Uncorked Wine Tours – Cooking Workshop, Santiago Chile

It’s a privilege to be able to travel the world and experience different cultures, languages and cuisines. Whenever I have the opportunity, I indulge in my love of cooking and register for a cooking class so that I can continue to enjoy the memories and share my gourmet experiences with my family and friends. Connie and Jose from Uncorked Wine Tours also offer cooking workshops that help you to create authentic Chilean food at home, with each course matched with a premier wine from the key wine regions of Chile.

Two couples on their honeymoon from the US were my fellow cooking companions for the Saturday evening class, and we all became acquainted over a sample of delicious cheese marinated with oil and green peppers, served with toasted bread before our class commenced. The menu for the evening showcased authentic Chilean cuisine commencing with the renowned cocktail, Pisco Sour.

Although we made the Peruvian version with egg white and Angostura bitters, Connie expertly guided us through the preparation of the cocktail including the shaker technique to ensure that the drink had enough foam. So with a little trepidation, I mixed my drink and while it didn’t look too bad, I needed a bit more practice at using the cocktail shaker to achieve the fluffy foam appearance that a good Pisco needs.

Quietly sipping on our drinks, we then watched Connie demonstrate the preparation of a chanco en piedra, which is a version of Chilean salsa called pebre made from garlic, green chilli or peppers, tomatoes and salt flakes ground into a paste or sauce-like consistency in a mortar and pestle. It was delicious with toasted bread and cut through the acidity of the Pisco.

Next Connie made pebre which is typically served as an accompaniment and is made from finely chopped green pepper, coriander, tomatoes, white onion and olive oil. The pebre was going to be served later with our meat course.

I have been wanting to learn how to make ceviche for a long time and after a constant two week diet of ceviche at different restaurants in Santiago, I was eager to learn how to cut the raw fish properly so that I could have the confidence to prepare it at home. Connie was extremely gracious in letting me come to the class earlier than the starting time so that I could get some practice cutting the fish into small bite-size portions for the dish that we would be preparing in the class.

Whilst ceviche looks like a simple dish, there are a number of little things that you need to be cognisant of, so that the acidity of the lime juice does not overcook the fish. In teams, we all took up different tasks and positions to add quantities of fish, shrimps, salt, chillies, whilst someone else was constantly using their hands to ensure that mixture was evenly combined with the lime juice and ice cubes in the bowl. It was a bit of a delicate balancing act to ensure that we had the right quantities of salt and citrus and as we continued to mix the ice cubes to bring the fish and flavours together, resulting in a beautiful leche de tigre juice for the ceviche. With the hard work over, we enjoyed eating our ceviche with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc that Connie had selected for us to enjoy with the meal.

Every country has their own interpretation of a crème caramel and for Chile, it is Budin del Cielo. After using small amounts of palm sugar syrup to line a flan dish, we poured a mixture of condensed milk, eggs, milk and vanilla extract into the dish which is then placed in the oven in a water bath. When cooked, it is chilled in the fridge until ready to be served for the dessert course.

The next course on the menu was Empanadas de pino which is another staple of South American cuisine. Connie showed us how to make her preferred but simple version of the pastry with lard, flour, warm water and salt. Whilst on the stove, we prepared the onion and meat mixture with a combination of spices for the filling. Rolling out the pastry, we all got to work preparing our empanadas with the meat, a piece of boiled egg, black olives and raisins.

While the empanadas were cooking in the oven, our next task was to make the mixture for Chupe de jaiba which is a creamy seafood casserole or stew made with crab meat and shrimp, with a crust of gratinéed Parmesan cheese. Following the recipe that had been prepared for us, we created a delicious thick mixture which was then prepared into gratin dishes and decorated with crab claws and cheese, ready to go into the oven.

With all the hard work and preparation completed, it was time to indulge and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Connie selected a Max Reserva Carmenere to match the beautifully cooked meat empanadas and pebre. Then it was time to eat the deliciously creamy and cheesy Chupe de jaiba.

Everyone has just enough room for a dessert course, and with the Budin del cielo chilled, the flan was turned out onto plates to let the syrup run over the plate. Connie had prepared a few sauces and bowls of fresh blueberries, mint and strawberries and we had the opportunity to prepare and decorate our own plates, which brought out the artist in all of us.

Content but supremely full, it was time to say “Gracias!” and bid farewell to Connie, Jose and to Chile because it was time to fly back home to Australia and get a good night’s sleep on the plane trip home.


Uncorked Wine Tours – Casablanca Valley, Chile

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.


Bodegas RE

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.