Wines at Altitude – Carmenere and Malbec

Jan 27, 12 Wines at Altitude – Carmenere and Malbec

Posted by in Argentina, Chile

I don’t hate Carmenere. It’s often referred to as the “marmite” of wine, you either love it or hate it. I fall into the ambivilent category, neither hating it nor loving it. I was given a little more insight into carmenere when I participated in a wine workshop sponsored by Santa Rita Estates, a premium Chilean producer, which sought to shed a bit more light on not only the wines of Chile but also it’s neighbour, Argentina and it’s flagship grape, Malbec. I participated only in the red wine tasting of the seminar but there was a white wine tasting in the morning. The Carmenere tasting was lead by Tim Atkin MW, Brian Croser and Peter Richards MW with Panellists Andres Ilabaca and Sebastian Labbe. Peter Richards MW noted that carmenere is still relatively new and that it needs more time and that he has “…no doubt that quality will increase in time. Lots of different kinds of Carmenere will emerge, as it’s a naturally varied variety…” Viña Casa Silva, Santa Rita Estates, Carmen Winemakers, and Concha y Toro were all on show, an mix of 2008 and 2009 vintages. What was most evident was the slight green notes of the wines and the tannins. I also found that there was a coffee bean character to them, but I liked that! The standout was not surprisingly a blend, 85% carmenere, 10% carignan and 5% cabernet the 2009 Apalta by Carmen Winemakers. Carmenere seems to work best when blended and this wine was fresh, spicy and full of fruit. The added varities seemed to give the wine a lift and extra dimension. Carmenere is still a work in progress for the Chileans. After a short break we reconvened for Malbec. I’ve drunk a lot of malbec, mostly in Argentina, so I was looking forward to tasting these wines. Colome Estate, Bodega Noemia, and Dona Paula were all on tasting. Salta is one of the highest altitude wine producing regions in the world, if not the...

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Nopi- thinking outside the (winelist) box

Dec 16, 11 Nopi- thinking outside the (winelist) box

Posted by in Chile, Food and Wine, restaurants

“Giro d’Italia” “Going Natural” “And Gamay for All” “Black Gold” “Without Words” “The Outsiders” “Sake” Those are not descriptors one would usually see as headings for a wine list but Nopi’s wine list is not exactly a “by the numbers, tick all the boxes” wine list. The list reflects the diversity of the wine world, the sommeliers searching for wines that reflect a sense of place (terroir)  as well as being little known or off the beaten track. They also have a section of organic and biodynamic wines but that is from the point of view that they are excellent, well made wines, not a gimmick for the list. I was recently invited to a wine and food matching luncheon to see what exactly was going on with the list wine consultant Gal Zohar and Sommelier Honami Matsumoto have put together for Nopi’s Middle-Eastern/Asian cuisine. Gal and Honami had the enviable job of matching the wines with our lunch. As the philosophy behind Nopi is all about small plates, we had 10 plates each matched with one (or sometimes two) corresponding wine(s). The very first dish was a burrata with pink grapefruit paired with a subtle Slovenian riesling, the Verus 2010 was a revelation. Having a similar profile to Australian riesling from the Clare Valley but toning down the acidity, not so much of a palate cleanser but still very fresh and pure. A wonderful discovery. A Garda classico , the 2010 from Selva Capuzza was next. I visited the Garda region in Italy last year and ever since, whenever I see a Garda wine, I know I’m in for a treat and it’s great to see this lighter style of Italian red getting some recognition. The next wine really made me sit up and take notice an 85% white carignan, yes, that’s right, white carignan. Wow! How exciting, a new grape. I could see that this list was made for wine geeks. However, the wine (Domaine Ledogar, Blanc 10, 2010 Corbieres, France) was...

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Palo Alto rose in the park

I like my rosés dry. I know some people like them on the sweet side but for me nothing beats a crisp, dry rosé. Full of bright redcurrant and ripe strawberry, the 2008 Palo Alto shiraz rosé is a great summer quaffer. I’m sitting in the park on a lovely summers eve, just watching the ducks stroll by, sipping on my rosé. It ticks all the boxes and it’s good by itself or with a nice little picnic lunch. Palo Alto is named after the tall lone trees that dot the hillsides of the Maule Valley in Central Chile. According to the website, the trees thrive in dry, rocky, infertile soils so if you see the Palo Alto, it’s a safe bet you’ll find vines growing nearby. the Palo Alto winery only does 3 wines, a red reserve which is a blend of cabernet, carmenere and syrah, a sauvignon blanc and a shiraz rosé. I was sent all three to try out and the rosé was by far my favourite. The Reserve ’08 was pleasant with plenty of blackcurrant and blackberry, nice and soft, a very easy going wine, again probably would be fine on a picnic.  The ’08 sauvignon blanc was another quaffer but I wish it had a bit more substantiality to it. It started off promisingly enough with heady gooseberry and grapefruit on the nose but disappeared fairly quickly off the palate. As I said earlier, the rosé was my favourite and one I would buy if I saw it in the shops. All the wines retail for £7.99 and are available in most of the big supermarkets. And just to make you feel good about buying the wine, Palo Alto has an independent charity linked to the wine to tackle global warming. It’s called Trees for Cities and is a project aimed at supporting tree-planting projects in the UK and around the world. A worthy cause, we can always use more trees. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Carmenere, made for curry?

Carmenere made for Curry. Does it work? Will it work? That was the question as I headed to Benares in Mayfair for the Wines of Chile curry and carmenere matching exercise. Indian food is notoriously difficult to pair with wine. And try to pair it with red wine and you’re just asking for trouble. Most people fall back on beer or if they are going to order wine, opt for something off-dry or aromatic, like Alsatian or German rieslings, a pinot gris perhaps. The Wines of Chile approached Benares with a set of wines and Constanzo Scala, the sommelier, matched them with dishes off Benares a la carte menu. He was looking for wines that don’t have too much personality and that wouldn’t overpower the dishes or have to much alcohol which would exacerbate the fiery nature of the Indian spices. Due to the fact that carmenere can be oaked as well as unoaked, he had plenty of styles to work with. He matched the tandoori and chicken tikka with the fuller oaked wines as the smokiness of the tandoor can handle the smoky characteristics of oaked carmenere. With lighter dishes such as dahl, he recommended unoaked caremeneres which have let the fruit shine through on the palate. Constanzo emphasised that balance is key, the wines shouldn’t be too acidic or minerally and even if they had high alcohol contents, as long as they were balanced, they would work with the wines. I was let loose on the 30 plus wines on tasting with a plate of tandoori chicken, lamb sheek kebab, chicken tikka, dahl and the most fluffy steamed rice to test against these carmeneres. There were some big hitters available including the 2006 Montes Purple Angel and the 2006 Casa Silva Microterroir. The Casa Silva, although oaked seemed to fit best with the spicy dishes, very smooth, with some dark chocolate notes. That however, was one of the few oaked wines that I thought worked with the food. In general, I thought...

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John Duval and Ventisquero wines

John Duval’s last vintage at Penfold’s was the Grange 2002 but like most winemakers, he couldn’t bring himself to retire and when Ventisquero heard he was leaving Penfold’s they snapped him up to be a consultant, as they were just beginning to launch their syrah making venture in Chile. John has produced two wines, we tried the ’05 vintages of the Pangea which is 100% syrah and the Vertice, which is a blend of syrah and carmenere. We had the pleasure of tasting his wines  along with Ventisquero’s Grey range matched with some very delicious food at Apsleysin the Lanesborough Hotel. John made the ’05 Pangea using grapes from the Apalta vineyards in the Colchagua Valley. Apalta being the heart of Ventisquero’s premium wine growing region, produces wines that are elegant yet fresh and lively due to the higher elevation of the vineyards. Made up of 100% syrah and aged in 50% new French oak (John likes his oak) aged 18 months and then let to rest for one year in bottle,  there were floral notes on the nose as well as full on berry fruits emanating from the glass. A full bodied red with a hit of pepper on it and of course very nicely integrated oak notes. Soft, round, supple – plush! would be a good way to describe this wine. The ’05 Vertice was a pleasing, lighter wine, a blend of syrah and carmenere also from the Apalta vineyards, this wine was lighter in character and had a smooth chocolaty character to it with some nice spice and red chili pepper coming out. Again having those nice round tannins which make this such a mouthfilling wine.  Having said that though, both wines are quite big and powerful, neither being a shrinking violet. Both wines were paired with roasted pigeon royal with a pearl onion and mustard seed sauce with a special surprise of a hunk of foie gras hidden beneath the breast. What a fantastic surprise! I love foie and with...

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Fresita sparkling, perfect for a sunny day

Summer is here! Whoop! We’d better enjoy it while we can here in Londontown. I got a bottle of Fresita the other day and decided to take it along to the first ever Club Sandwich Friday lunch hosted at my friend Sig’s (Scandilicious) house. What started as a simple rant on twitter as to why you can’t get a decent clubbie in London had evolved into a couple of us twitterers getting together to make a proper club. Sig and Linda brought the ingredients and I brought the vino. A club sandwich is nothing fancy so no need to bring an expensive claret or Condrieu, something fun and bubbly would do. Fresita was also the result of a twitter convo, someone challenging me to try it as I’d turned my nose up at all those fruit added wines. So crispy bacon? Check. Ripe avocado and beefsteak tomato? Check. Smoked Ham? Check. Home made bread and boiled guinea fowl eggs (so we got a wee bit fancy)? Check and check. Iceberg lettuce (gotta be iceberg) and condiments? Double Check. And we were off assembling our sandwiches. We cheated a bit and didn’t do double deckers but even so it was still hard to get that sandwich into my mouth. And the Fresita? It was so delicious. Sparkly and fruity but not cloyingly sweet. Some of the comments, “no chemical aftertaste” which I think you often find in those fruity drinks, “tastes like real strawberry cooler” and “lovely”.  The reason why? Because it’s made with 100% organic strawberry pulp from Chile, handpicked and no added sugar – just, real intense strawberry flavours and aromas, sweet but not sickly sweet, blended with the sparkling wine. The sparkling wine used is a blend of premium chardonnay and s. blanc. We all agreed that it would be a great alternative to rose because it wasn’t as alcoholic (only 8%) or acidic as some of those wines can be. A delicious alternative to Pimm’s  or plain sparkling wine. So grab a...

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