I know we look serious, but much fun was actually had by all
Earlier this week, I took part in an online masterclass/virtual-round-table of sorts with Wines of Chile and Snooth, tasting through a selection of Chilean Carménère reds (some of which you can purchase via a pretty good deal right now), with a group of capable and affable fellow wine-media-types (including @WineDineWanda, @enobytes, @talkavino, and @KellyMitchell).
If you’re kind of scratching your head on the uncharacteristically quick turnaround time in recapitulating the experience here on 1WD, it’s because the whole online-video-Carménère thing is nostalgic for me, as it was one of the first such tastings that I ever did under the 1WD umbrella (back when the writing here could charitably be described as fledgling…).
While almost unlikely to become a crowd favorite based on availability alone, Carignan is probably the empirically best Chilean red fine wine grape, or at least the one with the most depth, intrigue, and soul.
Having said that, the much more ubiquitous Carménère from Chile is still an incredible bargain, and arguably has never been better (or easier to enjoy even at modest price points). In Carménère, Chile is leveraging its ever-increasing winemaking knowledge levels to the full, combining modern know-how with more hand-crafted approaches; the results in some cases are single vineyard wines from older vines that provide an intellectually captivating experience at prices that still kind of defy credulity. At least, that’s how I’m increasingly seeing that landscape, particularly based on what we tasted during our video meetup…
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The modest country stylings at Vina von Siebenthal in Panquehue
Chile’s wine business is dominated by producers that could charitably be described as “corporate.” Its movements are almost exclusively set by a small number of very, very large production houses.
In that environment, 30 hectares of vineyards – which comprises the entire holdings of Viña von Siebenthal – is basically a rounding error.
I was first exposed to the benevolently pernicious undercurrent of Chile’s micro-production wine brands (and to von Siebenthal itself) when I first visited the country in 2011, and was able to spend some time tasting the wares the independent vintners of MOVI. So I was piqued (and thirsty) when I saw that von Siebenthal was on the list of producers I was to visit for my return media jaunt to Chile late last year.
The brand began as a passion project of its eponymous Swiss founder, über-wine-consumer Mauro von Siebenthal, who at the age of forty decided to retire from his “adult” carrier (in law) and give the wine business a go (hey, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). In 1998, he planted ten hectares in Panquehue in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, building a modest winery building (which is easy to miss, as it looks exactly like a number of Chilean country houses in the area) two years later.
Mauro von Siebenthal has described his winemaking philosophy (assisted by Doña Paula and Santa Rita alumnus Stefano Gandolini) in similarly modest terms, as “interpreting each meter of land.” I loved that description, because it both betrays Swiss cultural fastidious while promising the potential for uniqueness across the portfolio. Fortunately, that’s precisely what you find – precision and uniqueness – when you taste through his wines…
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