This week, a focus on Chile which is rather overdue given that Chile now holds 27% of the Irish wine market (and growing). Part of this volume is Chile’s hold on the inexpensive varietal wine sector of the market with consistent fruity wines from Sauvignon, Chardonnay & Merlot but do watch for blends and never be afraid to spend a little more and risk the unusual, eg old vine Carignan and Pais wines (Pais is also known as Mission and dates to early colonial times).
Mont Gras celebrated 25 years in business and in Ireland working Barry & Fitzwilliam recently with a dinner and tasting in Montys of Kathmandu.
Shiva Gautam of Montys has one of the best wine cellars of any restaurant in the country with almost everything available by the glass including rare and old wines. Besides the usual Bordeaux and Burgundy however he has always maintained a large collection of new world wines (e.g. Grange) which work particularly well with the complex Nepalese flavours his chefs conjure in the charcoal tandoor.
Barry-Fitz were quick off the mark in taking on Mont Gras and it was one of the early Chilean brands to appear on Irish wine shelves. Mont Gras was founded in 1993 by brothers Hernán and Eduardo Gras and from small beginnings now have extensive vineyards now in Colchagua, Maipo and Leyda — the latter an excellent source of cool climate Sauvignons and Pinot Noir.
De Martino are another solid and creative Chilean producer to watch for, especially their wines made from old vine Cinsault, Muscat, Malbec and Carménère. A number of these wines come from a 1982 vineyard - Gobelet trained vines (bush-style as in the Rhône), dry farmed on granite soils in Itata D.O., a cool region around 22 km from the Pacific in the south of the Central Valley.
The Gallardía Cinsault recommended below has an older brother called Tinajas which costs around €27 from the same vineyard but with parcel selection, extra bottle age and no added sulphur which gives a fine pure ripe fruit ripeness.
Other old vine reds come from the Las Cruces vineyard in the coastal mountain range, a field blend planted in 1957 with mainly ungrafted Malbec and Carménère – see below.
The old vine whites in the range are from a 1905 vineyard planted with Muscat and Corinto and have fragrance, minerality, and elegance. Martin’s in Fairview have the Tinajas and the fragrant and finely textured Muscat at around €31.
Best value under €15
You might find this in some Next Door but it is mainly online via the Barry Fitzwilliam online shop. This is 85% from cool climate Leyda with 15% from warmer Colchagua. Bright red fruits with just a hint of autumn leaves, red and plum fruits on the palate, bright and fruity with a lot of charm — perfect for roast lamb or grilled chops.
Stockists: The Loop, Martins, Independents, Dunnes Stores.
The 120 range was one of the first Chilean wines to catch the eye of Irish wine drinkers and it is Ireland’s biggest selling wine brand. Cabernet Franc has more red fruits than its daughter Cabernet Sauvignon and Chilean versions are softer than the Cab Francs of the Loire with bright red fruits. This has lots of bright black cherry mixed with the berry fruits and good concentration and texture.
Stockists: O’Donovans, O’Herlihys, No. 21 Group, Ardkeen, Cappagh Stores, Next Door Kilrush, Martins, Nolans, NOffLA shops.
This typifies exactly why Chile is so successful, bright citrusy and fresh, zinging off the palate with green apple, gooseberry, lemon and lime flavours. This was an easy winner in the recent NOffLA Gold Star under €10 category and is a perfect mid-week crowd pleaser.
Best value over €15
Stockists: O’Briens, Joyces Galway, Selected Next Door Off-Licences, www.winesoftheworld.ie
Chilean blends are still relatively unusual so this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Syrah, Carménère and Malbec is well worth a look. Each grape is fermented separately and the final blend decided each vintage. Bright juicy blackberry and blackcurrant aromas, fruity and ripe with textured, lightly spicy dark fruits, grip and good length.
Stockists: O’Briens, World Wide Wines, McHughs, Drink Store, Kellys, Greenman Wines
From Itata in the south of the Central Valley and from older vines - old vine Cinsault from Chile is rare but usually worth checking out. Dark ruby colour, red currants and red fruit aromas, silky and fruity with freshness and bright juicy flavours, elegant and fine. This is a lighter style that would work chilled and could match duck breast or even with tuna and salmon.
From a 1957 field blend vineyard planted mainly with Malbec (75%) and Carménère - dry farmed, gobelet trained vines in the granite soil coastal mountain range. Rich purple hues, black fruits on the nose with supple generous dark fruits on the palate with plums, blackberries and blackcurrants and with pleasing elegance and verve.