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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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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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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Cono Sur – Chilean organic wines

Jul 27, 09 Cono Sur – Chilean organic wines

Posted by in Chile

I don’t know what it is about the summer but I just haven’t been in a writing mood lately. Which is a bit of a shame because I’ve been going to some great tastings lately. For example, I went to a winetasting a couple of weeks ago hosted by the delightful Chilean winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado of Cono Sur Vineyards and Winery of Chile. People often make the mistake of thinking that Cono Sur is synonomous with the big brand, Concha y Toro.  Although Cono Sur is a subsidiary of Concha y Toro, it is completely independent from it, making their wines in their own distinct fashion. Winemaking came to Chile in the 1850’s with the French winemakers who were fleeing the phylloxera crisis that was plagueing the Continent at the time.  The French settled in Maipo Valley because pragmatically enough, it was the closest vinegrowing region to Santiago de Chile, the capital. Besides the Maipo Valley, there are also the Colchagua, the Casablanca, the Rapel, the Maule and the Bio Bio Valleys, all of which are used for grape growing and winemaking. Chile is ideally situated to produce wine,even if it’s a long thin strip of land clinging to the western coast of South America. It’s bordered on one side by the Andes Mtns and the other by the Pacific Ocean but the centre of the country is a series of valleys, of geographical islands that have historically been phylloxera free and disease free. Chile also benefits from the Humboldt Current of off the coast which helps to cool down the inland valleys in summer. And, it is a very dry country receiving very little rainfall throughout the year. For this reason, wineries have to irrigate but they do have access to the glacial waters of the Andes Mtns, which on a positive note is great for organic production because no seeds or other unwanted detritus is brought in with the irrigation water. That’s not to say that Chile is pest free but Cono Sur has come up with unique ways to deal with the various creepy crawlies that can invade Chilean vineyards. One of the most common...

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