Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – June 23rd, 2018

Chile: The Long and Short of It
By David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

There are several very good Canadian wines on the June 23rd release leading up to Canada Day, and the WineAlign team assembling in Penticton for the National Wine Awards will collaborate next week on a special report. This week, as John and Sara are traveling in Europe, Michael and I hold down the fort to present picks from elsewhere, including Chile – the featured country.

So quick, what’s your take on Chilean wines? For me they are among the most fresh and green-sleeved wines of any place in the New World. They have energy, if not always finesse. They are edgier than wines of Argentina, Australia or California. They are often cooler, as in mentholated.

I was struck by this Chilean profile as I tasted through the offerings on VINTAGES “Tip Top Valleys” feature. So what accounts for the Chilean taste?

It is geography of course, and despite the profiling of the major valleys in VINTAGES magazine, the east-west running horizontal valleys are less important than the vertical north-southness of the county. Chile is 4,270 kms long. If you turned it on its side within Canada it would stretch from St. John’s to just shy of Calgary.

More importantly it is skinny with an average width of just 175 kms – less than the distance from Toronto to Bracebridge or London or Belleville. And within that very narrow band there are rapid transitions. Out on the coast the Antarctic-fuelled Humboldt Current cools the waves and sends temperatures ashore that are decidedly chilly. Low coastal hills provide a buffer which creates a warmer Central Valley in their lee, although there are pockets of cool air seepage through gaps. Temperatures reach their highest on the farthest inland flats. Then very quickly altitudes ascend into the majestic Andes, creating cooler temps once again.

The first Chilean wines exported in the late 20th Century were almost invariably from the hottest Central Valley regions, where farming was easy on the flats and yields were high, and the prices were low. The wines were ripe and rich and not very green.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2017

In the 90s we began to see more elegant, richer cabernets from the Andean foothills of the Maipo Valley, and warmer hillside pockets of Colchagua, where yields were reduced and concentration of flavour was bumped. Cabernet has a natural green streak if not fully ripe, and many from the higher elevations showed that menthol character.

Since then there has been a rush to the coasts – first Casablanca, then San Antonio/Leyda, then Limari and Aconcagua Costa where body has lightened, acids have risen, and modern notions of finesse have taken root. I really like the elegance of these wines but greenness can be an issue – as one notably underripe sauvignon in this release.

VINTAGES release nicely captures wines from all the coast-valley-foothill bands.  Here are our picks:

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES June 23rd:

Picks from Chile

Quintay 2015 Winemaker’s Experience Blend, Maipo Valley ($22.95)
David Lawrason – From a small winery based in Casablanca but sourcing Maipo fruit, this multi-grape malbec-led blend is a pleasant surprise, a wine of elegance and flavour delight. Expect lifted almost creamy blueberry/blackberry fruit with effortlessly inlaid oak vanillin, toast, spice and spearmint. It is very smooth and elegant.
Michael Godel – What’s not in this Maipo blend is the question and I suppose merlot is the answer. What is inside happens to be the field-fantasy mix of malbec, petite sirah, carmenère, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. It works beautifully, seamlessly and ultimately delivers great pleasure. Which make it even more appropriate in that it lingers a long, long time.

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère 2016, Entre Cordilleras, Peumo, Cachapoal Valley ($34.95)
David Lawrason – From the Peumo sub-region excelling with Chile’s signature variety, this fine carmenere is not overtly intense but I like the sense of purity with cranberry/blackcurrant nicely centering evenly placed spice, toast, vanilla and forest. It is medium-full bodied, fairly firm and fine with some sense of restraint. It is one of the classier, more serious and refined carmeneres you will find.
Michael Godel – The 27 Block is the place (or “the man” if you will) and it once again delivers in 2016. There is little to no hedonism, very integrated make-up and an odd sense of cool climate or at least a real sense of cool vintage. I admire it all the same.

Quintay Winemaker's Experience Blend 2015Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère 2016Montes Outer Limits Zapallar Coast Pinot Noir 2015

Montes 2015 Outer Limits Zapallar Coast Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Valley ($27.95)
David Lawrason – Montes is based in Colchagua but this pinot comes from much father north where the Aconcagua Valley meets the Pacific Ocean, in a new sub-region called Zapallar. It has a lovely nose of cran-raspberry, fine evergreen, cinnamon and light oak toast. It is mid-weight, smooth and appealing with very fine tannin. Very drinkable and stays just north of some sweetness.

Maycas del Limarí 2016 Limestone Coast Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, Limarí Valley ($22.95)
Michael Godel – It here where you will get a sense of the high tones that are reached in pinot noir raised in the northern clime of the Limarí Valley. Tart, sour-edged red cherry fruit is true to varietal and comes with this anaesthetizing sensation. It’s quite intense but also lifted, elemental and joyous.

Maycas Del Limarí Limestone Coast Reserva Especial Pinot Noir 2016Tabalí Talud Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2016

Tabalí Talud 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley ($23.95)
Michael Godel – From the DOM Vineyard this is a slice of blueberry chocolate Maipo pie with a salty marine note and high acidity. Lots of pulse, activity and great food pairing possibilities here, especially with and for what we want and look for in the cabernet sauvignon diaspora.

Errázuriz 2016 Chardonnay, Aconcagua Costa ($21.95)
David Lawrason – From a leading producer not just in Aconcagua, but all of Chile, this is a light, elegant, very fresh chardonnay that deftly combines lemon, apple, toast and vanilla. It is a touch flinty as well. It is medium weight, nicely balanced and eminently drinkable.

Other International Picks

Muralhas de Monção 2016 Vinho Verde, Portugal ($15.95)
David Lawrason – The sub-region of Moncao e Melgaco sits at the northern limit of the Vinho Verde on the Spanish border, and the region is producing the finest, most complex wines of the region, based on alvarhino. This heftier version also contains trajadura. It has good colour, fairly ripe peach, candied citrus, honey and floral aromas, and considerable heft on the palate. But a touch of signature Vinho Verde spritz makes it fit the regional mold.

William Fèvre 2016 Champs Royaux Chablis, Bourgogne, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – That there is even any Chablis at all from the unmitigated, cumulative natural disaster that was 2016 is a gift to our market and this Fèvre Champs Royaux does so for the world. It’s still classic saline and fleshy, multi-plot gathered chardonnay with honeycomb and honeysuckle notes from what turns out to be a high quality vintage.

Muralhas De Monção Vinho Verde 2016William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2016Château Salettes Bandol Rosé 2017

Château Salettes 2017 Bandol Rosé, Bandol, France ($27.95)
Michael Godel – One of the great battle cries is “more Bandol!” and Rosé for that matter is no exception. This costs more and for good reason. There are layers of complexity not usually associated with such a quick squeeze of grapes and with near bone dry focus. That is leaves a slight humidity and spice behind is testament to its effectiveness and precise ability.

Cune 2011 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($39.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very elegant, poised and finely tuned Rioja entering its prime. Very pleasant aromas of cedar, leather, raspberry coulis, vanillin and spice are nicely intermeshed. It is medium-full bodied, finely chiseled yet warm and engaging. Tannins are quite fine; the length is excellent.

Cune Gran Reserva 2011Campo Arriba Old Vines Monastrell Syrah Tintorera 2014Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015

Campo Arriba 2014 Old Vines Monastrell/Syrah/Tintorera, Yecla, Spain ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is an impressive, rich and fairly dense blend of monastrell, syrah and local tintorera. It has quite lifted ripe nose of violets, blueberry and well place chocolate. It is medium-full bodied, fairly warm and spicy on the palate with syrah pepper and some woodsy character. Tannin provides a good foil to the richness.

Fabre Montmayou 2015 Reserva Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is a fine example of what cab franc can do in Argentina. I would be hard pressed to call this wine light, but the franc’s finesse does show up, especially when measured against the big frame of malbec. This shows nicely lifted raspberry well fitted in oak resin and spice, along with some tea and herbal subtlety. It is medium-full bodied, smooth and fairly rich with a drier, herbal finish.

Viñalba 2015 Reserva Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This deeply hued malbec has a quite lovely floral nose with pretty mulberry/plum fruit and a hint of peppermint herbality. It is mid-weight, a bit more slender and juicy than many peers, with quite fine tannin. You could actually drink this without further ageing.

Viñalba Reserva Malbec 2015Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2016Domaine Drouhin Laurène Pinot Noir 2014

Rustenberg 2016 RM Nicholson, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95)
Michael Godel – This new world creation of disparate-expatriate European varieties is a Western Cape speciality helped made famous by Rustenberg. Toasty and with some juicy reduction there is great fruit and meaty substance to this longstanding, track record red blend. It’s really forthright and amenable, perfect for the summer BBQ. Good acidity trails along to the finish. How many classic/iconic wines cost $17.95?

Domaine Drouhin 2014 Laurène Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($79.95)
David Lawrason – It is expensive but not outrageously priced given the quality. This is a very fine, elegant, chiseled pinot with a fairly lifted nose of ripe berry/cherry, elegant florals with subtle spice and vanilla. Very pretty and understated so take some time. It is medium weight, nicely rounded but not at all soft or heavy. Tannins are very fine, with a pleasant drying ambiance on the finish. Excellent length.

And that is wrap for this edition. As we cruise through a balmy June with those lovely, long evenings get out there and enjoy the ride, with a fine glass at hand.

David Lawrason
VP of WineAlign

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Henry of Pelham Anniversary Bash