Tasted 17th March 2012 with Neville Blech. 14% ABV, 75cl, cork closure, about £12 UK retail. I kept this wine for about 2 years and this has paid dividends. It is drinking extremely well now.Deep purple, almost inky colour. Grilled meat, pepper and spice on the nose. Spicy thyme and cassis, brambly, dark fruits on the palate. The sweet oak shows through but does overpower. Full bodied but with a great balance, elegant. Truly lovely - one of my best wines of 2012, so far. A great winery from Chile’s ‘hottest’ region (actually, one of the coolest). From 2013, 18 / 20.
Wine of the Month and rise of Chilean Syrah
I have a passion for Chilean wine. This passion grows as I buy more, taste more and learn more about their wines. So much so, that I would like to make a Chilean Syrah my Wine of the Month.
About half my cellar is now from Chile. ‘Why?’ many of my Old World-loving friends ask. They cite fruit-forward varietal styles, derivative wines, young vines, ‘no reflection of terroir’, etc as reasons why they would rather have a Rhone Syrah or a Left Bank Cabernet Sauvignon. Curiously, I partly agree but only partly. I think this is a very old stereotype – in much the same way that many people believe that you can only have a good German wine if you pay a fortune, or that the Portuguese cannot make good table wine. Yes, there are very fruit-forward styles from Chile but even the ‘£4.99 glugger’ bangs-for-bucks will be better than many other New World wines at that price point. However, I want to focus on the quality sector. Viniculture and viticulture are now of the highest order and the industry is beginning to move away from targeting the lower end of the market and producing a range of wines at all price points and qualities. It is certainly very difficult to pay three figures for a bottle of Chilean wine or get one with much age but, the market is changing. Chile is now competing increasingly successfully in the middle market, with wines of longevity and distinction and a sense of terroir. Harpers recently reported that the UK is the second biggest market in terms of volume for Chilean wine and the biggest in terms of revenue. Most of the quality Chilean Syrah that I pay £11-£15 for at UK retail prices would need to be matched against £20-£30 Rhone wines to find equivalence. However, we are not just talking about value-for-money issues. We may not be talking Rayas or Cote Rotie yet but there is a quality and distinctiveness emerging, with many of the cool climate Syrah from Limari, Elqui or Bio Bio being truly inspirational wines. Some the loveliest wines I have had over the last two years have been Syrah or Carmenere from Chile. If Chilean Merlot (Carmenere) is their signature red grape, Syrah certainly has the potential to become their truly noble grape. Production is small at the moment but some fine examples are emerging.
Viña Mayu won the Decanter Regional Trophy last year (DWWA Best Value Syrah) for their 2010 Syrah Reserva. Elqui is Chile’s most northerly region (about 30oS), on the southern edge of the Atacama Desert - the world’s driest place. Just 29 hectares are currently planted with Syrah, in terraces that rise up to 2000 metres (6500 feet) into the Andes. Hence, the ‘cool climate Syrah’ comes from the altitude factor rather than the latitude – the sun is very intense here, being just a few degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Mayu was formed as recently as 2005, with a mission statement to focus on fine wine. Winemaker Mauro Olivier Alcayaga was the first to introduce Syrah into Chile (in 2000). The grapes for the current Syrah Reserva come from two vineyards only - El Tambo (550m above sea level) and Quebrada de Talca (350m above sea level) and the has 8 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.