Last night I headed over to the Grand Hyatt in Santiago for a remarkable wine festival. It was fortunate that of the two nights I was in town, one should coincide with this event. Organized by Patricio Tapia, It wasn’t cheap at 42000 Pesos (around £50), but there was an amazing array of Chilean wines on show, together with lots of gourmet food stands, all around the spectacular Grand Hyatt pool.
This is a consumer event, so not the place for tasting everything and making extensive notes. But geek I am, I felt it necessary to take notes and spit a few of the wines, and try to uncover some gems.
That I certainly did, with the help of inside knowledge. I found some thrilling wines, of the sorts not always associated with Chile. My first stop was at the wonderful De Martino, with Marco de Martino and winemaker Marcelo Retamal. These were superb, including two wonderful wines made in tinajas (amphorae). They do things right here: picking early, adding as little as possible, and avoiding new small oak barrels.
I was thrilled by the Tara white from Ventisquero’s vineyards in the Atacama desert (pictured above, Felipe Tosso and Alejandro Galaz of Ventisquero). Sadly only made in limited quantities: a beautiful, slightly cloudy Chardonnay of amazing complexity. And then I found the wines of Matias Michelino, which are just brilliant natural wines. One of these is a Malbec from Casablance, made in Tinajas with stems and no added sulphur dioxide, and it is one of the most exciting Chilean wines I’ve experienced.
More conventionally, I enjoyed the two Talinay wines from Tabali (a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir), and the Syrah from Vina Leyda. So there is some hope for Chilean fine wine!!
Tara White 2012 DO Atacama, Chile
This is a remarkable Chardonnay, made from red clay over chalk soils in Huasco in the Atacama desert. Just two barrels were made, one of which was seventh-use oak, the other of which was stainless steel. Super-stylish and slightly cloudy with ripe, rich, white peach and pear fruit countered by lovely mineral precision. Amazing combination of complexity, freshness and richness. Fabulous wine (it’s the second release). 94/100
Esparando Las Bárbaros 2012 Casablanca, Chile
Made by Matías Michelini in partnership with Patricio Tapia, this is a Malbec made with stems in tinajas (clay amphorae) with no added sulfites. It’s amazingly fresh, vivid and sappy with blackberry and red cherry fruit. It’s just so natural, with lovely precision and a beautiful sappy quality. Just so thrilling and expressive. 94/100
De Martino Alto los Toros Syrah 2011 Elqui, Chile
From a vineyard at 2000 m altitude, this has 10% Petit Verdot in the blend. Lovely olive and pepper edge to the black fruits. So expressive. The palate is fresh, vivid and bright with nice blackfruits seasoned by pepper and spice. Lovely precision and spice here. 95/100
De Martino Viejas Tinajas Muscat 2012 Itara, Chile
This is dry farmed Muscat from a cool climate region, Itara, 18 km from the coast. No SO2 is added save for a little at bottling, and this wine spends 6 months on its skins in tinajas (clay amphorae). Wonderfully complex, lively and intense with citrus, pear, grape and mineral notes. Lovely texture and depth, with freshness and complexity, and just a little grip on the palate. 94/100