(2021) A really nicely made Viognier this, from Viu Manent's Colchagua estate, 13.5% and well balanced. The nose offers precise pear and light peach fruit aromas, a hint of vanilla in there too. On the palate the fruit is ripe and sweet0edged, more peach and flirting with mango and tropical notes, but very good, dry, slightly salty lemon acidity pushes out the finish. Quite a concentrated style, but well done.
(2021) Winemaker Ricardo Rivadeniera explains that this comes from a very old estate originally owned by Jesuit missionaries, bought by his great grandfather in 1916. They specialise mostly on Cabernet Franc, but have been identifying places with deep clay soils that suit Cabernet Sauvignon very well. This is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon with small parts of Franc, Cermenere and Petit Verdot. Savoury, classicaly framed, with a hint of capsicum edging solid, ripe blackcurrant fruit and again a finesseful graphite touch. Rich and yet fresh on the palate, very good fruit and the savoury balance of nicely grippy tannins and acids finishes with style.
(2021) Fascinating for me because I visited Carmen not so long ago and saw their experimental winery full of amphorae, concrete eggs and all sorts of winemaker toys, and this wine, 100% Semillon, is a result of those experiments. Like Sherry, this a small batch aged under flor. Winemaker Emily Faulconer discovered a tank with a layer of flor on her first vintage with the team, which she used it to inoculate a single barrel of Semillon, this #2 edition now four barrels and 1,000 bottles. More earthy than yeasty, I don't find the nose of this highly regarded wine totally convincing, perhaps a touch lactic and 'interesting' rather than appealing. The palate certainly changed that picture, bone dry and surging with citrus and salts, the energising blast of the fruit and acidity is striking. Would I drink a lot of this? Possibly not, but a worthy experiment. A tough wine to rate given its unique profile, and not currently for sale in the UK.
(2020) From the Los Lingues vineyard in Colchagua, 60 kilometres from the Pacific coast, this is 100% Carmenere, 85% of which was aged 14 months in new and second-fill French oak barrels, 15% in large un-toasted oak vats, and a further 12 in bottle before release. It is a glossy, ripe wine aromatically, deep black cherry and blackberry aromas, a refined graphite and cedar in the background. In the mouth the fruit is really intense, there's a hint of raisiny intensity, but more of the cherry flesh and tartness, the stripe of tannin from fruit and barrels, a little toastiness, and pert acidity all giving it a nice sense of freshness in the finish despite the fruit concentration and grippiness.
(2020) The winemaking recipe here is exactly the same as for the 2017, with fruit from Los Lingues and matured in 85% small French oak, 15% in large untoasted barrels, for 14 months, but of course from a cooler year. From Los Lingues around 360 metres above sea level. This harvest was three weeks later than 2017, with an extremely cool spring and warm summer. In 2017 it was hot from beginning to end, hence the earlier picking. More savoury, more earthy and a touch more herbaceous, like undergrowth, cool, in profile. The fruit is sweet and ripe on the palate, a pure blackcurrant character, fairly brisk tannins and acids giving grip and juiciness, and it finishes quite tangy with sour cherry freshness.
(2020) Also from Colchagua Valley, but this time from Lolol, 20 kilometres closer to the Ocean than Los Lingues. Winemaking is identical to CA1, combining 85% small French oak and large untoasted foudres. More lifted, a little volatile character (in a very positive way), with a hint of acetone to floral and cherry and a hint of white pepper. Great sweetness in the mouth, a light balsamic touch, but then the very grippy tannins kick in, lots of powdery, dry structural tannins dry the mouth, good acidity too, balancing the sweet fruit and touch of chocolate. The character is quite different, mostly to do with aromatic perfume and that freshness in the finish.
(2020) This is the rosé to buy if you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, because it is a particularly vivacious example, showing some of the passion fruit and elderflower pungency of a Savvy, the early picking of the grapes (this has only 12.5% alcohol) and I am guessing some Sauvignon Blanc yeasts giving that vivacious personality. Juicy on the palate with red berry fruit and sour orange and grapefruit blast of acidity, it is a dry, striking and very singular expression of rosé, and enjoyable to boot.
(2020) Cono Sur produced some of the first Chilean Pinot Noir that I ever came across, with my first tasting note from the 2000 vintage. Then the wine came from Casabanca, and was not organic certified like this 2018 vintage, so things have changed. Grapes come from San Antonio and Chimbarongo in Colchagua, home to the first Pinot Noir plantings in Chile. 70% was aged in oak barrels for eight months. It's a Pinot in the earthy, smoky and vegetal mould, aromas of beetroot to the fore, with a little rhubarb. That's a totally legitimate profile for Pinot, though a sweet cherry fruit character comes through nicely on the palate, the texture quite creamy, and the finish juicy and appetising. Note the price is down to £7.50 in Sainbury's until the start of July 2020. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2018) A really nice, cool-character Chardonnay from Colchagua's more coastal vineyards, fermented with wild yeasts and with only a small proportion fermented and aged in French oak. Lime and peach fruit touched by creamy oak lead on to a palate that's citrussy and fresh, with a nice saline lick of salty acidity, and a long finish where the ripe fruit and creamy oak just fattens nicely.
(2018) The Root 1 range of wines from Ventisquero are all made from ungrafted vines, planted on their own roots. This hardly ever happens in the world of wine ever since the Phyloxerra infestation that devasted (and contunues to devastate) vineyards across the world as the solution is to plant a generic, but resistant rootstock, then graft the variety of vine you want onto it. Chile's sandy soils provide protection from the Phyloxerra louse, and here the signature grape Carmenere is blended with 15% Syrah and aged in French and American oak. There's a touch of reduction at first, but a deep and plummy fruitiness comes through, and a sappy, herbal edge that's so typical of the variety. In the mouth it is rich, spicy and crammed with bittersweet black fruit, nice solidity to the tannins and acids, and a helluva mouthful of wine at the £6 offer price until 16th September. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.