wine Enthusiast 92 points Editors Choice
Wine Advocate 90+ points
Wine Spectator 90 Points
“Pure, inviting and open, with cedar, tobacco, blackberry, earth and cookie dough aromas scattered all over a robust bouquet.  Deep but fresh, with a fine balance and a bold, jammy set of blackberry and black-pepper flavors.  Finishes well, with integration and easygoing tannins.  Drink now through 2013.”

Matetic Corralillo Winemaker’s Blend 2008
Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast 90 Points
“A full-force, racy blend led by Merlot.  It’s ripe, staunch, mildly herbal and shows aromas of leather, savory berry and molasses. The palate is saturated, acid-driven and clacky, so it’s lively stuff with medicinal, ripe berry and spice flavors.
Finishes snappy and crisp, with pronounced acidity and tannins.”

Discover other wines from the Wine Regions of Chile

Wines of Aconcagua Chile and the Casablanca Valley

July 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

Located 60 miles north-west of Santiago, the Casablanca Valley was first planted in the mid-1980’s making it a relative newcomer in the wine world. The coastal cool climate region produces a crisp fresh fruity wines most notably Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir. The regions cooler climate allows for a longer ripening period and thus the grapes develop a more complex flavor while keeping the sugars and acids in balance.

If you are looking to try wines from the Aconcagua Valley try either a hearty red from the interior or a white from the coast.

Aconcagua Valley Wines of Note

Chilcas 2006 Aguas Frescas Sauvignon Blanc
Wine Enthusiast Rating 90
Right from the start the pure, defined citrus and grass aromas draw you in.  After that, the grapefruit on the palate is clean and quenching, while on the fringe there’s a hint of pickle and green apple.  Overall it’s a wine that pushes the right buttons.

Viu Manent 2007 Reserva Chardonnay (Casablanca Valley)
Wine Enthusiast Rating 90
For a first effort from Casablanca, Viu Manent has hit a home run.  This wine is a classic New World Chard, meaning it’s liberally oaked, vibrant, ripe and full of tropical fruit.  But along with the obvious there are also notes of cinnamon, mineral, exotic apple and butterscotch.

Discover other wines from the Wine Regions of Chile

Wines of Aconcagua Chile the Aconcagua Valley

July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Mountaineers know Aconcagua as one of the 7 summits – the highest peak in South America.  This great mountain with it snow covered peak towers over the fertile Aconcagua Valley below as well as providing the area with water.  The region has long been cultuvating red grapes and newer coastal plantations are also producing white wines.

When Don Maximiano Errazuriz planeted the first vineyards here the area was thought to be unsuited for wine grapes.  However the Aconcagua Valley now has approximately 1100 hecters of planted vineyards dominated by what Errazuriz started and a few other producers. Cabernet Sauvingnon is the big star here with Merlot coming in second and Syrah a close third.  The Aconcagua Valley is home to the acclaimed Sena Vineyard a joint venture with California wine maker Robert Mondavi.

If you are looking to try wines from the Aconcagua Valley try either a hearty red from the interior or a white from the coast.

Aconcagua Valley Wines of Note

The EErrazuriz Winery was names “Winery of the Year 2008″ by the Wines of Chile Associtaion and “Producer of the Year 2008″ at the 39th International Wine & spirts Competion Awards in the UK.

Errazuriz Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Wine Enthusiast Rated 91 points
“Deep red. Pungent aromas of redcurrant, cherry pit, licorice, cedar and tobacco: this is textbook cabernet. Juicy and lively, with very good sweetness of fruit and noteworthy sappiness and clarity. Harmonius and gently spicy, finishing with sweet tannins and lingering smokiness.”

Errarzuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2008
Wine Advocate 90 points
“There is one white wine among the new releases, the 2008 Chardonnay Wild Ferment, which was barrel-fermented and aged in 21% new French oak. Light gold in color with an enticing perfume of buttered popcorn, mineral, baking spices, spiced apple, and pear on the palate, it reveals a smooth texture, spicy flavors, and excellent balance. This excellent value can be enjoyed now and over the next 4 years.”

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Wines of Coquimbo Chile and the Choapa Valley

July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Located in the north, slightly south of the Limari and Elqui Valleys, the Choapa Valley is located at the narrowest part of Chile.  Without a coastal range to seperate the two there is little distance between the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean and the snow capped Andes.  The vineyards and other agriculture of the region are completely dependent on irrigation.

The vineyards here were planted on the rocky piedmont soils and produce wines with a high acidy and low ph.  There are only 134 planted hectres in Choapa Valley is 100% dedicated to the production of red wine either Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

If you trying wines from the Choapa Valley we suggest a De Martino Legado Reserva Syrah 2005 – 2008.  De Martino was featured on the cover of the September 2010 Wine Spetator Magazine and was only only 4 wines to make their Top 100 Wines for 2010.

“The Syrah — which is the only wine made in the Choapa Valley of Chile — is rated with 90 points and one of only four Chilean reds listed among the 125. In fact, of those 200 wines, only six are rated as high as 90 — and two of those are from De Martino! The other 90-point, “Top Value” from the winery is De Martino Legado Chardonnay, from the Limari Valley.”

Tasting Notes:  A smoky, restrained style, with mulled black currant and blackberry fruit sitting in reserve and mesquite, graphite and white pepper notes weaving in and out. The finish lets the smoky hint linger nicely. Drink now through 2011.

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Wines of Coquimbo Chile and the Limari Valley

July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Located just south of the Elqui Valley like it’s neighboring Valley the Limari Valley is noted for its grapes for pisco and for the table.  The land of Limari is low and hot with a Limari River running through the middle bringing the icy waters of the Andes to what may otherwise be barren land.  The valley’s first wineries were first planted in the 16th century, however those wineries now produce pisco.  The areas  large man-made lake, Embalse de Paloma, is where vineyards were planted in the 1990’s starting a new era of wineries in Limari.

The soils of the Limari Valley are noted for the high content of limestone and when this soil is combined with the cool climate and less than 4 inches of rain per year a distinctive wine with a slight mineral taste is produced.  Though Chile is primarily a red wine country, Chardonnay is the big star of Limar.  Big wineries from the central valley like Conch y Toro and Santa Rita base their Chardonnay operations in the Limari Valley.

If you are looking for a wines from the Limari Valley go with either a Chardonnay or Syrah.

Limari Valley Wines of Note

Tabali Chardonnay Tabali Reserva Especial 2008
91 Points Robert Parker the Wine Advocate
Tasting Notes: “Blunt at first, this wine needs time in a decanter to evolve past its firm mineral notes toward fruit. Scents of red apply and melon flavors develop as the texture turns opulent. An ample chardonnay to serve with grilled pork.

Conch y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009
90 Points Wine Spectator
Tasting Notes: “Superfresh, with vibrant tangerine, yellow apple and heather notes backed by nice cut on the mineral-filled finish. A deliciously unadorned style. Drink now through 2012.”

The Conch y Toro Marque de Casa Concha Chardonnay is my go to Chardonnay in South America. It is relatively easy to find and pleases Chardonnay drinkers.

Discover other wines from the Wine Regions of Chile

Chilean Wine Regions

July 15, 2011 § 9 Comments

Geographically Chile is a long narrow country boardered by the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  Chile’s climate is dominated by the icy cold waters of the Humboldt Current flowing up along the coast from Antarctica when the reach the northern coast it produces a garua (fog) but no rain making the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile the driest place on earth.

In the central valley cool breezes from the Humboldt Current penetrate the inland while at night the cold air desends from the snow capped Andes. Together these influence create the perfect mediterrian-like climate similar to that of California or Bordeaux France.  Chile has warm dry summers and cold rainy winters that grapes love.

Chile’s appellation system, known as its Denomination of Origin is divided as follows:

Region: Coquimbo
Sub-Region: Elqui
Sub-Region: Limari 
Sub-Region: Choapa

Most of the grapes in the Coquimbo region are produced for Pisco, however in recent years new irrigration has seen the area produce reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Whites from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Region: Aconcagua
Sub-Region: Aconcagua
Sub-Region: Casablanca
Sub-Region: San Antonio
Zones: Leyda, Lo Abarca

The region is noted for its Cabernet Sauvignon other wines of note are Merlot, Syrah, Carmenere and Chardonnay.

Region: Central Valley
Sub-Region: Maipo
Sub-Region: Rapel
Zone: Cachapoal
Zone: Colchagua
Sub-Region: Curico
Sub-Region: Maule

Region: Southern Regions
Sub-Region: Itata
Sub-Region: Bío Bío
Sub-Region: Malleco

Southern Chile is home to hearty reds as well as crisp white wines from the Bio Bio region incluing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.

With the majority of the wineries in the Central Valley we’ll continue with wineries, their wines and characteristics into the outter regions and the central valley.

Chilean Wines Export History

July 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Conch y Toro Winery

During the 1800’s Chilean wines saw a rebirth. The newly independent country sought its own identity and new opportunities for its citizens. Political agendas supported merchants, large land owners, foreign investment, the church and military. Towards the end of the century Chile would defeat Peru and Boliva during the War of the Pacific and increase their territory by a third. The new lands included valuable nitrate deposits in the north which ushered in an era of national affluence.

Long isolated in the new world the Chileans now yearned for knowledge of all things European. The era of steamship travel made the trans-Atlantic crossing faster and easier. France became a favorite destination and all things French – fashion, food, architecture and wine consumption became all the rage in Santiago. Before long French style wineries began to be built outside the city.

Wealthy Chilean families built French style country estates outside the city with large mansions surrounded by vineyards and European style gardens. Some of Chile’s best known wineries were established during this time including Carmen, Concha y Toro, Cousino Macul, Santa Carolina, Santa Rita, Undurranga and Errazuiz Panquehue.

Trans-Atlantic trade brought opportunities to both sides of the ocean. Chile would lead the New World in Wine exports. However for all its advantages it also brought the phylloxera aphid from North America to Europe which devastated French vineyards and created the Great French Wine Blight. Without French Wines available, Chilean Wines boomed in popularity and could be found throughout Europe and the Americas. Despite the success of Chilean Wines, by the end of the century the political tide at home changed again and land reforms and closed-door policy cease Chilean Wine Exportation until the 1980’s ushering modern era of Chilean Wines.

History of Wine in South America

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wine making in South America began during the time of the conquistadors during the mid 16th century.  Missionaries were among those to first arrive in South America.  As they colonized the region they brought wines with them in which they used to create local vineyards.  It was thanks to Inca engineering and love that the first vineyards were planted south of Lima in 1548.

According to Inca legend in 1412 Inca emperor Pachacutec (the builder of Machu Picchu) expanded the Inca Empire into the Ica Valley.  While in the region to inspect the lands the emperor fell in love with a gorgeous young maid.  He proposed marriage but she declined in favor of her current boyfriend.  Pachacutec was kind of heart and wanted to show the maiden the love she had inspired offered her the gift of her choosing.  Her wish was to see the waters from the rivers of the mountains reach her town in the desert.  It took 10 days and 40,000 workers to build the aquaducts “La Achirana del Inca” bringing water to her town of Tate and the rest of the Ica Valley.  Pachacutec’s irrigation system provided the Spanish with the waters needed to cultivate their first vineyards of Quebranta grapes and produce their first wines a few years later.

The production of wine in South America quickly spread througout the region.  It was Jesuit priests who planted the first Vitis vinifera grapes in Chile in 1551 and the first Chilean wine was produced the 1555. By the late 16th century Chile had widespread vineyards producing wines of Muscatel, Tortontel, Albihio and Mollar.

During the Viceroyalty of Peru the vineyards were restricted in the amount of wine they could produce so that they majority of wine consumed would still come directly from Spain.  In 1641, wine imports from Chile and throughout the Viceroyalty were banned.  Wines from Peru came to a halt as the vineyards converted their production from wine to pisco and aguardiente.  Chile ignored the king’s ruling as they preferred their own wine to the imported Spanish. When one of the brazen Chilean ships exporting wine to Peru was captured by Francisco Drake the king was so outraged that he ordered all the vineyards in Chile to be uprooted – thankfully this was another order the Chileans decided to ignore.

South American Wines

July 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

If you are planning a trip to South America whether its a Galapagos Cruise, a trip to Machu Picchu or the beaches of Rio de Janerio you will find that when ordering a glass of wine you will find a different selection then what you are use to at home.  Rather than the California, French, Italian or Australia wines you may be use to instead you will find wines from places like Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.  In fact in many stores if you are looking for an imported wine your option may Boone’s Farm, which may not be what you had in mind.

South America is home to some great wines with distinctive flavors.  There are varietals in South America that are less common in other areas like the celebrated Malbec of Argentina or Carmenere a star in Chile.

Trying some of the local dishes is always part of the journey when traveling.  Why not complete the meal with a glass of vino blanco (white wine) or vino tinto (red wine).   Our series on South American Wines will help you learn a bit about these new wines and provide you with some suggestions of what you may want to try.

 Cheers!

Peru Celebrates Chocolate

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

In recent years Ecuador and Peru have become upcoming stars in the chocolate world after the discovery Pure National Cocoa trees that were thought to have been extinct in the early 20th century.  Since it’s Friday why not start the weekend with a Chocolate Ginger Martini in a glass rimmed with Peruian or Ecuadorian Chocolate.

K. Cameron Lau | Jul 08, 2011 | 

 A replica of Peru’s recently-unveiled “Christ of the Pacific” statue made with 135 kilograms of chocolate welcomed visitors at the second edition of the country’s Cacao and Chocolate Salon that kicked off on Thursday (July 7).
Hundreds of chocolate lovers met in Lima to taste candies, truffles and other mouth-watering treats made by world-renowned chefs from several countries.
The event gathered some of the United States and Europe’s finest chocolate companies as well as Peruvian cacao producers to promote the national industry that has been growing and winning respect in past years.
French chocolatier Stephane Bonnat, who runs the traditional Bonnat Chocolate, said that Peru’s cacao was refined and aromatic.
“The characteristics of the Peruvian cacao are clearly oriented at what we call the fine cacao. It is a refined and aromatic cacao that has a high quality, a percentage of cacao that is very important. However, it is a bit annoying for chocolate makers — if I can dare to say this –, who have to purchase it for a much higher price than the ones from African areas,” he said.
Visitors who enter chocolate heaven will be able to see a wide variety of Peruvian cacao beans on display, watch a chocolate sculpture contest, attend classes from chocolatiers, and satisfy their sweet-tooth at tasting sessions.
Business meetings, educational exhibitions, and a national contest of cacao are also going to be held in the event that runs until Sunday (July 10).
President of the Peruvian Association of Cacao Producers (Appcacao), Rolando Herrera, said visitors will learn how chocolate is made.
“This is the cacao pod that originates the cacao beans that go through a fermentation stage. After being processed, these beans come out as chocolates for consumption,” he said.
The Cacao and Chocolate Salon was first held in 2010, following a wide recognition of Peruvian cacao in the 2009 Salon du Chocolat in Paris.
Pastry Chef Astrid Gutsche said that Peru was privileged to have several types of cacao beans on its crops.
“We are very lucky to have a native genetic material that has long been lost in many other countries,” she said.
Recently, one of the most highly valued varieties of cacao ever, the Pure Nacional, was re-discovered deep in the Peruvian jungle, after scientists thought it had became extinct in Ecuador in the early 20th century.
Peru’s developing cacao industry has reduced the number of farmers involved in the production of coca plants. Cacao production in the Andean country reached 32,000 tons in 2009 and 20 percent of the world’s fine cacao beans come from its crops.

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