Alvaro Espinoza, one of Chile's most experienced biodynamic proponents
Emiliana’s Alvaro Espinoza is arguably the most passionate and more experienced of Chile’s biodynamic winemakers. Interestingly, he says when he joined the winery to implement its organic program, 12 years ago, it was more about protecting the workers and doing away with pesticides than anything to do with the wine. (He already had his own biodynamic vineyards.)
Today he oversees 1000 hectares of certfied biodynamic vineyards in four valleys. “In Coyam, we wanted to make our flagship wine showing what this new type of agriculture can do; we didn’t want to make just another (excellent) Syrah (37%) or Carmenere but a wine that relates more to place than variety.” The principal grape is Syrah (37%) but also Carmenere (21%), with Cab Sauv (21%), Merlot (17%), Petit Verdot (4%) and Mouvedre (2%). Wild yeast fermented. Layered, complex red berries, plum and spice notes wrapped in supple tannins before a lengthy, still vibrant close.
Ventisquero Pangea Syrah 2007 (Colchagua)
There’s lots of chatter about Syrah being Chile’s Next Big Thing—and this wine would certainly bear that out. Higher altitude, mainly terrace grown in Colchagua’s Apalta, very varietally true, with complex layers of meaty-gamey notes, bursting with red berries and mineral hints. Aged 20 months in French oak and cellared at the winery for two years pre-release. Chief winemaker Felipe Tosso says 07 was a classic year—and this wine shows it. Hard to believe the vines are only 10 years old. Organically farmed, although not certified.
Chono Syrah 2009 (Elqui)
This was among our top festival ‘value’ finds. (It also showed remarkably well at Syrah, The Next Star Grape beside some pretty heavy hitters.) Earthy mulberry top, dark fruit palate with some pepper and mineral notes wrapped in juicy acidity, thanks to the cool climate setting. Good structure but also very supple. Interesting to learn that Elqui has only been producing since 2000. Chono’s Sergio Reyes suggests Syrah could become the valley’s signature grape. And we’d agree. At BCLS $19.99 it’s The Deal. Though (for the moment) you might have to go to Salmon Arm, BC to find any.
Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier 2010 (Rapel)
We’re already all over this one. It made Belly Belly’s Budget Best in the North Shore News: “Classic apricot and floral notes with a generous, clean palate and a lengthy end. Think grilled chicken with apple and tangerine salad. Chilean value personified. BCLS $15.96″
Ocio Pinot Noir 09 (Casablanca)
(Also Previously reviewed, NSN): “Defenders of Burgundy may scoff at the notion of a $65 Chilean Pinot, but this drop could easily hold its own with a couple of similarly priced wines from both old and new world. This reminds us of some savoury toned New Zealand Martinborough wines, with a purity of focused fruit and measured, approachable tannins. Made in a dedicated winery within Cono Sur, it’s another example of how that winery delivers ‘QPR’ at every level. Available, BCLS $64.99”
During and since the festival, we had more than a couple of former Chile skeptics come up and tell us how impressed they were with the changes that have taken place in Chile over the last few years. And, we have no doubt, that as new plantings in regions such as Elqui, Leyda—and even far to the south in Bio Bio—continue to mature, Chile will continue to suprise and impress.
Much more to come …