Chilling in Chile

And so it is/just like you said it would be/Life goes easy on me/Most of the time/And so it is/The shorter story/No love, no glory/No hero in her sky/

Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter. 

If you have never heard the song I urge you to find it and listen to it. His music travelled with me through Chile whilst I rode a Yamaha Tenerife across the Andes into Argentina and back. Along the way I visited a few wineries whose wines we have brought in over the last few months, and whose philosophies adhere closely to mine. As an example; one of the largest producers of commercial swill in Chile is Concha y Toro. They own so much and buy so much they might as well put a big sign on their gate ‘Trumpet Vines and Palace’. But in a vineyard a few kilometers from where I stood with Pedro Parra (more about him later), the farmers pick grapes for $0.08 cents per kilo. On behalf of Concha y Toro. In the vineyard where Pedro Parra manages the vines, he pays the farmers a fair-trade price of $1.50 per kilo. In return, they farm organically, they reduce quantities, they sustain the biodiversity of the vineyards and they can afford to send their children to school and live above the subsistence level.

And so it is – just like you said it would be. The wineries I visited produce some of the most amazing wines I have ever tasted from a region known for its commercial plonk. Each wine was a testament to the wine-maker. Dazzling with complexity, life, flavor and joy. I never wanted to put down a glass, and did so only that it may be refilled…quickly. I learnt about the land and especially the soil – Pedro Parra has a doctorate from the Institut Agronomique National in Parisin soil. He is a world-renowned oenologist who is in such demand that to spend a day with him is a privilege. The day after I met him he flew to Burgundy to consult with a famous wine-maker who was having possible problems with her soil. The week before I met him, Jancis Robinson (famous UK wine critic) flew to Chile to meet him and to discuss vineyard management and how his wineries can produce such alternatives to the commercial stuff sold in every Supermarket in the UK. 

I met a young student of Pedro’s who with his Dutch wife is producing quite possibly the best Cinsault I have ever tasted. And doing so on mountainside vineyards where tractors have never been and where cars pull off to the side of the road miles from the vineyard because the vineyards themselves are in the middle of nowhere. These soils have never met Monsanto. And I met Charlie Villard whose chardonnay and Syrah want to make you cry. Finally, I drove south to the island of Chiloe and from there took a little boat across the sound to another tiny island and met up with Marina and Alvaro, owners of Pura Fe, Kuyen and Antiyal. Rather than spoil their wines with my dumb adjectives, buy their wines and come up with your own.

In the days that I spent tasting these wines and learning about why they are different I became aware of a simple truth amongst these wine-makers. If you preserve and care for the land, if you allow nature to govern; and if you are not greedy, the Gods of grapes will be kind to you and not of wrath. The shorter story/No love, no glory/ No hero in her sky.

I have written below a little piece about some of the wines from the wineries. At the very bottom is a price list and various combo packs that may be of interest. Even further down I have posted a scrap book of photos from the trip. If you want to know more about these wines please call me, and if you should be inclined to purchase any of them please let me know. We have approximately 30 cases on order now for delivery late next week. We can add to it if needs be.

Tasting notes

Villard, Valle de Casablanca Le Chardonnay Grand Vin.

Charlie Villard is a character larger than life. Young, good looking and driven by a passion to make wine that will please his parents…and us. The vineyards are meticulous, and organic. On the drive up to the winery I noticed these massive looking vines tightly planted to maximize production. The plants looked stressed, overly inundated with chemicals. Five kilometers along I entered the Villard winery. All around me were incredible hues of vibrant greens. The vines looked like they were smiling. There was no stress, no antibiotics, no fertilizers, just pure nature. The chardonnay has immense balance and soul. There is sea salt on the palate (the vineyards are not far from the Pacific Ocean), honeysuckle, nougat, apricot and almonds. This is not a dense chardonnay; quite the opposite, it is bright and full of vigor. Lovely.

Vinateros Bravos Pais.

I stood in the vineyards where these wines come from. Across the horizon was the Pacific. To the east were the Andes, as close in sight you felt you could touch them. The vineyards have nothing but sky above them. And they are old - seriously old. The vines have been left to grow and flourish with little intervention. Though the majority of fruit is Pais, these vineyards have vines in them that were planted 80 years ago - maybe they are Pais, maybe not. What matters is that the wine is as pure and as fresh as you can imagine. It’s a table wine that compliments everything, and everyone.

Vinateros Valle del Itaca Cinsault Canto a Lo Divino

Almost certainly the most memorable Cinsault I have ever had. Leo has an understanding about wine-making that defies his experience (which is pretty damned good already). The wine captures the ‘terroir’ perfectly. A little crushed spice, a hint of aromatics live clove and nutmeg, some orange blossom, and you could continue. The length is amazing but sadly there are only 750ml in the bottle. 

Pedro Parra Y Familia Cinsault Imaginador

From the master, a Consult very different from Leo’s. Much broader, fleshier, fruitier. But all in balance and all ‘in depth’. The wine resonates with boldness and yet remains lively and young. By contrast, I want to drink Leo’s Itata Cinsault soon after the vintage. Pedro’s Cinsault could lie in my cellar for another 15-20 years

Villard, Valle de Casablanca Syrah Tanagra

Not cheap, but a lot less than Cornas and dare I say it, every bit as good.Some of the oldest vines at Villard are used in this wine. It is the creation of the second generation, Jean Charles and Sebastian. Each brother brings a separate dimension to the wine; Jean Charles has the wine making experience, Sebastian has a knowledge of oak that knows no bounds. He runs his own cooperage, manages his forests, and selects only the finest oak staves for his barrels.Between them they have mastered a wine that is simply intoxicating. It is made entirely by hand - hand picked, hand stemmed, and even hand placed into the barrels. The various size barrels work their magic for 12-18 months and then the brothers create the final blend. It’s an amazing wine.

Antiyal, Valle del Maipo Kuyen 

Alvaro Espinosa is a child of the vineyard. His grandfather was a negociant, his father was a wine maker and now two of his sons are beginning the formidable task of taking over. But Alvaro still makes the wines. In 2015 he was named as one of the 50 most influential wine makers in the world by Decanter Magazine. His discourse on biodynamic farming is listened to by wine-makers from all corners of the world. And in a tiny little winery he extracts everything that nature is willing to give him, and then he makes great wine. The Kuyen is a blend of Syrah, cabernet and petit verdot. It is ethereal; very smooth, loaded with tiny berries and really gentle. Plenty of backbone, plenty of rich, undulating fruit flavors and a heady palate of cigar and cocoa. 

As I write this I realize that these wines are all so different and whilst they will please almost every palate, I shouldn’t be the one to judge how best to mix them up. So here’s the deal.

Mix and match any 6 bottles and get 12% off the price.

Mix and match any 12 bottles and get 15% off the price.

Mix and match any 18 bottles and get 18% off the price.

You choose what you want in the box. Let me know and we’ll have it ready by next weekend.

Prices:

Villard Le Chardonnay Grand Vin: $32.00 per bottle $28/6; $27/12; $26/18

Vinateros Bravos Pais: $22.00 per bottle $19.50/6; $18.75/12; $18.00/18

Vinateros Bravos Itata Cinsault: $22 per bottle $19.50/6; $18.75/12; $18.00/18

Pedro Parra Cinsault Imaginador: $25.00 per bottle $22.00/6; $21.25/12; $20.50/18

Villard Syrah Tanagra: $68.00 per bottle; $60.00/6; $58.00/12; $55.75/18

Antiyal Valle del Maipo Kuyen: $34.00 per bottle. $30.00/6; $29.00/12; $27.75/18

The Tanagra is very limited and the Villard chardonnay is quite limited. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger sooner, rather than later. The discounted prices are good through next Monday, February 27.