An interview with Marcelo Papa, “Chile shouldn’t play the game of making blockbuster wines”

Sep 25, 14 An interview with Marcelo Papa, “Chile shouldn’t play the game of making blockbuster wines”

Posted by in All, Chile

Marcelo Papa, chief winemaker for Chilean brand, Concha y Toro, is a man on a mission to take Chilean wine back to it’s origins. Last night over a wine tasting and dinner, Marcelo told me, and a select group of wine writers, where he thinks the direction that Chilean wine should take into the future. What he told us was both surprising and exciting, not to mention, bound to be a bit controversial. According to Marcelo, Chilean wines have been pushing the maturity of the grapes too far and he thinks it was a mistake to go for over ripe grapes.  During the tasting, Marcelo said, “Just because you can produce grapes that are overripe, doesn’t mean you have to…” These over ripe grapes produce wines that are big and rich but don’t have any sense of place or origin. He thinks that Chilean winemakers should opt out of the game to make ‘blockbuster’ wines and instead focus on highlighting the true characteristics of the grapes. He feels that Chile has been following a fashion for rich and over ripe wines with high alcohol and no true identity. These wines were ‘international’ in style, they could be from anywhere. This realization came to him one day when he realized that although he is a Chilean winemaker, the wines he was drinking at home were not. He had to ask himself, “Why am  I not drinking Chilean wine? Why do I prefer European wines to drink at home?” And that got him to thinking about Chilean wine making in general and how wine was made in Chile in the past, when he did drink it and enjoyed it. Marcelo decided to put his money where is mouth is and is now taking Concha y Toro winemaking in a new direction. So what is he doing? Firstly, he’s picking the grapes earlier. Marcelo said that in the 1970’s they used to pick early to get the best acidity and true fruit characteristics of the grapes. He...

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Lunching with Concha y Toro at Novikov

May 18, 13 Lunching with Concha y Toro at Novikov

Posted by in All, Chile, Food and Wine, restaurants

I’d heard a few things about Novikov before I went there for lunch recently but wasn’t really sure what to expect other than it was 2 restaurants in one ( the upstairs being Asian cuisine and the downstairs Italian, along with a Lounge) and that it would probably be full of Russians as it’s owned by a successful Russian restaurauter. I had been invited to lunch there by the Chilean winery Concha y Toro to sample their premium wines with the dim sum of Novikov. The decor is what I would call modern Asian, lots of dark wood and spotlights scattered around the dining room. What caught my eye was the long bar of fresh fruits and veg in baskets and seafood on ice that lined the back of the dining room. A glass wall separated that from the chefs who were all busily cooking up a storm. Alvaro, from Concha y Toro was our guide for lunch and he immediately launched into the tasting with a trio of Chilean white aromatic wines. Normally, I wouldn’t automatically think that Chile would produce wines to go with Asian cuisine but CyT have been working hard in the Bio Bio and Casablanca Valleys of Chile to find the best spots for cooler climate varieties. We tried the Maiden Flight 2012 riesling, the Los Gansos 2012 gewurztraminer and the Amelia 2012 chardonnay. The Bio Bio Valley soils (where the grapes for the first two wines come from) are full of calcium and it was apparent in the first two that there was a strong streak of mineral notes running through them along with balanced acidity. The riesling was quite aromatic, honeysuckle, orange blossoms in character with very lots of fleshy white fruit flavours. We had a variety of dim sum to pair with the foods. I found the riesling a good match to the spicy shrimp dumplings, the fruit in the wine tempering the chilies in the dumplings. It was also a winning combo with the salmon...

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Montes “M” vertical 2001-2010 tasting with Aurelio Montes

Dec 04, 12 Montes “M” vertical 2001-2010 tasting with Aurelio Montes

Posted by in Chile

Chilean winery owner Aurelio Montes was in town the other day on a quick visit to promote his wines. Montes is a Chilean winery, that even with a production of 7 million bottles a year, is considered a small to medium sized winery in South America. Aurelio brought along a vertical of their iconic wine, Montes Alpha M 2001 – 2010 for us to try. Montes makes a variety of wines but the one that Aurelio is most proud of is their “M” series. A Bordeaux blend, it is comprised of 80% cabernet sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% merlot and 5% petit verdot. Aurelio compares his wines to those of the Left Bank and told us that it was recently blind tasted in Los Angeles against some of the best Bordeaux in the world. Surprisingly for many, it came out second only to Chateau Lafite. Not bad for a New World wine that’s only been in production for a short time. Before we tasted through the wines, Aurelio advised us that although all the vintages are good, the even numbered years are a bit weaker when compared to the odd numbered years. So, without further ado, my notes on the Montes Alpha M 2001 – 2010, a really good tasting in my opinion… Montes Alpha M 2001: A round and polished wine, licorice and black fruits on the nose with excellent acidity and a lush nose. An intense but not jammy palate with round tannins and a long finish. After awhile notes of freshly brewed tea began to show on the finish. Montes Alpha M 2003: Blackberries and a hint of mint on an integrated, well structured wine, the tannins were not as soft as the 2001 but I didn’t think that was a bad thing. Long finish with a minty freshness to it. Montes Alpha M 2004: This was the wine that came second to Lafite. The year was cooler then average which gave a wine with less intensity in colour, ripe red fruits on the nose...

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Casillero del Diablo pinot grigio and Korean food

Nov 12, 12 Casillero del Diablo pinot grigio and Korean food

Posted by in Chile, Food and Wine, restaurants

I originally wrote this for the (Casillero del ) Diablo supperclub blog a few months ago: Pinot grigio is usually thought of as a quick quaffer. Not much thought goes into buying a pinot grigio. Easygoing, light, usually with a log of lemon on the palate and not much else. Most don’t give it much thought as they glug it down on a Friday after work at the pub. However, there are options to which pinot grigio you choose to drink. Originally from Italy, pinot grigio is grown around the world now and one place it has found a home is in the valleys of Chile. Most would pair pinto grigio with fish or seafood because of it’s light body and crispness but Casillero’s pinot grigio actually has a bit more body and weight to it then the average pinot available in the supermarkets. I stumbled upon CyD’s pinot grigio one Friday night in of all places, a Korean restaurant in Central London. My friend and I were wandering around Centrepoint which has a string of Korean joints and settled on Assa which seemed to be the busiest and biggest of the 3 or 4 restaurants that line St. Giles Street. Korean food is quite spicy and full of ginger and chilli so when I was looking at the minimal wine list, I didn’t  have much hope in my mind but their house wine was the Casillero del Diablo pinot grigio and as we didn’t want beer, we plumped for the wine. I was with my Japanese friend Honami who knew a lot more about Korean cuisine then me so I let her do the ordering. We of course had the obligatory kimchee, spicy! As well as ordering bim bim bap, (vegetables and rice with a spicy sauce), squid with chili, and Korean spare ribs. All the dishes were quite heavily spiced and at first I wasn’t sure if the pinot grigio would stand up to the spices and chili but the wine had...

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Cigars and red wine, they may not be a classic pairing but…

Nov 07, 12 Cigars and red wine, they may not be a classic pairing but…

Posted by in Argentina, California, Chile, Lifestyle

I recently took part in a cigar and red wine matching exercise with Alvaro Marcos Garcia of Concha y Tora and two lovely fellows, Jimmy and Dan, from Hunters & Frankau, a major cigar importer and distributor here in the UK. Alvaro is an ex-sommelier and he often noticed that diners would often have a cigar after lunch or dinner with the last of their red wine. When one thinks of cigars, it’s usually port or brandy that springs to mind as an accompaniment. However, even though cigar and red wine are not a classic pairing, they are often a common pairing. This got Alvaro to thinking and before you know it, we were sitting in the outdoor cigar lounge of Home House in Mayfair, lighting up some stogies as an experiment to see how well they would match with red wine. Alvaro had brought along 3 robust red wines to go along with the cigars that Dan and Jimmy from Hunters & Frankau had brought along. The wines were the Don Melchor 2008, Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2009 and Bonterra’s The Butler 2007. All 3 wines were from the New World and I think that for cigars, you do need big and brash wines, wines with fruit and structure because, let’s face it, cigars are not exactly wallflowers of flavour. Briefly on the wines: Don Melchor is a Chilean caberent sauvignon, a rich and complex wine with loads of fruit flavours. The Trivento is 100% malbec, a silky wine with loads of cherry and plum on the palate.  The Butler from biodynamic producer Bonterra, is an enticing syrah/grenache blend with mouvedre and petit syrah also in the blend. A rich and velvety wine, it had licorice, black cherry and a spicy note to it. There is an art to cigar rolling and Jimmy explained that hand rolled cigars are preferable to machine rolled because hand rolled cigars are whole leaves that are rolled in a particular order which allows the flavour to develop...

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Vertical tasting of Chilean wine – Casa Real 1989 to 2010

Jan 30, 12 Vertical tasting of Chilean wine – Casa Real 1989 to 2010

Posted by in Chile

A few weeks ago I went to a wine workshop organized by the Chilean premium wine producer, Santa Rita Estates on the top floor of Millbank Tower. What a view! What was just as impressive was the vertical of their super premium wine, Casa Real. Going back to the first vintate 1989, we tasted through to the latest  2010. Casa Real is a true “vintage” wine in that they only make the wine in exceptional years, just like Vintage Port or Vintage Champagne. Since 1989 there have been only 8 productions of Casa Real. The region is dear to the heart of the winemaker Cecilia Torres, who has been the winemaker of Casa Real since 1989. She thinks the vineyards, Alto Jahuel, are capable of producing such fine wines because of it’s terroir of alluvial soils above a layer of clay which gives excellent drainage and impart a minerality to the wines. The vines are 50 years old but still going strong. The wine is 100% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak barrels for between 12 and 14 months. Tasting the wines, they all showed excellent balance- fruit, acidity, tannins all there existing harmoniously. One of the presenters noted that these wines are very exciting because they show the future and the ageability of Chilean wine. He predicts that in future, Chile will have more super premium wines appearing in the marketplace.  Cecilia commented that her favourites were from the 1990’s as they exhibited light and elegant qualities and they haven’t dried out or lost their fruit character. Off all the vintages, the 1989 is her favourite. We tasted 2010, 2008, 2005, 2002, 1999, 1997, 1995 and 1989. I started with the youngest and worked my way back. The 2010 and 2008 were full of ripe red fruits and bitter chocolate notes, the tannins still grainy but not unpleasing to the palate. I could taste already that they were going to develop into exceptional wines, the quality of the fruit disclosing itself already. 2005...

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