Two online tastings spread over two weeks have convinced Peter Ranscombe to explore more bottles from both sides of South America’s mountains.
CONSIDERING that they’re separated by one of the tallest mountain ranges on the planet, Chile and Argentina have a lot in common.
During tonight’s online tasting run by Diana Thompson at Wine Events Scotland, Rodrigo Zamorano – chief winemaker at Vina Caliterra in Chile – highlighted the shared history of the two nations.
He pointed to the Spanish monks who brought winemaking to both countries, and then how they each explored French varieties in the 19th century – but went in different directions.
Chile focused on Bordeaux’s stalwarts – like cabernet sauvignon and merlot – while Argentina zeroed in on malbec, used in small quantities in Bordeaux but better known as the grape of Cahors, further south.
Most of the “merlot” Chile planted from France turned out to be carmenere, another lesser Bordeaux variety, which has gone on to become the South American nation’s standard bearer.
Zamorano’s Vina Caliterra Pétreo Carmenère 2018 (£13, Wine Events Scotland) is a great example of the grape – it may smell a wee bit green on the nose, with classic green pepper and red plum aromas, but it really stretches its fruity legs on the palate, with crunchy cranberry, ripe raspberry, and sweeter vanilla, plus textbook bitter dark chocolate on the finish.
Similarly, the Zuccardi Valles Malbec 2018 (£13) – which was introduced during last Thursday’s session by sommelier Laura Soleto – displays all of malbec’s typicity; blackcurrant, raspberry, violet, vanilla, and a touch of roast meat on the nose, leading into concentrated red and black fruits on the palate.
Both Caliterra and Zuccardi’s chardonnays also demonstrated the similarities between Chile and Argentina.
For me, the Zuccardi Los Olivos Chardonnay 2019 (£11) offered more concentrated pear, lemon, and apricot flavours – in contrast to the more straightforward lemon and green apple flavours of the Vina Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 (£12) – but both shared the same crisp acidity.
Simple, straightforward, but both offering great value compared to a similar level of quality from Burgundy.
While Argentina may have forged its reputation through malbec, don’t discount its growing expertise with cabernet franc, the red grape favoured in France’s Loire valley and as third fiddle in Bordeaux.
The Zucardi Apelacion Paraje Altamira Cabernet Franc 2018 (£15.50) offers the classic pencil lead, green pepper, and raspberry combination on the nose, but there’s not a hint of any unripe flavours on the palate, with rich raspberry and redcurrant flavours, and well-integrated tannins.
It’ll be interesting to see how it ages.
Cabernet franc also played a supporting role in tonight’s Vina Cailterra Edicion Limitada ‘B’ 2017 (£15.50), to which it contributed 17% alongside 29% petit verdot, and 54% cabernet sauvignon.
That “B” for “Bordeaux” blend delivered pencil lead on the nose from the cabernet franc, as well as wood smoke, balsamic vinegar, and red and black fruits.
A blast of acidity on the palate indicated the wine perhaps needs a wee bit longer to age, but the tannins are already nicely in balance with the concentrated blackcurrant, mint, and fresh raspberry.
Comparing and contrasting the wines of Argentina and Chile over two weeks served as a great format, and reminded me of time spent with Aurelio Montes Jr from Kaiken Winery in Argentina, and a memorable Andes tasting through in Glasgow.