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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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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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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Montes Alpha M ’05, Folly ’05, and Purple Angel ’05

I went to a Montes tasting the other day at the Bluebird Wineshop. Montes is one of the iconic wines of Chile, having been written up extensively in various publications as well as getting rave reviews in the Wine Spectator and winning numerous industry awards. I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Montes started out in 1988 and was one of the few Chilean wineries to focus entirely on import production. 90% of their production was for export and England was one of the first markets to benefit from this policy. Today they produce over 5 million bottles and export to over 92 countries, not bad for only being in business 20 years. Montes is seeking to make the varietal Syrah the flagship grape of Chile. To this end, they presented their showcase wine, the Montes Folly, so named because the general consensus at the time they planted the vines was that they were crazy to try and produce a premium wine made from Syrah. We sampled the 100% syrah ’05 Montes Folly. It opened with a full-on black fruit nose, juicy blackcurrants and blackberries predominating, with a tantalizing earthy minerality lingering in the air. It was fresh and lively, bright black cherries, morello cherries and again that earthy minerality shining through on a nicely balanced, clean, crisp wine. It didn’t have the big fruity jamminess that many people associate with new world shiraz. And to differenciate themselves a bit more from the pack, they call the grape syrah (as they do in France) as opposed to shiraz (as they do in the new world i.e., Australia, US, etc). The wine that everyone knows is the iconic Montes Alpha M. We tasted the ’05 M. Composed of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5%petite verdot, this lovely is produced from a single vineyard at low yields and aged for one year in new french oak barrels. It had a deeply fruity, intense nose, blackcurrant leaping out of the glass with new...

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