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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.

VIÑA ERRAZURIZ

Errazuriz is a familiar name in the UK and currently bang on form: The Wine Gang recently awarded their 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay Budget Wine of the Year for 2009. The company is family-owned, and in charge today is Eduardo Chadwick, the fifth generation and descendant of founder Don Maximiano Errázuriz, who first planted vines here in 1870.

I visited their historic Don Maximiano estate at very exciting moment: just a hundred metres from the beautiful, century-old headquarters building, the finishing touches were being put to a brand new winery specifically designed to make Errazuriz 'icon' wines (click photo for larger image).

In stark contrast to the old farm, the new, gravity-fed winery will be opened in time to make this year's Don Maximiano, Vinedos Chadwick and Seña under the direction of head winemaker Francisco Baettig who met me for a guided tour through Errazuriz's extensive portfolio.
   errazuriz new cellar

francisco baetigg    Francisco (left) has been in charge of winemaking since 2003, having worked in Casa Lapostolle and Santa Carolina before that, though he studied and lived in France (making wine at Laroche in Chablis and Château Bon Pasteur in Pomerol amongst others) as well as making wine across the Andes, for Lurton in Argentina.

Francisco seemed particularly excited about the company's new vineyard called Manzanar, which is sited far west of the home estate, only 12 kilometres from the ocean. This will be part of the new 'Coastal Aconcagua' appellation if the proposed changes happen, and will come on-stream next year with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As for the icon wines, Francisco is pleased by the way the 2007s are looking: "It's maybe even better than 05, which everyone says was great: 07 will be a bit more delicate, but still with density and concentration."

Francisco also underlines the importance of mid-market level wines for Chile: "With our entry level wines we are attempting to show varietal typicity, but the mid-range is very interesting for us and for Chile," he says. "Chile has over-delivered at lower levels in the past, so now we really need to do that £7 - £12 range too."

white wines

Errazuriz is imported into the UK by Hatch-Mansfield. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Sauvignon Blanc Estate 2009
From Aconcagua, this has beautifully juicy, fresh, passionfruit and gooseberry aromatics. Nice mid-weight style with a touch of soft, leafy herbs, but mostly fruity with some lemony character. The palate has a great thrust of fat, juicy, lemon and lime zest with tropical overtones of pineapple and mango. Terrific tang and zest into the finish. 88/100. £7.99.

Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard 2009
Aconcagua again, and a deeper, almost figgy edge to the character with much more of that passionfruit and some lychee aromas in an intense wine showing some tomato leaf too. There's a herbaceous character here, with that power and some grapefruit pith character giving a real edge to the peachy, fleshy fruit. 89/100. £8.99.

Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2008
Casablanca fruit for this 100% barrel-fermented wine, all in French oak, though new oak has been diminishing - this one only around 12% new. Complex oatmeal, honey and cashew notes, with an earthiness and touch of onion skin, yeastiness. The palate has lovely breadth and weight, the texture is mouth-filling, but it keeps really good tangy weight with a great thrust of orangy fruit and acidity, with some toasty notes in the finish. 92/100. £9.99

red wines

Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2009
From the Central Valleys this is quite bold, with a cherry skin edge and red liquorice. The palate has delightfully full, sweet fruit, but retains very good varietal character, with cassis and a nice hint of leafiness, and very good balance. A delightfully drinkable style, but also food-friendly with a touch of tannin and acidity. 87/100. £7.99

Pinot Noir Wild Ferment 2008
Casablanca again, and around 25% of the wine is barrel aged. Big, quite bold and ripe and powerful wine, with deep coffee and earthy notes, a lot of dark, ripe plum and berries. The palate has fie weight and richness, with plenty of weight and smooth, silky tannins. Lovely weight and mouth-feel, the spice and acidity extending the finish against the sweet, round fruit and smoky oak. 90/100. £9.99.

Merlot Max Reserva 2007
From Aconcagua, there's a little Carmenère in this. Touches of cedar and a graphite character, and although this has a tight, fruity quality, there is a little hint of the Carmenère character. There's a fat, juicy fleshiness to this, with a lovely dry, cherry and plum skin bite and tang, with the acidity and the tannins just adding a robust, roughening edge that is delightful. 90/100. £10.29

Carmenère Estate 2009
Aconcagua fruit. Tiny violetty, floral character to this. For Carmenère, quite bright fruit with a red berry quality and just a freshening hint of herbal quality. On the palate there is a lovely mocha edge to the fruit, and that black fruit intensity comes through more. Balanced and good quality. 87/100. £7.99

Shiraz Max Reserva 2007
Aconcagua fruit again. Errazuriz was the first to bring Shiraz to Chile in 1993, with their first wine appearing in 1997. Big, ripe, sweet nose, with lots of chocolate mint and pure black berry and currant fruit. The palate has intense fruit sweetness: chocolaty and rich, with a real juicy black plum and berry fruit and a really nice, long, silky finish with some spice and some charry, smoky notes and a supple, chocolaty tannin structure. Delicious. 90/100. £10.99.

Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2008
Aconcagua. Gently earthy and cedary, with a lot of ripe berry fruit beneath, and a certain sense of richness. Very sweet and ripe fruit on the palate. Seems almost sweet in the finish, and though no doubt a very good and delicious commercial wine, slightly sweet for my palate. 86/100. £7.99

The Blend 2007
45% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc, 25% Carmenère, 5% Roussanne all from Aconcagua. The Roussanne is "very neutral on the nose but gives acidity and freshness." Big coffee and cream nose, with lots of coconut and smoky vanilla. The palate has lovely weight and silkiness, the delicious weight and smooth, very silky fruit and tannin making a seamless, mouth-filling finish. Fresh and structured too, and will age. 91/100. £14.99, Waitrose

Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2006
Aconcagua fruit and 100% French oak. 82% Cabernet, 8% Franc, 5% each of Petit Verdot and Syrah. Very, deep, ripe, game and bloody scent, with overripe, rich black fruit. Deliciously dark, chocolaty notes and some subtle spice - but very much fruit driven. The palate has lovely fruit: a really fine, graphite edge, with a tight, fine-tannin structure and good acidity, all playing against the sweet intensity of the fruit. Very impressive and marrying hedonistic fruit depth and sweetness with subtle structure. 93/100. £29.99.

Seña 2006
Aconcagua fruit for this wine now solely owned by Errazuriz (originally a joint venture with Mondavi). Cabernet Sauvignon with 16% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 10% Carmenère and 6% Cabernet Franc. A subtle, understated nose, with cedar and polished old wood notes, subtle spice and a refined Cabernet fruitiness. There is a touch of racy and herbal, balsamic quality, with such pure, cool, purity to the fruit. It has delightful fruit sweetness, but the silky, chocolaty tannins and pin-point acidity bring this to a very fine point in the finish. Much softer and more subtle than the Don Maximiano, but fabulous quality. 94/100. £45.00

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