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Tasting notes from Chile

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Chile, North to South.


The Silva family has its origins in France, from a Bordeaux winemaking background. Established in the 1920s, the company produced bulk wines for almost 70 years, but today their beautiful estate in Angostura, Colchagua is just one of several that supply fruit for their range of wines. The company is adventurous too, with their Lake Ranco project the most southerly vineyard area in Chile, 350 kilometres south of Bío Bío, in the Chilean lake district.

Though not yet in commercial production, this cool, windy area has been planted with 70 hectares, mostly of Sauvignon Blanc. "We decided to plant here because the micro climate supports farming of kiwi fruits," explained Mario Pablo Silva (right), managing director of family-owned company. "So we thought it might make excellent cool climate whites too." Casa Silva has also bought a farm of 80ha on coastal Colchagua, just seven kilometres from the ocean.

We travelled out to a small patch of their Los Lingues vineyard, where an intriguing a project has just been established in conjunction with several universities in Chile and in Germany, to create the first clones of Carmenère (currently all Carmenère is a massal selection - vines belong to the same family but are not identical clones. In theory this creates a less homogenous vineyard and less control over matching vine to soil).

The project will try to identify the differences between plants in a test vineyard, and establish the best vines to begin a clonal selection system. "It's the Carmenère version of the Human Genome project," jokes Pablo. He continues on a more serious note: "We really believe that Carmenère is going to be a great wine in Chile - the best scores for Chile's 'icon wines' are already given to wines that are mostly Carmenère." This new clonal programme has grown out of an established 'micro-terroir' project, in which Casa Silva vinifies and bottles different small plots of Carmenère.

   No visit to the Casa Silva winery is complete without the family's other passion: horses. If wine is the Silva's business, then horses are their lifeblood. Over 150 horses are stabled within the estate for show-jumping, rodeo and polo. There's an equestrian school, polo club, and most intriguing of all for the visitor, a thriving professional rodeo arena. Pictured is Pablo's brother and regular rodeo competitor, Gonzalo Silva.

white wines

UK agents for Casa Silva is Jackson Nugent. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris 2009
Lovely punchy nose, the greengage and gooseberry pungency punching through, nice sense of something nettly and mineral. The palate has lovely texture and fruit, with lots of citrus and an orange fruitiness. Very clean and crisp, lovely style. 88/100. £10.95 James Nicolson.

Casa Silva Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2009
A tiny vanilla note, with a herby, dry character and lemon fruit. Juicy on the palate, but very restrained, almost salty mineral hints. 87/100.

Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Smoky, gunflint notes, lots of herbal, even buttery, oatmeal note. Very nice bright and punchy fruit, with a fat lemony tang and very crisp, herbaceous notes, that salty note again making it savoury and delicious. 90/100.

Dona Dominga Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Viognier 2009
Rounded peachy tone to otherwise bright, focused lemon and apple fruit, a touch of nettle and herbs. The palate has lovely fruit too: the peach just adding a touch of ripeness and sweetness, but the finish showing that clean, tangy minerality. 86/100. £6.99, Waitrose.

Casa Silva Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2009
A portion spends four months in oak. Buttery and oatmeal character with great creaminess and ripeness to the fruit. The palate has real fruit sweetness, with lots of juicy cantaloupe melon and lime and lemon acidity. The finish is fresh and bright. 88/100.

Casa Silva Gran Reserva Viognier 2009
From coastal estate in Colchagua called 'Paradones'. Big, apricotty, peachy nose, with lots of Viognier floral character and clarity. Lovely palate, very crisp and cool, through the preachy ripeness comes through before a crisp, focused acidity in the finish. Very nice style this. 89/100.

Casa Silva Quinta Generacion White 2007
One third each of Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier. Chardonnay and Viognier have some oak. Toasty and buttery, with lots of hazelnut and buttery apple and peach fruit. Lovely palate, the freshness of the Sauvignon coming through powerfully, and the roundness of the Chardonnay and the sweet oak filling out the finish. 91/100. £13.95, Oddbins

Casa Silva Late Harvest Semillon Gewürztraminer 2009
Delicate herbal and floral aromas. Light, delicate, seed cake notes. On the palate beautifully creamy and sweet, the finish crisp though - this is light and elegant. With delicious orangy tang and a touch of herbal character. 100g/l sugar. Delightful stuff. 88/100. £6.95, per half bottle.

red wines

Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenère 2009
50/50 blend, the Carmenère is 15 years old, from the Los Lingues. Spicy character, with lots of pepper and some strawberry softness. The palate has good sweetness of the fruit too, with smooth texture thought the tannins rough things up nicely, adding a bit of real character. 86/100. £5.99, Oddbins

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2008
50 percent each from Los Lingues and Lolol. One third of the wine has French oak for six months. Lots of pepper and spice here too, with a certain earthiness and very fine black fruit. Very fine fruit here, with a softness of strawberry pulp and sweet oak beneath silky, ripe Carmenère fruit. 90/100.

Dona Dominga Reserva Carmenère Shiraz 2008
60/40 blend. Los Lingues. Nicely earthy, vegetal nose with some spice and cedar and a bit of herbal character. Nicely juicy palate, the ripeness comes through nicely and it has soft, silky tannins and good balance. Very drinkable. 87/100. £6.99. Waitrose

Casa Silva Gran Reserva Angostura Merlot 2007
A little leafy lift to this, with very nice cedar and red fruit character. The palate has a certain silky smoothness, with fine tannins and that earthiness coming through, but a lovely weight and texture, and a sweetness in the finish. 89/100.

Casa Silva Gran Reserva Los Lingues Carmenère 2007
Ripe, dusty black fruit and blueberry. Seems very supple and dense. The palate has lovely weight and mid-palate intensity, the sweet fruit and fine tannins balanced by plenty of crunchy black fruit acidity. 90/100.

Casa Silva Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Nicely smoky and earthy, the hint of herbal character and cedar set against firm, juicy black fruit. Lovely firmness and fruit on the palate with smooth, silky tannins and lovely purity and balance. 90/100.

Casa Silva Quinta Generacion Red 2007
45% Carmernere, 27 Syrah, 23 CS, 5% Petit Verdot. Lovely smoky and earthy nose, lots of wild garrigue notes and a certain creaminess. Lovely Bordeaux-like balance, with black fruit, a touch of olive and a fine spiciness. Lovely style. 91/100.

Casa Silva Micro Terroir Carmenère 2006
10,000 bottles. Very dense, very velvety and deep on the nose, with a black fruit depth that has a little dustiness, plum and chocolate. Very silky oak. 16 months in oak, 80% new in this vintage. Very silky berry fruit, with lovely chocolaty tannins, very fine and savoury, that little herbal note coming through. 94/100. £25

Casa Silva Altura Red 2004
8,200 bottles. 50% Carmenère, 33% CS, 17% Petit Verdot all from Los Lingues. Minimum of three years in cellar, in bottle, before release. 100% new oak. Alliers M+ toast. Camphory, high, beautifully aromatic nose with lots of Sandalwood and nutty spice, the herbal note of Carmenère adding a savoury note and very classy underlying fruit. The palate has terrific sweetness of fruit, with masses of blackberry and black plum, those fine, dense, chocolaty tannins and mocha richness supporting but not overpowering the fruit. Great fruit and definition into a long finish. 94/100. £35+

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