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Trying Chile’s winning wines

Have you ever wanted to try all the top award winning wines in one sitting? Last week Chile’s wine bods got together for a tasting of all the winning wines from last year’s Annual Wines of Chile Awards (AWOCA). As happens every year, the awards were given after three days of blind tasting by a judging panel of 12 experts, this time from all over the Americas including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. With 14 wines to try, the tasting started early on the morning of Tuesday 5 August just outside of Santiago city.

The four winning whites from AWOCA 2014 were all from cool climates, showing a trend in the judges’ preference for crisp and refreshing acidity in whites. Two sauvignons influenced by maritime climates started the tasting: the Best Sauvignon Blanc from Viña Leyda, and the Best Super Premium White was Casa Marin’s Sauvignon Gris. Leyda’s Lot 4, single block Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Leyda region in San Antonio just 12 kms from the coast and spends six months on the lees for more complexity in the mouth. Marketing Manager Laura Ballotta spoke about the Sancerre clone they used, which gives their wine a distinct character. Casa Marin’s Sauvignon Gris was presented by owner Maria Luz Marin who talked of the labour of love it has been for the family winery to develop a Sauvignon Gris, which is quite unusual for Chile, but proved delightful in tasting and comes from a vineyard just 4 kms from the coast also in San Antonio.

The next white to taste was another more unusual variety for Chile but has been certainly turning eyes in recent years, Riesling, and this time from a different cool climate much further south – Bio Bio – where winemaker Matias Rios from Cono Sur explained that they have been really been investing in for the last few years. The same vineyards won the Best Sweet Wine for their late harvest Riesling. The last of the whites was another from Leyda, San Antonio, from Santa Ema winery which won Best Chardonnay with their Amplus with a notably tropical fruit nose and good structure from 10 months on the lees and barrel fermentation.

Moving through the colour line, the tasting moved to the Best Rose from AWOCA 2014: Anakena’s Enco Syrah. Winemaker Gavin Taylor explained that he is fond of the lighter colour and the focus of this wine is getting a dry and expressive rose, which they ferment as they would a Sauvignon Blanc. Picking up a bit more colour, the winner of the Best Pinot Noir was Cono Sur again for their Single Vineyard 2012. As possibly the biggest Pinot Noir producer in the world, Cono Sur’s specialism is in Pinot and winemaker Matias shared their winemaking technique for developing this fruit-driven wine with smooth tannins and a crunchy acidity, which he said was a distinctly Chilean style. “We really want to reflect the potential of Pinot Noir from Chile,” said Matias, “we don’t want to imitate Pinot Noir from anywhere else.”

First in the darker reds, was one of the most emblematic varieties for Chile, the Best Carmenere which was won by Caliterra’s Tributo 2011 from the Colchagua valley which had a touch of Syrah and Cabernet Franc in the blend to add complexity and give it a good acidity on the finish. Casas del Bosque was the next to present with their Pequenas Producciones Syrah which came from the slighter hotter 2012 vintage and had an explosive nose of dark fruit.

Ventisquero’s Vertice took the trophy for Best Blend in AWOCA for their Carmenere and Syrah blend which was presented by Head Winemaker Felipe Tosso who spoke of the assets of working with these varieties together and how they have become some of the best performing varieties in Chilean winemaking, evident in this very accomplished wine. The next category is one of the most competitive in Chile – Best Cabernet Sauvignon. 2014’s winner was San Pedro with their single vineyard Cab, 1865, which the winemaker said “the idea was to represent Maipo” with its instantly recognizable red fruit, cassis and smooth tannins.

The Best Other Red was taken by Garcia & Schwaderer once again for their VIGNO Carignan, and Felipe Garcia spoke about the “great surprise it was for us to receive this award two years in a row.” He spoke about how Carignan is proof that Chile can make wonderful wines with varieties that have been produced here for many years, and how it is a very gastronomic variety. The last red in this beautiful line up was the Best in Show, which also won the Best Premium Red, Don Maximiliano by Errazuriz which is not shy of awards as one of the most renowned red wines in Chile. Winemaker Pedro Contreras was at the tasting to talk about how they blend and work with different older vineyards in the Aconcagua region blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Malbec to create this internationally recognized Bordeaux blend.

Finally, to refresh the mouth and the senses was Morande’s Brut Nature which won the Best Sparkling and has a very unique character coming from a traditional method sparkling wine which had been aged in 500 litre barrels over 16 months, and later left on the lees for 36 months making it a complex and very special wine, setting the bar high for sparkling wine in Chile which, as a country, winemaker Pablo Morande explained has a great potential.

After an informative tasting, a panel of journalists and wine experts closed the conference with a talk about how to best use the awards and communicate their great wines with the world.

By Amanda Barnes






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