Which begs the question, of course, Why does Chilean wine kick so much gluteus maximus?
Here are 5 reasons:…
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to grow fine wine grapes than Chile. Sure, they grow plenty of the lowly Mission grape destined for cheapPisco [editor’s note: wrong, Jack! Mission isn’t used for Pisco!]. But Chile is also starting to realize its huge potential to grow classic Bordeaux varietals. Chile’s wine regions are varied in climate and soil types, giving it a diversity in quality wine that few other countries posses. That nasty pest Phylloxera is nowhere to be found, because it faces natural borders to the north (desert), south (ice), west (the Pacific), and east (the Andes).
Cool air from the mountains, as well as the influence of the Pacific’s Humboldt current moderate the growing temperatures, while plentiful water from the Andes provides irrigation. Grapes love this place.
More investment smarties than Warren Buffett Since opening its agricultural doors to the outside world in the 1980s, Chile has seen an influx of winemaking smarties and significant fiscal investment from wine companies far and wide. This means that Chile is getting a state-of-the art crash-course in modern winemaking and viticultural techniques, which benefits the wine.
Set the Wayback Machine for the late 19th Century…
When the nasty pest Phylloxera was devastating the fine wine vineyards of, well, the entire world, many a European brought winemaking know-how – and, importantly, vine clippings – to Chile.Since Chile never had Phylloxera mucking about, it never had to resort to using grafting (onto American rootstocks) for its imported vinifera vines to survive and thrive. This means that Chilean wine is a bit like a trip back in time to the mid 19th century, because (theoretically) they taste like, well, wine from ungrafted vines. Presumably, not unlike what wine would have tasted like in the pre-Phylloxera days.
Chile has lots of interesting wines across the entire price spectrum (a high-end Chilean wine recently garnered Wine Spectator’s 2008 wine of the year accolade), but it’s nearly perfected the cheap, mass-market wine offering (more on that in a bit).
You can get a decent everyday quaffer from Chile for under $10 USD. I will assume further comment on this point is entirely unnecessary. But I will add that the concept seems to be popular in the U.S. – according to WinesOfChile.org, Americans consumed nearly 1.9 million cases of Chilean wine in 2007, and that was just in NY, FL, and NJ alone!
My example of Chilean value red is Concha y Toro’s Xplorador Merlot. You can regularly find this wine for well under $10. It’s from the Central Valley (good area in Chile, not so great in CA), and I really dig the fact that it’s got 10% Carménère (which seems to reach unique excellence in Chile), and is under 14% abv.
The wine is all plum and thyme spice. Is it complex? No. Is it good? Hell yes, for $8 it’s damn good. Amazingly, Concha y Toro seems to be able to make consistently good and cheap wine year on year, which is something that SouthEastern Australia’s equivalent mass-market wine, Yellowtail, has yet to master.
Tasty, fairly well-balanced, and ultra-inexpensive. Hard to argue with that.
BUT… Chile has a LOT more to offer than just value reds – more to come on that in an upcoming post.
To say that I was impressed by the energy, turn out, and quality of the Wine Blogging Wednesday #51 participant posts would be an understatement.
Sort of like saying that the Grand Canyon is a minor geological anomaly. That kind of understatement.
To be perfectly honest, I was dreading (somewhat) having to carve out the time to read each entry for the event. That dread quickly turned into anticipation as my perceived labor became a labor of love.
And that is entirely due to the high quality of your posts – for those who participated, I can’t thank you enough.
Once again, Wine Blogging Wednesday drew participants from varied backgrounds, different areas of wine-world involvement, multiple countries, and represented nearly the entire spectrum of wine expertise… For those who didn’t participate, below you are links to some great reads on a wine category that gets precious little attention these days – fortified wines – but whose expression can be just as sublime and enchanting as any of the typical, more attention-grabbing styles (for an excellent primer on some of this, check out K2’s Madeira overview at the Wine Blog).
If you’re still skeptical as to the power, finesse, and quality of baked / madeirized / oxidized / fortified wines, witness these two posts from two venerable and long-standing wine bloggers:
If that doesn’t convince you, then you’re probably not paying attention.
Following are links to the other fine articles from the event’s participants, roughly in the order I received them.
Some revisited old faves, others tried something new, and many, many of them were pleasantly surprised by what sweet and fortified wines had to offer. If you’re thinking of taking a plunge into the world of kick-ass fortified wines, you’d do well to read these posts as they offer a great summary of what’s available to you on the market.
If you participated in WBW #51 and I didn’t link to you below, please accept my apology in advance and leave me a comment here so I can rectify the situation!
Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday #51(WineDude)!
Dude here is hosting the 51st edition of the venerable WBW, and today’s theme is “Baked Goods“ – reviews of wines that are deliberately heated (aka “Madeirized”), and we’re also allowing reviews of sweet Fortified wines to be included. For the scoop on how Wine Blogging Wednesday works, check out the WBW site. More details on the background of the theme can be found here.
Now… let’s get this funk started!
I love Madeira. Love is a strong word. And I love Madeira.
It’s often sweet, incredibly tasty, high in refreshing acidity, and because it’s already been exposed to oxygen and heat (which would utterly destroy normal wines), it’s virtually indestructible.
A Madeira wine from 1935 will pretty much taste the same today as it did in 1935, even if opened and enjoyed tablespoon by luscious tablespoon from then until now. Not only is it tasty, indestructible, and food-friendly, it also boasts an abv of 19% or more. It’s a bad-ass wine!…
Normally, I’d expound on the storied history of Madeira, and give you background on the traditional styles of Madeira, food pairings, etc.
Rather than take you through the history of Madeira wine – which I figured might be covered by one or more of the other fine WBW participants anyway (and if not can easily be found in detailed play-by-play on the web) – I thought I’d instead show you, by way of comparison, just how bad-ass Madeira actually is.
Let’s compare kick-ass, indestructible Madeira to the so-called “Invincible” IRON MAN:
Anyway, traditional Madeira comes in four flavors of grapes, each chosen to highlight a particular style of the wine, examples of which I tasted in comparison (witness below).
Notice how the color of each wine gets darker? This is a key to the style, which range from dry and nutty to lusciously sweet and caramely (is that a word…?):
Blandy’s Dry Sercial (Aged 5 Years in oak): Made from the Sercial grape, grown in the cooler high-altitude regions of the Madeira island. Sherry-like, nutty (almonds, baby!) with searing acidity. Pass the hors d’oeuvres!
Blandy’s 5 Year Vedelho: Made from Verdelho (also grown in the cooler Northern part of the island) – Sherry-like, but this time its darker and more ‘Oloroso-ish’; the oak is more pronounced, and there’s touch of sweetness balancing the acidity.
Cossart Gordon Medium Rich Bual (15 years): From the Bual grape (probably my favorite) from the warmer southern portion of Madeira, it ripens to higher levels so it can be made into a sweeter style. And sweet it is – as in sweet fig, vanilla, and hazelnut, with a long nutty finish.
Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Year:Malmsey is the malvasia grape, grown in the warmest and lowest-altitude regions of Madeira. These wines can become ultra-indestructible and typically have a near-perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. In this case, the wine is bursting with burnt caramel, rum, honey, and smoke, with a smooth, luscious mouthfeel.
Now do you see why I use the word “love” when I’m talking Madeira?
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