Home' A Plus Magazine : May 2013 Contents 58 May 2013
Chilean wines continue to
move up the ranks, writes
Chile has a long wine-making his-
tory dating back to the 16th century,
when the Spanish conquistadors sub-
jugated the native peoples. These invaders,
together with Christian missionaries, intro-
duced viticulture into Chile. The country’s
wine industry has since developed steadily
and now claims to be the fifth largest exporter
of wines in the world.
Chile occupies an elongated ribbon-like
strip of land on the west coast of South Amer-
ica. Its isolation and huge diversity of climates
and landscapes provide a healthy agricultural
The Humboldt Current brings cool breezes
to coastal vineyards while the Cordillera de
la Costa (Coastal Range) alters the weather
patterns for many vine-growing areas, creat-
ing a rain shadow and shelter from the winds.
The Andean peaks also provide much needed
water from melting snow.
Chile’s geographic isolation meant that it
was spared the devastations w rought by phyl-
loxera, the aphid-like insect that destroyed
most of the world’s wine regions in the late
19th century. To this day, almost all Chilean
vines thrive on their own roots, rather than
grafted onto rootstocks.
The rapid growth of the wine industry
in Chile in recent years has largely been the
result of inward investments from European
and American w inemakers who cooperate
with existing Chilean wineries.
As a result, Chilean wines have ranked
very highly in international competitions. In
the Berlin Wine Tasting of 2004, the first and
second place wines were awarded to Caber-
net-based reds from Chile, Viña Errázuriz’s
Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Seña 2001.
The Berlin Wine Tasting in 2005, held in
Brazil, featured five Chilean wines in the top
seven. In the Tokyo Wine Tasting of 2006,
Chilean wines won four of the top five rank-
ings. More recently, Chile also claimed five
international trophies in the Decanter World
Wine Awards 2012, the Oscars of the wine
industry. Earlier this year, Viña Concha y
Toro – one of Chile’s leading wineries – won
the “Most Admired Wine Brand in the World”
award from Drinks International.
Chile’s signature red varietal grape, Car-
ménère, was once widely grow n in Bordeaux.
Carménère disappeared from European vine-
yards in the mid-1800s but was rediscovered
among Chile’s Merlot vineyards. Rich with
berry fruits, sweet spice and smooth, well-
rounded tannins, it produces a pleasing and
Chile’s high-end, iconic wine made from
100 percent Carménère, Carmín de Peumo,
has consistently achieved scores of 95-97
points for its recent vintages from Robert
Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Carménère has often been referred to
as Chile’s answer to Argentina’s Malbec.
Although it only represents 7 percent of vine-
yard plantations at present, the Chilean gov-
ernment is intent on promoting it as the tool to
redefine Chile’s wine identity.
However, the country ’s reputation still
rests on the strong performance of its Caber-
net Sauvignon and Merlot based wines. Cab-
ernet Sauvignon is still regarded as Chile’s
star grape and can range from a simple, fruity
and friendly easy-drinking wine to big, bold
blockbusters with complex notes of tobacco,
chocolate, licorice and concentrated fruit. The
best will continue to improve and impress for
Merlot, with its unique spicy and green
pepper characteristics, remains popular,
while white varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc
and Chardonnay are grown in the country ’s
If you are ready to give Chilean wines a try,
here are some recommendations:
A fresh and light Sauvignon Blanc works well
with salads, cheese and almost any type of
shellfish. Try the Errázuriz Single Vineyard
Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (HK$218, Rare and
Fine Wines, Sheung Wan).
A rich, oaky Chardonnay brings out the
best in salmon and other oily fish and poultry.
The complex A ristos Duquesa Chardonnay
2007 (HK$550, Watson’s Wine Cellar, Cen-
tral) is a fine example.
The dark red Cabernet Sauvignon, the most
versatile of the country’s wines with hints of
blackcurrant, mint and olive and soft tannins,
pairs well with pizza, hamburgers, lamb and
beef. One well-priced example is the Arboleda
Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (HK$145, Watson’s
Wine Cellar, Central).
The country’s signature Carménère, rich
in cherry and raspberry fruitiness, is a perfect
complement to red meat dishes, especially
pastel de choclo, a Chilean meat pie made with
beef, corn and olives. Its natural fruity spici-
ness also makes it a good match for Indian
curries. Ser ve with one of the more complex,
older vintages, such as the Venitquero Grey
Carménère 2008 (HK$200, Red Wine Cellar,
Aloysius Tse is chairman of Bacchus Fine
Wines Group and a pa st president of the Hong
Kong Institute of CPAs.
Grapevines at the Concha y Toro vineyard.
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