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White is the new red in Chile. Many of us are familiar with Chile’s delicious red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. Now Chile is producing some very palatable Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay white wines from their cool coastal regions.
Thanks to their Southern Hemisphere location, Chile’s vineyards are now in the peak of harvest season. This made it extra special to have a number of Chilean winemakers present during a web-based wine tasting of Chilean wines that I participated in this past week. It was my first 21st century-style tasting, with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer conducting the tasting from Brooklyn. Winemakers online in Chile were able to interact electronically with more than 50 U.S. wine bloggers, sipping in the comfort of their own homes — some even hosting parties.
The bloggers chatted online with each other and asked questions of the winemakers. My favorite question: “How does Chile have such great prices and the quality of the wine is also so high?” Many reasons, said the winemakers, citing the land, labor and weather conditions.
Chile is a long, narrow country that borders on the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. In the coastal regions of Chile — including the Casablanca, Limari, Leyda and western Colchagua valleys — the cool ocean breezes, good soil and morning fog provide an ideal setting for growing white wine grapes. The cool breeze from the Humboldt current and fog allow the grapes to slowly ripen and develop a more complex taste.
We tasted a handful of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines; I found the Sauvignon Blancs particularly impressive. Here are my favorites from the tasting:
Casa Silva, Coal Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Colchagua Valley ($25)
This wine is perfect to pair with ceviche. It has a nose of freshly cut grass and jalapeno. This jalapeno flavor carries onto the palate, accompanied by fresh grapefruit.
Cono Sur Vision, Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Casablanca Valley ($15)
The vineyard is both sustainable and organic. This wine has a distinct minerality with tastes of zesty citrus and fleshy peach.
De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay 2010, Limari Valley ($18)
These grapes are grown on rich limestone soils and the winemaker strives to show the terrior of this wine. There is a hint of toasted oak, but not overbearing, and a fresh taste of apple and pear. This wine will also continue to develop for a few years in the bottle.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.