Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – June 23rd, 2018

Chile: The Long and Short of It
By David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

There are several very good Canadian wines on the June 23rd release leading up to Canada Day, and the WineAlign team assembling in Penticton for the National Wine Awards will collaborate next week on a special report. This week, as John and Sara are traveling in Europe, Michael and I hold down the fort to present picks from elsewhere, including Chile – the featured country.

So quick, what’s your take on Chilean wines? For me they are among the most fresh and green-sleeved wines of any place in the New World. They have energy, if not always finesse. They are edgier than wines of Argentina, Australia or California. They are often cooler, as in mentholated.

I was struck by this Chilean profile as I tasted through the offerings on VINTAGES “Tip Top Valleys” feature. So what accounts for the Chilean taste?

It is geography of course, and despite the profiling of the major valleys in VINTAGES magazine, the east-west running horizontal valleys are less important than the vertical north-southness of the county. Chile is 4,270 kms long. If you turned it on its side within Canada it would stretch from St. John’s to just shy of Calgary.

More importantly it is skinny with an average width of just 175 kms – less than the distance from Toronto to Bracebridge or London or Belleville. And within that very narrow band there are rapid transitions. Out on the coast the Antarctic-fuelled Humboldt Current cools the waves and sends temperatures ashore that are decidedly chilly. Low coastal hills provide a buffer which creates a warmer Central Valley in their lee, although there are pockets of cool air seepage through gaps. Temperatures reach their highest on the farthest inland flats. Then very quickly altitudes ascend into the majestic Andes, creating cooler temps once again.

The first Chilean wines exported in the late 20th Century were almost invariably from the hottest Central Valley regions, where farming was easy on the flats and yields were high, and the prices were low. The wines were ripe and rich and not very green.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2017

In the 90s we began to see more elegant, richer cabernets from the Andean foothills of the Maipo Valley, and warmer hillside pockets of Colchagua, where yields were reduced and concentration of flavour was bumped. Cabernet has a natural green streak if not fully ripe, and many from the higher elevations showed that menthol character.

Since then there has been a rush to the coasts – first Casablanca, then San Antonio/Leyda, then Limari and Aconcagua Costa where body has lightened, acids have risen, and modern notions of finesse have taken root. I really like the elegance of these wines but greenness can be an issue – as one notably underripe sauvignon in this release.

VINTAGES release nicely captures wines from all the coast-valley-foothill bands.  Here are our picks:

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES June 23rd:

Picks from Chile

Quintay 2015 Winemaker’s Experience Blend, Maipo Valley ($22.95)
David Lawrason – From a small winery based in Casablanca but sourcing Maipo fruit, this multi-grape malbec-led blend is a pleasant surprise, a wine of elegance and flavour delight. Expect lifted almost creamy blueberry/blackberry fruit with effortlessly inlaid oak vanillin, toast, spice and spearmint. It is very smooth and elegant.…

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And that is wrap for this edition. As we cruise through a balmy June with those lovely, long evenings get out there and enjoy the ride, with a fine glass at hand.

David Lawrason
VP of WineAlign

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Henry of Pelham Anniversary Bash