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Friday, April 13, 2012

Guild of Sommeliers Master Class - Terroir of Chile

This week I attended a Guild of Sommeliers master class, presented by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, at Corkbuzz Studio.  Anyone who read my post from late September 2011 on the South West France master class might know by now that after hearing MS Dexheimer speak about wines from South West France and present 12 amazing selections, knows that since then, I’ve been completely hooked on South West France wines and have a sparked interest in the grapes such as Tannat, Corbu, and Manseng, and Madiran, Cahors, Irouleguy, and Pacherenc.
This time, the master class was on the terroir of the wine producing regions of Chile.  MS Dexheimer’s presentation was just as informative, and the way he presents important and serious topics makes it fun and engaging.  We also got to hear an analysis by MS Laura Maniec, and MS Cameron Douglas who was visiting from New Zealand.
I’ll admit I’ve neglected Chilean wines a bit, so I know I have a lot to learn about it.  For starters, I had no idea the extent to which Chilean wine producers are dedicated to the study of soil, and the importance they place on it.  In fact, MS Dexheimer informed us that in Chile, soil is considered more important than climate when considering factors in grape growing.
Aside from connecting well with the way MS Dexheimer presents wine topics, and that I know I need to brush up on my knowledge pertaining to Chilean wine, the other reason I attended was that I’ve been on a sort of quest to find a Carmenere that works well for my palate.  A few grapes I have had difficulty connecting with, including American Cabernet Franc, Gamay from Beaujolais, and Carmenere from Chile.  So far, I’ve found one American Cabernet Franc that I really enjoy, and about 5 Beaujolais that I enjoy, but Carmenere was still an issue for me.  I’m happy to report that the Carmenere selected for the master class were really enjoyable, and below I’ll explain why.
What else did I learn?  I think Chile’s movement toward organic production will pay off for them, as many wine drinkers appreciate this and place value on wine producers’ efforts to respect the environment.
I learned something about my own taste as well - I generally prefer Old World style wines; however, the Chilean wines produced with a more New World style I preferred over the Chilean wines produced in a more Old World style.  This was a huge surprise to me.  I can’t quite explain it as I prefer lots of earthiness, balance, expressiveness, and a fair amount of perceived acidity.  But the ripeness of the New World style Chilean wines was so enjoyable and I found that especially easy to connect with.

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir

The first flight was Sauvignon Blanc, and the selections were 2011 Casillo de Molina (Elqui Valley), 2011 Vina Casablanca Nimbus (Casablanca Valley), and 2011 Santa Rita Medalla Real (Leyda Valley).  The first Sauvignon Blanc reminded me of New Zealand style, very pungent aromas with lots of herb characteristics laced into the fruit.  I connected better with the other two.  They’re nicely balanced with a bit less acidity, some citrus, tropical, and orchard fruit, and perhaps just a hint of sweetness.  The third was especially luscious for a Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of richness and weight to it, and absolutely delicious.
The next flight was Pinot Noir, and the selections were 2009 Veranda (Bio Bio Valley), 2010 Veramonte Ritual (Casablanca Valley), and 2009 Matetic EQ (San Antonio Valley).  The first was sort of a Burgundian style, with lighter coloring, characteristics, and weight, and bright acidity.  Usually this is the kind of Pinot Noir that appeals to me; however, the next Pinot surprised me with its lovely tannic structure and more concentrated fruit and smooth texture.  The third was even better, and the concentrated fruit did not mask the expressiveness of earthiness and smokiness.

Syrah and Carmenere

The next flight was Syrah, and the selections were 2008 Cono Sur 20 Barrels (Limari Valley), 2007 Kingston Family Bayo Oscuro (Casablanca Valley), and 2010 Perez Cruz Limited Edition (Maipo Valley).  The first two were delicious, with lots of dark fruit, smoke, spice, pepper, and good structure, but the third I absolutely loved and it was my favorite of the flight, and one of my favorites of the tasting.  While the second reminded me of Rhone style and I appreciated the aromas quite a bit, the third, with more New World style, had the best flavor of the three, with great balance and structure.  At $20, I felt the Perez Cruz was the best value of the tasting.
The final flight was Carmenere, and this was what I was most curious about, since I’ve had a difficult time properly connecting with Carmenere.  The selections were 2009 Casa Silva Los Lingues (Colchagua Valley), 2008 Terrunyo (Cachapoal Valley), and 2009 De Martino Alto De Piedras Single Vineyard (Maipo Valley).  While the first had a bit of green bell pepper in the aromas, it did not get in the way of the ripe fruit, and the other two showed almost no green pepper at all, just a lot of ripe rich fruit, spice, and excellent balance and structure.  The Terrunyo was probably my favorite wine of the tasting, and at last, I enjoyed Carmenere.
The final wine, poured on its own, was the 2008 Neyen Espitu de Apalta (Apalta Valley), a blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was my other favorite of the tasting, and the consensus at the class was that this wine is fantastic.  The Cabernet really comes through, and the aromas and flavors of the wine are wonderful; it’s delicious, very well balanced, has lovely structure, and a big presence.
I was really impressed by these Chilean wines and I’m excited to try more and learn more about the regions.  Most of the Chilean wines I had tasted before the master class were less than inspiring and after trying 13 very good examples from many growing regions, I’m ready to explore more Chilean wines.  I was most impressed by the structure and length of the wines, indicating good quality, and the expressiveness of terroir and identity of each of the wines.

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