Chilean Wines Inspired by Nature
In terms of sheer beauty, few wine-producing countries are on par with Chile. From the bone-dry Atacama Desert to the towering Andes, and from the rugged shores of the Pacific Ocean to the chilly depths of Patagonia, Chile is a living postcard where nature-loving winemakers take cues from their surroundings. And while stunning vistas are ubiquitous throughout the country, nowhere is more inspiring to Chile’s current generation of winemakers than Patagonia. It’s a place where calving glaciers, snow-topped peaks, winding waterways, emerald forests and myriad wildlife abound. Come along for a look at Patagonia, and the wines it inspires.
Photos by Matt Wilson
The inland portion of the Colchagua Valley is one of Chile’s warmest wine zones. Head west toward the Pacific coastline and the village of Paredones, however, and things turn breezy and chilly faster than you can don a windbreaker. Because temperatures rarely exceed 75˚F in this area, Casa Silva’s Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc, a pioneering wine from Paredones, is a steely number and one of Chile’s defining cold-climate whites.
Try: Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc (Colchagua Valley): current vintage 2014; $20, Not Yet Rated. Imported by Vine Connections.
Coyam, from Viña Emiliana in the Colchagua Valley, is a biodynamic blend of Syrah, Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre and Malbec that spends roughly 13 months in mostly new French and American barrels. When young, Coyam shows oaky creaminess in feel and flavor. As the wine ages, peaking about five years after harvest, it morphs into one of Chile’s most balanced, palate-pleasing reds.
Try: Viña Emiliana Coyam (Colchagua Valley): current vintage 2011; $30, 91 points. Imported by Banfi Vintners;
Neyen is one of several wineries with plantings in Apalta, Chile’s most distinguished and internationally recognized vineyard. With vines planted as long ago as the early 1900s, this landmark Colchagua vineyard features sandy loam on top of granite bedrock, and produces the country’s best blends of Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon. Neyen, with Winemaker Rodrigo Soto at the helm, boasts an eponymous top-shelf Apalta wine that deftly reflects its unique origin.
Try: Neyen (Colchagua Valley): current vintage 2010; $50, 92 points. Imported by Huneeus Vintners.
Viña Tabalí’s Talinay is one of Chile’s few defining Chardonnays. Hailing from the northerly Limarí Valley, Talinay draws its distinct, minerally character from Chile’s only true limestone soils. Situated just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, grapes benefit from regular morning fog, called La Camanchaca, which fosters long hangtime and complexity. In the glass, Talinay, the pride of Winemaker Felipe Müller, hints at Burgundy and goes nicely with fish.
Try: Viña Tabalí Talinay Chardonnay (Limarí Valley): current vintage 2013; $30, not yet rated. Imported by Elixir Wine Group.
Tara is a new label from Viña Ventisquero that includes varietal Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. These envelope-pushing wines come from the coastal village of Huasco, located about 450 miles north of Santiago in the Atacama Desert. Winemaker Felipe Tosso relies on open-bin, natural-yeast fermentations and aging in fifth-use neutral barrels for the unfiltered Pinot Noir, called Red Wine 1. This meaty, tea-driven specimen is about as natural as Chilean Pinot gets.
Try: Tara Red Wine 1 Pinot Noir (Atacama): current vintage 2012; $48, Not Yet Rated. Imported by Aviva Vino.
Rhône-style blends are quite the rage in Chile these days. Many are snappy in style, with pronounced acidity and pointed red-fruit qualities. Ninquén’s Antu Grenache-Syrah-Carignan, however, is deeper, darker and riper than most similarly composed wines. With Grenache and Syrah coming from coastal Colchagua and Carignan from the Maipo Valley, Antu GSC offers roasted tomato and herbal aromas, briary berry flavors and a dense body that shouts “earthy.”
Try: Ninquén Antu Grenache-Syrah-Carignan (Colchagua Valley): current vintage 2013; $19, Not Yet Rated. Imported by Palm Bay International.