At the moment, I think that Chile is one of the best and most exciting wine producing countries. Despite the fact it being a “New World” wine country, Chile is in fact fairly old as vines were first planted in 1548 by Spanish colon, Brother Fransisco de Carabantes.
The first grape variety planted was Mission (known as Pais in Chile). The name refers to the Catholic missions where they were generally grown and the wine had, as a main purpose, to be served during the masses. Another exciting fact about this country is that it remains Phylloxera free, meaning that some of the vineyards are 100 or more years old.
Because of the length of the country, vineyards were planted mainly nearby where people were living, close to the big cities. The problem was that most of the vineyards were planted in the wrong place. The tendency is changing and wineries are nowadays looking more into the different terroirs and where the different grapes would best been grown to show all their potential.
The main grape varieties you are likely to find are Sauvignon Blanc; usually producing wines of great freshness and flavours, but without being as vegetal or herbaceous as the cousin from New Zealand. Chardonnays also are magnificent and tend to develop more tropical aromas such as lychee and coconut. Riesling is also found and gives good results.
In term of red wines, the very local Carmenere is a great example of Chile’s wine identity. Carmenere used to be grown in Bordeaux during the 17th to 18th Century, but is not really used any longer. This grape variety has a very long history as Carmenere and Merlot used to be planted together in the same vineyard, however, winemakers didn’t know that. In fact you could have bought a bottle of red wine labeled as being a Merlot and find 90% of this grape.
It wasn’t before 1994 that Carmenere was really discovered as a grape and was split from Merlot vineyard to be produced on its own. Then, in 1998, the Chilean Department of Agriculture officially recognised Carmenere as a distinct grape variety. Alongside this fantastic variety, you will find the more classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah which are all, given the right conditions, producing wines of great character.
If you are interested in discovering more about this beautiful country, I would be glad to welcome you to our Casa Lapostolle Wine Dinner taking place on Friday 28th February. View menu and more details
Casa Lapostolle is owned by the Lapostolle-Marnier family of Grand Marnier and was established in 1994. Since then, its notoriety has never stopped to grow and it is nowadays regarded as one of the best winery.