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New World producer goes back centuries

Last week we were in Spain and we learned that Verdejo from Rueda was the pick of the bunch.

I’m delighted to report that we will be stocking this towards the end of this month.

This week, I am looking at Chile because this wine-growing country is unique.

It is certainly regarded as a New World wine producer, but its wine making goes back at least 400 years to the days of the Spanish conquistadors. Their knowledge, we know, goes back hundreds if not thousands of years.

Vines were being planted almost immediately they landed.

They didn't know it but fate was going to be very kind to them centuries later.

Jump to the 1850s and the dreaded Philloxera bug I described a few weeks ago was beginning to cause mayhem in Europe, and eventually around the world – but not Chile.

We need a quick geography lesson. Chile is a long thin country approximately 2,000 miles north to south, and roughly 170 miles wide.

It has the vast Pacific Ocean on the west, and the towering Andes on the east.

The Pacific cools the land and provides moisture; it is also a barrier to pests and diseases.

The Andes catch the moisture from the Pacific in the form of rain and snow and also form a barrier to pests and diseases.

The strip of land in the middle – Chile – is protected on both sides, has very little rainfall, yet has abundant water from the mountains for irrigation; grape-growing nirvana! Vines grow best between the 30th and 50th parallel, and that area goes right through the centre of Chile – bingo!

In order to stop Philloxera attacking the vines, the use of grafting known grape varieties onto disease resistant rootstock has been adopted around the world, but in Chile they can grow the original vines straight in the soil with no problems.

In the last 50 years, and more so in the last 25, winemakers have recognised this potential for quality and Miguel Torres from Spain, to name but one, bought land in the Curico Valley. He was one of the first.

Chilean Merlot has become a safe bet for many people looking for an easy choice but I suggest you spend a little more time looking to see what is available.

Laroche, a Burgundian producer, has set up a winery with its own vineyards and is producing some tremendous Pinot Noir.

We stock both its Punto Nino and Punto Alta.

The entry level Punto Nino Pinot Noir is fuller and fruitier than the French style and, at £9.99, is a great buy.

The more expensive Punto Alta is in another world – deep and brooding, smooth and sexy. It is selling at £16.50 and definitely worth it for a fine wine experience.

We also thoroughly recommend anything made by Vina Chocolan.

The name suggests chocolate but is actually taken from the ancient Chilean language and refers to the yellow flowers that grow on the mountain sides surrounding these vineyards.

The company is family owned and relatively young, the vineyards having been planted in the late 1970s.

Their Sauvignon Blanc is so fresh and very popular at £9.99.

In the reds there are two ranges, Seleccion and Reserva; in these we keep Carmenere and Cabernet Franc, which are stunning value at under £12.
 

By Nick Shill
Published: February 13, 2012

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