TASTING NOTES: Outlook wine columnist takes a week-long trip to Chile

Viña San Pedro 1865 2011 Syrah | Cachapoal Valley, Chile | $25-30 | Private Wine Stores  - Submitted
Viña San Pedro 1865 2011 Syrah | Cachapoal Valley, Chile | $25-30 | Private Wine Stores
— image credit: Submitted

A few months back, I was invited by the Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Wine Group to fly down to Chile for a week-long tour of their Chilean properties, which includes six wineries.

The last time I was in Chile was four years ago and I was eager to follow up on glimpses of an industry that was really stepping up its commitment to quality and building a strong reputation globally. Fast forward to 2014, and I’m seeing very positive strides, although there was one distinct aspect that concerns me.

What I see in Chile that impresses me is an increasing emphasis on regionality.

Wineries that focus either in single-vineyard or regional-specific wines are keenly conveying the various aspects of terroir the country enjoys. After all, there is much variety to play around with in a country that spans over 40 degrees of latitude.

Let’s look at some of the reds which I felt showed clear typicity of their regions while offering tremendous value, rounded out by a step up onto the ol’ soapbox.

Viña Leyda 2012 Pinot Noir Reserva | Leyda Valley, Chile | $16.99 | BC Liquor Stores
Winemaker Viviana Navarrete is leading the charge in the newer Leyda Valley coastal region about 90 kilometres west of Santiago with a notable focus on Pinot Noirs. Different plantings of various clones at different elevations allow her to hone in on varietal distinctiveness; this version a light and breezy study on cherries, truffles and charm with a pinch of spice.

Viña San Pedro 1865 2011 Syrah | Cachapoal Valley, Chile | $25-30 | Private Wine Stores
This region is nestled up against the sun-baked foothills of the Andes with volcanic soils pulling out the many intricacies of Syrah. I’m crushing hard on this chewy, meaty, peppery delight that has a few fresh violets along for the ride. Spotted recently at Everything Wine on the North Shore.

Altaïr 2009 Sideral | Rapel Valley, Chile | $26 | BC Liquor Stores
This Cabernet-dominated blend mingles with a little Syrah and Carménère and is all dark fruit, tobacco and spice with crisp minerality that keeps things lively. A gentleman’s club of a wine; hunting trophies on the wall, dark wood and all. A steal at 26 bucks.

Viña San Pedro Epica Red | Chile | $16.99 | BC Liquor Stores
A few years back, Australia veered away from regional, honest and expressive wines in favour of ultra-sweet, factory-made styles with critters on the label that swept the world until most markets turned their backs on them and sales plummeted. As they currently rebuild, it’s frustrating to see Chile take the first few steps in that same direction. With the current global fashion and market dominance of cloyingly sweet and uninspired red wines (see California’s Apothic Red with its 19 grams of residual sugar per litre), it’s frustrating to see wineries in Chile start to follow the same fashionable-but-doomed route with bottles like Epica (which has over 13 grams of residual sugar and zero grams of character), just so they can elbow in on this part of the market share.

This is not a company that needs the cash, either. Just as the world is taking notice of Chile’s dedication to quality, it would be a shame for them to undo all of their recent achievements by championing these styles.

Chile, and San Pedro wineries including Tarapaca, Altaïr, Leyda and more: When it comes to quality, style and value, you truly kick ass. I’d hate to see you fall on your own. Keep fightin’ the good fight!


Kurtis Kolt teams up with Loblaw’s City Market

Outlook wine columnist Kurtis Kolt is hunting the aisles of North Vancouver’s Loblaw’s City Market in search of the perfect pairings to go along with his weekly wine picks.

Now, let’s get pairing:

With this week’s recommended wines, you’ll want to definitely give them a few swirls and sips before tucking into your meal, as there are a whole bunch of character nuances to enjoy, and then see how they interact with food pairings. With the Viña Leyda 2012 Pinot Noir Reserva, ideally you’ll serve it with the smallest hint of a chill; it’ll really make all of that pretty cherry fruit sing. Throw Rocky Mountain Flatbread’s Sundried Tomato & Goat Cheese Artisan Pizza in the oven, and then serve it alongside the wine. Those truffle and almost mushroom-y notes in the wine will act as if you’ve added those components to the pizza, flavours that would go well anyway, while the juicy, quaffablility of Pinot Noir will wash down the salty goat cheese elements perfectly.

Now, the Viña San Pedro 1865 2011 Syrah is practically a meal in a glass. I’d mentioned a floral component to the wine, but there is also a herbal element that rides along side-saddle with those notes. I’m thinking a herb-encrusted porkloin, or any juicier cut of your favourite meat or game, along with a slew of savoury herbs from the produce section. Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano and whatever else strikes your fancy — they’ll sail along the wine’s dark and fruity opulence well.

Finally, the Altaïr 2009 Sideral, with its heavy-on-the-Cabernet flair, begs for red meat and a lot of it. Whether you’re looking towards tenderloin, rib steak or other favourite cuts, do play around with those basil and herbal notes by marinating your meat in President’s Choice Memories of Argentina Chimichurri Sauce. The parsley, cilantro and garlicky notes in the marinade will lift to the wine to new heights!

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