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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.


Tamaya's facility in Limari is enormous, but then most of the space is given over to a large fruit growing and packing business that was here long before wine was made. Indeed we left with what seemed like a lifetime supply of delicious Papayas.

pablo    The winery is run as a separate operation, and indeed was the pioneering presence in Limari, with vineyards planted in 1997 and the winery itself constructed in 2001. Winemaker Pablo Martin (shown left as we enjoyed a glass of rosé at the highest point in the vineyards) conducted a brief tour of the estate, the vineyards covering a large area with soils running through sand and clay over gravel and limestone.

Pablo explained how the vineyards were laid out with different orientations, changing from north-south to east-west according to the landscape, to protect them more from Limari's strong sunlight - solar radiation here, as in Elqui, is very intense, so the vines need a certain amount of protection.

The canopy of leaves over each vine is also managed to create a 'parasol' effect, and Limari's afternoon breezes help mitigate heat - the vineyards are 19 kilometres from the ocean. The combination of freshness and dry, sunny but relatively cool conditions also means farming here needs only minimal chemical intervention against pests and disease.

Tamaya produces several product ranges, with only French oak barrels used in their upper-level bottlings. Sangiovese and Viognier join the more expected varietals.

white wines

Tamaya is imported into the UK by McKinley Vintners. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Tamaya Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Nicely crisp and vibrant Sauvignon, with some leafy aromatics and a gooseberry freshness. Very delicious, mouth-wateringly crisp, lemon zest palate with quite a nice weight and flesh, and a balanced, dry finish. 87/100. £6.99 - £7.99.

Tamaya Chardonnay 2009
Nice little hint of honeyed weight to fleshy yellow plum fruit and a gentle background oatmeal toast. Nice fresh palate too, with good orangey fruit and plenty of citrusy life, but there's a nice hint of that richness and vanillin, and a moreish, easy drinking finish. 87/100.

Tamaya VCS 2009
A blend of 50% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of apricot and peachy quality in the nose here, with a nutty character and good citrusy punch on the palate. Juicy and limey, with a touch of the Sauvignon's green leaf freshness making for a delicious drink. 87/100.

Tamaya Chardonnay Reserva 2008
Oak-aged, around 90% of it French with 10% American, and in 400-litre barrels, not smaller barriques. Quite a powerful, toasty character here, with Brazil nut and a touch of coffee. A good quality of green, figgy fruit beneath. The palate has good texture and a full mid-palate, with the melon and nutty fruit character giving way to nicely defining acidity. Well-balanced. 88/100. £8.99 - £9.99

Tamaya Viognier Chardonnay 2008
60% Viognier, each variety harvested a month apart, Chardonnay first. Clean, bright aromas, with a floral aspect and bright peachiness. The palate has a freshness and lightness that seems to be typical of Viognier from this valley, with a little creamy, custardy note beneath. 88/100.

Tamaya Winemaker's Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Twenty percent of this fermented in oak. The oak is well-managed and very subtle, but the expression slightly subdued. The palate is racy and fine, with clean, crisp, lemon freshness, but perhaps lacks a little expression for the price. 87/100. £11.99 - £12.99

Tamaya Winemaker's Selection Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2008
100% barrel-fermented. Fine, alluring toasty nose, with lots of Brazil nut and buttery aromas, and a nicely ripe yellow plum and melon fruitiness. The palate has lovely weight: the oak is nicely supportive but not overpowering, and the juicy, lemony quality of the acidity cuts through a full mid-palate. Deliciously balanced. 90/100.

red wines

Tamaya Merlot Sangiovese 2008
85% Merlot. Pleasantly herbal and earthy, with a touch of tobacco and red plum fruit. Quite a bright, racy palate, with good fruit sweetness, but a nicely savoury character too. The slightly green note detracts slightly on the finish, but I like the spicy freshness of this and it would be a good food wine. 87/100. £6.99 - £7.99.

Tamaya Carmenère 2008
No pyrozene aromas here, but then it is fairly subdued aromatically overall. A nice hint of dusty black fruit. On the palate fairly racy, with good acidity and a nicely sharpened fruit appeal, with a liquoricy savoury edge. Another savoury, lean style, but successful. 87/100.

Tamaya Carmenère Reserva 2008
Eighty percent French and 20% American oak for 10 months. A blend from Tamaya North and South vineyards. There's an extra layer of polish and plushness to this, with a certain meatiness and ripe berry fruit. The palate still has that edge of raciness, but again a slightly more plush depth of fruit that pushes through with spicy concentration. 89/100. £8.99 - £9.99

Tamaya Syrah Reserva 2008
Co-ferment with around 4% Viognier, which is harvested at the same time. The Viognier certainly adds a little floral, fruity lift to this, with very pure blackberry fruit and a touch of meatiness beneath. The palate has a slightly baked quality perhaps, but the fruit comes through nicely and the freshness of the acidity, with smooth tannins. 87/100.

Tamaya Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Reserva 2008
The nose has a dusty Malbec character, with a little touch of floral, violet lift. The palate has good fruit, very cool and maintains a nice edge. Fine cherry skin bite and freshness. 89/100.

Tamaya Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2008
Very nice rich, chunky Cabernet style, with a certain blue-black dustiness and earthiness. The palate has lovely, thick blackcurrant fruit, with still that dry, savoury, black olive character of this region that keeps it savoury and moreish. 90/100.

Tamaya Carmenère Winemaker's Selection 2008
Barrel aged for 12 months. Really big, creamy, ripe nose, with lots of thick, sweet black fruit, and a lovely ripe generosity. The palate too has fine sweet black fruit, with a lifted, violet and damson skin edge, with lots of acidity and fine tannins adding terrific zest and structure. 90/100. £11.99 - £12.99

Tamaya Syrah Winemaker's Selection 2008
Very fine, gravelly, graphite nose, with refined, tight black fruit. The palate has that tight, sinewy character too. Does this lack a little mid-palate weight and richness? It is a lean, savoury, even severe style, but the pure fruit does develop a little more coffee richness on the finish, with touches of spice. 89/100.

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