CHILE'S NEW COOL

17th September 2020

Chile has much more to offer than the cheap and cheerful wine it is most known for. This beautiful country is home to some of the worlds most exquisite wines, each with their own story to tell. Words by Rebecca Palmer.

Chiles New Cool

‘Donde la tierra se acaba … where the land ends’ said the helicopter pilot (and somewhat worryingly I thought) as I held my breath, gripped my seat and we swooped and looped over a tiny experimental vineyard perched perilously above the Pacific on its rocky promontory. ‘So that’s what the word ‘Chile’ means in the old Mapuche language’ he explained helpfully. ‘Or some say it is the cry of seagulls chille chille, or perhaps the Quechua word for snow, or todas esas cosas a la vez’. Indeed Chile is all these things and more.

A land of contrasts and extremes, Chile is an extraordinary country. Spanning over 4600km north to south, it is also just 93 miles wide. Home to 18 million people and 2000 active volcanoes, it also harbours 200 thousand hectares of vines. In fact, Chile is often termed a viticultural paradise, thanks to its unique geography. In the north the vast Atacama desert proves a barrier to predators. Likewise, the mighty Andes (80% of Chile’s landmass!), rising to the east. To the south and west lie the waters of the Pacific. It is thanks to these protective natural boundaries that Chile was spared the ravages of phylloxera, the louse that devastated world vineyards in the late 19th century, and much more besides. So Chile is in many ways an enclave, its landscape contrasting ancient rolling hills and steep-sided valleys glittering with minerals, dense forests and deep lakes, snow-topped mountains and meandering rivers. There are vines everywhere, some planted long ago in the 1500s, the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors, others the result of widespread European migration in the 19th and 20th centuries; this is a land with a rich history, whose natural attributes, politics and culture have spawned a fascinating industry.

Chiles New Cool
Chiles New Cool

The Chilean wine industry is significant in global terms, in 2018 it stood as 6th largest wine producing country in the world (12.9mhl. Source: OIV), and has become well-known in export markets, particularly for its well-priced easy-drinking wines, which outperform so many other countries in terms of value for money. However, the inevitable flipside to this success is that Chile has found itself pigeonholed as a producer of the cheap and cheerful: uncomplicated, juicy wines tasting of their grape variety but not much more. ‘Does what it says on the tin’. However, Chile has much more to offer, as I found out last Autumn when I made my latest buying trip to South America. A number of discussions with trade friends and tastings of Chilean wines in the UK, made me realise I must delve deeper into Chile, and so I set aside a few days to do so, and I am so glad I did.

Buying trips seem to warp time. In a few intense days criss-crossing Chile, I had the opportunity to meet with dozens of producers, experience extraordinary landscapes, and taste hundreds of wines, many of which were new to me. The people I met, the vineyards I walked in or flew above, the wines I tried, were eye-opening in so many different and colourful ways.

After a number of tastings and discussions with the growers and colleagues at Corney & Barrow, I am delighted that we have signed an entire handful of producers, five new faces whose wines can take us – and our customers – on a new and exciting journey through Chile. All offer something different from somewhere different, all have their own unique story to tell.

Some of these growers produce just a few hundred cases a year, others are a little larger, but the common thread to all of their wines, is that they have a sense of place and of the people that made them; to use that very French concept, they are wines of ‘terroir’.

These include classic red varietals from Idahue estate in the new DO Licanten (only the fourth appellation in Chile to be inaugurated, just last year!), a jaw-dropping feat of engineering by La Ronciere winery; revived heritage grapes Pais and Moscatel from the rolling landscape of the beautiful Itata valley; an orange skin-contact Torontel from the remote southern Maule and an old bush vine, dry-grown Garnacha made in amphorae. We have a biodynamic Cab Sauv from 80 year-old vines grown at altitude high above Colchagua, and the very essence of Carmenere from a French-Chilean winemaking couple with their own tiny venture in the Maipo.  Recently arrived, or about to, all these wines are exclusive to Corney & Barrow in the UK. We hope they will inspire you to learn more about Chile and the many faces of its wine world.

Chiles New Cool
Chiles New Cool

Naranjo Torontel Loncomilla Maturana Wines 2018

Tangy orange wine carefully crafted and produced in tiny quantities. It stays in contact with the pinkish skins of Torontel for 8 months, thus its orange hue. It is made from heritage vines of almost 80 years old located in Loncomilla, a remote sub-region of the Maule Valley in Chile.

£14.95

Chiles New Cool

Inocente Carmenere Vina Laurent 2018

Rich and structured Carménère, with aromas of black cherries and hints of leather notes that bring up the typicity of the grape expression in the heart of Maipo Valley. The wine is made by small artisan producer Viña Laurent, an independent boutique winery dedicated to the production of premium Chilean wines.

£11.95

Chiles New Cool

Polemico Pais Vina Laurent 2018

Produced from 150 years-old ungrafted vines in Chile’s Southern Itata Valley, the original heartland of Chilean wine production from the 16th century.

Polemico combines novelty and heritage in a fragrant, supple expression of the little known País grape..

£11.95

Chiles New Cool

La Gringa Moscatel Massoc Freres 2017

Dry, elegant Moscatel made from 80 year-old vines located in the Itata Valley. This is a partnership between Massoc Frères and local grower Juan Hinojosa.

Their project helps revive heritage grapes in Southern Chile. This wine is testament to its origin and grape variety, with a delicious sense of purity

£14.95

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