Viva la Revolución – Chilean wine masterclass

Lucy Shaw Closing the day’s masterclasses was Chile expert Peter Richards, who vowed to take us on a tour of the best wines South America has to offer. He began by congratulating us for being there in the first place, proclaiming wine and wine tasting as the best antidote to the recession.

After playing with a number of possible titles for the masterclass, Richards decided upon Viva la Revolución due to the revolution in quality and diversity South American wines have experienced in the last decade. ‘It’s been a very exciting ten years, and in the wine world that’s the blink of an eye’.

It seemed fitting that the giver of a masterclass on an exciting and experimental wine continent with huge promise should be given by one of the industry’s youngest wine authorities.

Richards spoke convincingly about how South America no longer suffers an inferiority complex, and how the wines coming out of South America can stand alongside some of the best wines in the world and hold their head high, offering amazing value and quality.

Driven by the continent’s dramatically varied geography, diversity (the buzzword of the afternoon) is, according to Richards, the most exciting thing happening in South America at the moment.

Syrah was name-checked as Chile’s grape of the future – ‘we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it. Syrah-based wines will get better and better’.

Surprises of the masterclass: How in Chile, it is from the vintages that aren’t the best that you get the most elegant wines, such as 2007.

Presenter comments: ’The worst crime a wine can commit is to be boring’, ‘We should give New World wines more respect and taste them after a couple of years, rather than very young’

On O.Fournier winemaker José Manuel Ortega – ‘He’s a cross between a human whirlwind and a jack-in-the-box’

Most controversial topic of debate: The temperature to serve South American reds – Richards recommends serving the big reds slightly chilled down to counter the high alcohol, believing the concept of serving reds at room temperature to be outdated.

Tasting notes

De Martino, Single Vineyard Quebrada Seca Chardonnay, Limaré Valley, Chile 2007

Medium, lemon, a citrus nose of lemon and crisp green apple with mineral creamy notes and visible oak. Lively acidity on the palate with refreshing tangy green apples mixing with slightly salty savoury notes.

Mayu, Syrah Reserva, Elqui Valley, Chile 2006

Medium ruby with a perfumed nose of plum, black cherry and black olives with meaty notes and a hint of green. Smoky bacon notes on the palate, wrapped around well-integrated tannins. An elegant and complex wine that sings of the Northern Rhône. An exciting example of the new style of Syrah coming out of Chile.

Bayo Oscuro, Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile 2006

Deep purple, big gamey notes on the nose with lashings of smoke and enticing savoury notes. Velvety on the palate with soft tannins and savoury notes that linger in an long meaty finish. An elegant and exciting wine that shows where Chile is headed.

Montes, Folly Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile 2006

Deep purple, big bold and beautiful, the heady nose smacks you with a handful of ripe black cherries dipped in vanilla. Fruit forward on the palate, with chunky velvety tannins and a full body. Mouthfilling and well balanced this blockbuster is an elegant epic.

Noemia, Malbec, Patagonia, Argentina 2006

Made from 70-year-old vines planted on their own roots, the biodynamic wine is fruit forward with red and black cherries, raspberries and prunes all in the mix. The nose also seems to be showing some hints of dried fruits. On the palate fruit dominates, the chunky tannins mellowed by vanilla sweetness. A complex, big, exciting wine with a deliciously long length.

Achaval Ferrer, Fina Mirador, Mendoza, Argentina 2007

Another oldie (its vines were planted in 1921) the deep purple wine was showing a bizarre, almost cheesy wet nose with floral notes of violets and black fruit. Better on the palate, with elegant silky tannins, hints of spice and vibrant acid, but a disappointingly curt length.

O.Fournier, Alfa Crux, Mendoza, Argentina 2002

Made from 60% old vine tempranillo, 35% malbec and 5% merlot, medium ruby, with gamey notes on the nose toying with layers of dried fruits. The red fruit is still very much alive, with raspberries and red cherries adding vibrancy. Elegant on the palate, with lovely complexity and lingering spice on the finish.

Neyen, Colchagua Valley, Chile 2005

A blend of 50% carmenere and 50% cabernet sauvignon from vines over a century old, the medium ruby wine hits you with green notes on the nose of roasted peppers coupled with refreshing mint and eucalypt and leafy floral hints. Soft and savoury with silky tannins and a good mouthfeel, it’s an elegant wine with bite and length.

Santa Rita, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile 2004

Made from 100% cabernet sauvignon, the deep ruby wine opens with menthol notes of mint, eucalypt and blackcurrant fruit pastels and develops a delicious coffee nose after a swirl or two. On the palate the fruit pastels persist, but jostle for space with enticing pepper and spice. A very interesting and complex wine with amazing length – the highlight of the tasting.

Almaviva, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, Chile 2004

Medium ruby with a traditional menthol nose of mint, eucalypt, black currant and black cherry. Sexy and well made, this big busty bombshell is wrapped in silky tannins sprinkled with spice and shows lovely fruit, fierce grip and long length – a wine that can go on for miles.

Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, Argentina 2004

Born of a joint venture with the darling of St Emilion, Château Cheval Blanc, the wine is a blend of 53% malbec and 43% cabernet sauvignon. Grown on old vines dating back to 1929, Pierre Lurton’s influence is visible. A heady nose of plums, black cherry and violets takes us back to Bordeaux. Elegant on the palate with chunky tannins, a full body and wonderful complexity.

Nicolás Catena, Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina 2004

Made at dizzying heights, this blend of 55% malbec, 45% cabernet sauvignon and 2% petit verdot is very much in the Bordeaux style. On the nose are blackcurrants, violets and mint, with grippy tannins, superb structure and balance on the palate. Refined, rounded and elegant, the multi-layered wine has a lovely length and bags of complexity.

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