National Chilean Wine Day is here - drink up!
Chilean wine has vastly benefitted from decades of vinification improvement as well as efforts by passionate “terroir hunters” to site the right grapes in the right soils and climates. Now the South American country offers both excellent value wines as well as stunning serious pours. What better time than National Chilean Wine Day to toast the country’s contributions to our glasses?
I had the chance to learn about the Chile’s elevated aspirations for its wines from Casa Silva winemaker Matias Pincheria Aravena during his visit to New Jersey in May. Matias earned his enology degree at Chile’s University of Talca, and he made wine at Concha y Toro and Cakebread Cellars, before joining the family-run Casa Silva in 2015. I had the chance to pour wine at two Gary’s Wine and Marketplace locations with Matias and get a behind-the-scenes listen and look at what Chileans want Americans to know about their wine.
Chilean wine all starts with the map
One of the best ways to demonstrate what makes growing wine in Chile unique is by showing the country’s map. Shaped like a super model, Chile is incredibly long and thin. The country is also surrounded by natural barriers: the ice fields of Patagonia to the south, the world’s driest desert in the north, the towering Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Breezes from the ocean and natural barriers protect the vineyards from pests and weather-related illnesses, which means that Chilean winemakers can make low-intervention wines. 70% of exported wine is made in a sustainable fashion.
Loving what the Chilean terroir produces
Chile produces many international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons are less jammy than California Cabs on the whole, and I tend to prefer their lean elegance (which comes at a fraction of the price.) But, I also recommend that red wine lovers indulge in Carmenere – it’s peppery, bold and a delight with foods like barbeque.
Spending the day with Mathias, I got to see first hand that moment of discovery when a wine-loving American has that “aha” moment with Chilean wine. The Casa Silva wines he brought to sample included a white from a rare grape, the delicious Sauvignon Gris; the single vineyard Los Lingues Cabernet Sauvignon; and the rich and layered 2009 Microterroir Carmenere. Just a small sample of the regions, varieties, and flavors that Chile has to offer.