You may or may not know that I am taking a wine course. As we progress, it is getting more difficult yet intriguing. This past week one of our assignments was to look at three wine labels from Chile and write a blog post based purely on knowledge of the varietal, the region and the winemaker.

  1. For each of the wine labels below, describe the style of wine in as much detail as you can; use the Systematic Approach to Tasting as guidance to give a comprehensive description.
  2. Explain in your own words how the factors in the vineyard and winery have influenced these wines styles.

Here is my submission

I love Chilean wines, of all varietals.  The wine country spans over 500 miles north to south and is wedged in between the Andes mountains to the east and the cool Pacific Ocean to the west.  With such a range of Latitude in addition to altitude there are numerous climates for winemakers to grow many different grapes according to their own unique needs.  Take for instance a Merlot grown in Colchagua.  The warm valley coupled by the cool Pacific moderates the temperature in the valley allowing for good ripening, especially for this varietal and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Drinking the Luis Felipe Edwards Merlot Gran Reserva one would expect fruity, medium bodied wines that show a medium ruby in the glass.  I would expect this type of wine, especially a Gran Reserva, to have a medium intensity nose with aromas of plum, black cherry, blackberry, perhaps a touch of oak influence by way of cedar and clove.  Drunk young, it would be considered youthful.  On the palate, softness awaits as the wine would be a dry, medium acidity wine with medium tannins, high alcohol and medium plus body.  When discussing Chilean Reservas and Gran Reservas there are no technical points that delineate the different levels, it is implied by the winemaker that his wine is of a better quality.  In this case I would look forward to medium plus intensity flavors of plum, blackberry and cedar with a medium finish.  Overall, this wine would be considered good and could be drunk now, but has potential for aging or further aging.  

Sauvignon Blanc enjoys a more moderate climate and has done very well in the Casablanca Valley where the proximity to the Pacific coupled with morning fog allow this grape to ripen fully whilst retaining its crisp acidity.  Los Vascos is a well known Chilean winemaker who produces delicious and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs.  Opening a bottle of their latest release I would expect a pale lemon-green wine with medium plus intensity aromas of lemon, green apple, asparagus, grass and wet stone- that flintiness that one gets when wines are grown in cool regions.  The palate would be crisp- the lack of any oak or Malolactic Fermentation would leave the wine with only primary flavors which would refresh on a hot afternoon.  I would expect a dry wine with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium minus body that has medium plus flavors of lemon peel, asparagus, grass and green apple which would end with a medium finish.  These wines are not expensive- the winemaker looking for a decent pop-n-pour wine that is refreshing, easy to drink and pairs well with lighter fare.  Quality wise this wine is good and should be drunk now: not suitable for aging or further aging.

Carmenere is Chile’s signature grape.  This example, the Santa Rita Reserva comes from Rapel Valley, part of the Central Valley Region which is known for its warmer climate on the valley floor, a feature that suits this varietal well as it is late ripening.  The tempering effects of the Pacific are not in play so one would expect full bodied, fruity and tannic wines, especially those that the winemaker feels are of Reserva quality.  This wine would have a deep ruby color with watery legs, belying it’s modest 13% alcohol.  On the nose- medium plus intensity aromas of black cherry, blackberry, tomato leaf, prune, coffee and a medicinal note which is a trademark of this grape as well as an indicator of some oak usage.  The palate would be dry with medium plus acidity.  High tannins coupled with medium alcohol would give me a medium plus body.  Medium plus intensity flavors of black cherry, blackberry, tomato leaf, coffee and that medicinal note would be evident.  Seeing as this wine is a Reserva, the winemaker has carefully selected only the ripest berries, avoiding that overly herbaceous note Carmenere is known for.   A medium plus finish would be enjoyed on this good quality red that can be drunk now, but has potential for aging.  I could picture myself back in Santiago, sitting in a Bistro and gazing at the Andes, sipping this red elixir once again whilst devouring a signature Chacarero.