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DWWA 2014: Chile & Brazil insights

Hear from our Chile & Brazil Regional Chair Peter Richards MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Chile’s success in this year’s DWWA was not the kind that can easily be quantified. Yes, we can point to the nine Trophies and 11 Golds for captivating wines ranging from Païs to sweet Riesling. But the real highlight was the way in which Chilean wine is starting to develop the kind of personality that goes beyond exemplary correctness and instead moves into the realm of arresting, sometimes challenging brilliance. It is the result of much hard work and brave winemaking and should be applauded. Finally, it would be great to see some more wines from Brazil. Its sparkling wine is going from strength to strength, so it is only a matter of time before we see our first Gold.

What should we buy from here?

We’re starting to see Chilean Pinots with that elusive X-factor – hard to pin down yet utterly beguiling – and there will be more to come. Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah delivered their customary fireworks while there were notable successes in Cabernet and, especially, Carmenere. Elqui and Leyda/San Antonio reinforced their reputation as some of the most exciting Chilean regions.

What should we leave on the shelf?

Beyond the usual advice to steer clear of turgid, entry-level Central Valley Sauvignon Blanc, we can add another warning sign: beware banal reds. They come in different but always depressing forms, from the cheap gritty Merlot to the flashy Cabernet blend with an eye-watering price. They are the result of formula-led, chestbeating winemakers who seem to have forgotten that the first duty of wine is to be a refreshing drink. As a final word, tread carefully with whites and Pinot Noirs from 2012 – there are some lovely wines but also in this hot vintage many lacking freshness.

What should we keep an eye on?

Chile develops so fast wine lovers need to keep a sharp eye on this increasingly diverse offering. Of particular note is the revival in Chile’s ‘heritage’ varieties. These include Muscat, Carignan, Cinsault, Pedro Ximénez and Païs, often from dry-farmed old vineyards in southern regions such as Maule and Itata. They are frequently joyful, unadorned, drinkable wines. Riesling, from dry to sweet (via elegant off-dry versions), is well worth following. Keep an eye on fizz and sweet wines, too, which can be great value.

Written by Decanter

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