It’s been a while between postings, or drinks you might say, and while I’ve been absent from cyberspace, I took the opportunity to affirm my love of wine and complete the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 2 qualification. The eight week course provided an understanding of old world and new world wines and an overview of wine production and grape varietals in France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Chile. One evening, during a lesson on Pinot Noir, I was intently studying a map of Chile and its major wine growing regions and the very next day, I was asked if I would like to travel to Santiago on business. Naturally I said yes and started planning my next wine and food adventure in Chile as soon as I could.
After an intensive search on Google for wine tours near Santiago, I came across Uncorked Wine Tours and had the good fortune to book a semi-private tour to the Casablanca Valley, an internationally recognised producer of premium Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines.
It was an early start to a Saturday, but the sun was shining and I was excited to be out of the office and ready to explore the Chilean countryside. I met Stefan, my guide for the day at the hotel, and we headed downtown to meet the other three guests who had travelled from the US and were also looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy Chilean wine. After a short drive out of the city, the first stop of the day was Bodegas RE. The family behind the Bodegas RE vineyard is well known within the Chilean wine industry, however this new and innovative vineyard takes pride in experimenting in diverse varietals of grapes that are traditionally known to Casablanca Valley and Chile, and the results are bold and exciting wines.
After a walk to the vineyard and a tour of the “nursery” where olives and stone fruits were fermenting and maturing into oils and liqueurs respectively, we went through the gift shop and down into the cellar to see examples of ancestral methods of wine production using large clay pots and jars.
The wines that we had the pleasure of tasting at Bodegas RE were:
2011 Pinotel (70% Pinot Noir, 30% Muscatel): a dry, crisp wine, with a bronze-pink colour and a floral, orange blossom and jasmine perfume;
2011 Chardonnoir (55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir): Champagne recreated as a still wine! Gold-pink in colour complete with yeasty, bready notes, with a slightly sweet dried fruit, apricot aroma with an off-dry, medium sweet finish;
2008 Caberignan (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carignan): With hints of ageing and a ruby garnet appearance, with black fruits and hints of black pepper and oak on the nose, with a peppery taste on the palate;
2008 Carignan (100% Carignan): Fruit from 60 year-old vines and single vineyard, a superb wine with deep, ruby red colour, a long finish, dry with blackfruit and white pepper on the palate, blackberry and black plum notes on the nose, hints of oak and stewed prunes. A spectacular wine …. I couldn’t help myself and purchased a bottle on my way out through the gift shop!
2009 Valedo (100% Pinot Noir): The word valedo means “veil”. A gold coloured white wine which is vinified like a rosé and then aged under a veil of flor yeast giving the wine very complex aromas of sweet almonds and white pepper.
Loma Larga Vineyards
A little further down the road, we pulled into a winery that is surrounded by natural parkland complete with a mountain range and eucalyptus trees, and it almost reminded me of being back home in Australia.
With vines growing over the surface of the winery and barrel room, our little group enjoyed a private tour of the winery and walked up into the production area to see the wines ready for export to China and wines maturing in oak barrels.
Specialising in producing several red wine varietals and two white wines, the original country farm house at Loma Larga now serves as a tasting room, where we had the privilege of tasting a selection of one white (2012 Sauvignon Blanc) and three red wines 2013 Pinot Noir, 2010 Malbec and 2008 Cabernet Franc).
House, Casa del Vino
The final destination for the day was House (Casa del Vino) which is a unique centre offering wines produced by the Belen Group, educational tours and gastronomy.
Tirazis, which is the Persian name for Shiraz, is the specialty of the winery and is a cool climate Syrah planted with bush-vines in the Casablanca Valley.
After an enjoyable morning of sampling different wines, it was time to enjoy lunch, which was a degustation affair with matching wines.The first course was a ceviche of grouper, salmon and calamari matched with a glass of Morande 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva. Ceviche is a staple of Chilean cuisine and this dish was stunning in its pairing of the different types of fish, including its textures and colours. The citric acidity of the ceviche was matched with a pale yellow fruity wine with green apple citrus flavours.
The next dish was a delicious squid ink risotto with seafood sautéed in butter and topped with parmesan cheese paired with an offering of Morande 2009 Pinot Noir Gran Reserva. The vegetal aromas of mushroom and leather and red fruit flavours typically associated with Pinot Noir were an excellent match with the rice which was a substantial component of the meal.
Carmenère is a red grape varietal that is uniquely produced in Chile. Originally thought to be Merlot, Carmenère is a stunning red wine that defies description but I think everyone should have the pleasure of enjoying. Our third course was a pork loin with bacon, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, potato and salsa verde served with Morande 2011 Carmenère from the Maipo Valley. Absolutely delicious, although I can’t say which I enjoyed more – the wine or the food.
Then just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat and drink another thing, a glass of golden Morande 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc was served with panna cotta, fresh berries and a Shiraz reduction. Both were rapidly devoured, so it must have been good.
Normally after I have been filled to the brim with excellent wine and delectable food, I am in ready need of a small siesta however our next appointment was a private tour of the winery to see how the wine is made in a didactic style. Escorted into a large room with stainless steel tanks (which bore some resemblance to the daleks from Doctor Who), large exotic concrete eggs and oak casks, a sommelier explained the wine making process for producing the special blend of Syrah that the winery is known for. The highlight of the day was definitely tasting two vintages of Syrah directly from the oak barrels.
Just when I thought the fun was about to come to an end, we were escorted into what every serious wine-loving girl needs – a private cellar of Shiraz with a trademark Christian Louboutin red concrete floor. All I need to do now is work out how I can build one into my new apartment.
I had a wonderful day enjoying Chilean wine from the Casablanca Valley and beyond, with many different wines and varietals to taste, and the opportunity to enjoy excellent food. I owe a big thanks to Stefan who made sure I got back home to my hotel safe and sound and that my wine purchases were also intact.