CHILI ON TOUR IN AMSTERDAM
In the second week of September 2011, not less than 27 Chilean wineries visited the Netherlands during their European Tour. Wines of Chile president Juan Somavia, ProChile representative for UK and the European continent Michael Cox and ProChile wine representative for the Benelux countries Christophe Desplas P. were offering backbone support to this event once again perfectly organized by Ghislaine Melman and her team. The choice for the Mövenpick hotel was a good one: great accommodation, good location, easy reachable by train + tram, very welcoming and helpful team. Unfortunately, the weather was really terrible, storm, hard wind and rain burst. Luckily the ambiance inside was cosy enough to let us forget the weather for a while.
I was quite disappointed to see that not all the wineries had sent someone from their company to represent them. That should be the meaning of such an event. I want to meet, greet and taste a winery, not their importer. It just doesn’t work the same way. Nothing against the presence of importers during the tasting, but in such a touring show, I want a face-to-face encounter with the producers. I missed the representatives from Altaïr, Amayna, Casa Marín, etc. A missed chance! ¡Una gran lástima!
Nice to see that the most wineries did send a representative, and not only the ones looking for an importer in the Netherlands. Among all present winery representatives, it was especially great to see Aurelio Montes Jr. in person behind the Montes stand and the picturesque José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier at the O.Fournier stand. I was glad to meet for the first time the very charming Marcela Molina from Viña Maquis and Viña Calcu. Unfortunately too late for tasting the wines, but I will surely try to visit the winery if I go back to Chile. But, there is one person whose presence really meant something special to me, something worth the deepest respect. Jaime Lamoliatte (Santa Carolina) lost his beloved brother Carlos (Carlitos) in a tragic car accident in the middle of August 2011. I am sure very little visitors except our common friend Christophe Desplas P. knew about that small secret of us. Quite impressive and emotional for the three of us. (Read more about Carlitos tragic loss HERE)
Christophe Desplas (left) and Jaime Lamoliatte (right) with a special toast for Carlitos…
I didn’t expect any surprise from some wineries I already knew and visited in Chile but I got the confirmation of the quality of their wines:
Amayna (lovely unoaked sauvignon blanc; fantastic barrel fermented sauvignon blanc which absolutely needs time to show up, the 2007 is now ‘top’. Very good chardonnay; remarkable and very gastronomic pinot noir and syrah, promises for the future when the vineyards will be much older. Both reds need aeration! – NL import: Residence Wijnen)
Altaïr (a ‘boutique’ winery project from the San Pedro Group; the first vintages of both wines Altaïr and Sideral were much too oaky, the most recent vintages are much more in balance. Two different wines, both absolutely great thanks to the very talented oenologist Ana María Cumsille! – NL import: Residence Wijnen)
Casa Marín (one of my favourite wineries in Chile, from a paradisiac place called Lo Abarca in the San Antonio Valley, at only 4 km from the Pacific Ocean. A wonderful lady, oenologist Marilúz (= Maryloo) Marín, produces now with her son terrific sauvignon blanc, terroir driven, fresh, juicy and gastronomic, especially the one from the Cipreses vineyard. Very good riesling from Miramar vineyard, great pinot noir from Cartagena. – NL import: Okhuysen Wijnkoperij)
Millaman (a fantastic place to visit, especially the olive plantations and the top vineyards. Unfortunately, the old colonial style family house where I stayed has been completely destroyed by the earthquake. The wines are still very well made and pleasant, in an international style. My favourite is absolutely the Limited Reserve Shiraz Malbec 2009 from Curicó and Maipo Valley: full, fresh, juicy and ripe fruity, complex but not too heavy, with a nice and finish. Lovely! – Still looking for an importer in the NL!)
Montes (one of the top-wineries in Chile, located on the slopes of Apalta. Aurelio Montes Sr. was one of the first Chilean oenologists to aim on premium and super-premium wines. His son Aurelio Montes Jr. is going on with the good job. The first Montes top-wines showed the vinification skills of Aurelio Sr. but were too much dominated by heavy oak tones (the Californian taste of that time). The recent vintages are much better in balance and show much more their fantastic fruit and great terroirs. My favourite wines (not all available for tasting in Amsterdam) are the 3 toppers: Alpha ‘M’, Purple Angel and Folly. – NL import: Verbunt Wijnkopers)
O. Fournier (Ortega Fournier wines are made in Spain, Argentina and … Chile. A visit to the vineyards along the Loncomilla River and around the old wine farm near San Javier will give you a totally different vision of Chile as wine land. 80-120 years non-irrigated old vines, now grafted with high quality varieties, in the heart of the Maule region. Impressive! This winery has reached in a few years an international high-quality standard recognition, thanks to the owners, the Ortega family from Spain. The white wines from Maule are astonishingly fresh, those from Leyda are even better. The reds from Maule are all well-balanced and complex, never too heavy, very gastronomic. The oenologist is a talented and very promising Dutch guy called Meinard-Jan Bloem. Within a few years, this winery might be one of the very best from Chile. Watch it! – NL import: Residence Wijnen)
José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier
Tabalí & Leyda (One of the great surprises during my last trips in Chile, a daughter of the big San Pedro Group. The Leyda wines are very fresh, clean, mineral and really gastronomic. The Garuma sauvignon blanc is a must for every restaurant, with a great value/pleasure/drinkability ratio. Very enjoyable syrah and pinot noir from Las Brisas. Tabalí wines are coming from Limarí, a cool-climate zone in the North of Chile. Very promising fresh, vivid and juicy pinot noir and syrah Reserva Especial wines vinified by the fast rising star Felipe Müller. – NL importer: J. Bart Wijnimport)
Viñedos Terranoble (Thanks to my old friend from the Casa Silva team, Tomás Izquierdo O., nowadays export manager Europe for this winery, I rediscovered the Terranoble wines. All the wines presented are absolutely well made, elegant, fruity, pleasant and easy drinking. No blockbuster to be found here but very interesting wines for the wine shops and restaurants. To be honest with you, the style is quite international and not really terroir driven, much more fruit driven. Lovely wines, all of them, but they could be made elsewhere than in Chile. The price is absolutely interesting and the drinkability makes all the wines very pleasant. My favourite were the fresh, mineral and slightly oaky Vineyard Selection chardonnay 2010 and sauvignon blanc 2010 both from Casablanca, the smooth and easy drinking Reserva cabernet sauvignon 2009 from Colchagua, the Reserva carmenère 2009 from Maule, the Gran Reserva 2009 cabernet sauvignon from Colchagua and especially the Gran Reserva 2009 carmenère from Maule. I do believe that this winery should think much more in quality blends instead of mono-varietal wines in the Reserva and Gran Reserva range. Unfortunately, the top wine from this winery, Lahuen carmenère-cabernet sauvignon from Maule was not available at the tasting. I tasted the 2007 in Chile and was really impressed! – NL importer: only available through the Belgian (Flemish) importer Rabotvins who is already selling to some Dutch special wine shops and restaurants)
Rabotvins Key Account Manager Peter Tratsaert (left) and Export Manager Europe Tomás Izquierdo O.
Santa Carolina (a sister winery of Viña Casablanca… This was the great surprise of this tasting for me. The entry ranges, meant for the supermarkets are very well done with no sign of the cheap oaky-toasty-chocolaty aromas that you can find in many well-known and sold Chilean wine brands in supermarkets. The Reserva wines which are sold in the Netherlands at the C1000 supermarkets are highly recommendable: drinkable and even enjoyable, fresh, fruity, friendly with no fuss for a consumer price around 5 Euro! For the wine aficionados who buy their wines in the special wine shops, the Reserva de Familia (RDF) range is a real must! Twice to three times higher priced than the Reserva wines, but absolutely worth it. The RDF chardonnay 2009 from Casablanca is delightfully fresh and mineral, with the typical smell and taste of wines fermented in used oak barrels. Classic and classy. The Reserva de Familia carmenère 2009 from Rapel is a beauty; soft, velvety, round, fruity and juicy with a sensual, mellow finish. The RDF 2009 cabernet sauvignon is rich, generous, powerful and very fruity but still fresh and never too heavy. May be not the ‘very best’ wines, but for me absolutely the most interesting and exciting wines were from the ‘Specialties’ range: a fabulous Dry Farming Carignan 2008 from Cauquenes, unbelievably soft, ripe, round, powerful but fresh and fruity wine with remarkably soft tannins and a very elegant, ripe, mineral and fresh Dry Farming Syrah 2009 from Coastal Maipo. Only one final regret, the icon wine of the winery, Herencia carmenère from Peumo was not available at the tasting… According to some Chilean friends and colleagues of mine it should be one of the very best carmenère from Chile… I can hardly wait to have a chance to taste it! – NL importer: just started a few months ago, Walraven/Sax apparently busy with a second and very dynamic youth!)
Jaime Lamoliatte showing ‘his’ wines