With Christmas and New Year right around the corner, it can be a bit bewildering picking the right bottle for the right time. Help is at hand though, and Chile can be your answer for the whole festive season! Here are five top tips for picking the right bottle of Chilean wine for the holidays:
A bit of Chilean Sparkle
Popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly is essential! There’s nothing quite like the click of glasses and the excited flow of sparkling wine to celebrate the end of a year, and ring in the new year. You don’t have to stick with Champagne or Prosecco though, Chile has perfect sparkling alternatives for both.
If you fancy a fruitier, lighter bubbly (the style of Prosecco or perhaps Cava) there are many sparkling wines in Chile made with the charmat method which offer a bit of fizz, a lot of fruit and a lighter finish making them a perfect party popper. If you want a more structured and richer Champagne-style sparkling, try one of the traditional method sparkling wines that have rested on the lees for a long time. Both come from coastal regions like Limari, Casablanca and San Antonio, as well as cooler southern regions such as Malleco and Bio Bio.
If you want to try some fizz that is uniquely Chilean, try the pretty pink sparkling Pais. This variety was almost abandoned in the south of Chile up until the last few years when winemakers brought it back into fashion by making lighter, easy drinking red wines. Sparkling pais is a delicate rosé with lots fruit and a dry finish – ideal for pairing with canapes!
50 shades of Pinot
When it comes to Christmas and New Year food, whether you are celebrating in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer or you are trying to keep warm in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, there are always a large myriad of dishes on the table to pair with a wine. If you want to pick one wine that will pair with most dishes, pick Pinot Noir.
A classic choice, Pinot Noir works well with fish dishes like fatty salmon or festive-favourite gravlax; poultry dishes like a roast chicken or turkey; lighter meat dishes; and even nut and mushroom roasts for vegetarians. Chilean Pinot Noir has lots of red and dark fruit on the nose and a good acidity making it a flavourful but fresh wine that combines excellently with many dishes.
Chile is naturally blessed with cool climates and marine influences, making conditions ideal for this variety. Try the expressive and intense wines from coastal regions like Limari, Casablanca, San Antonio and Aconcagua Coast; the juicier wines from cooler southern regions like Bio Bio and Malleco; or for something different get your hands on a Pinot from the Elqui Valley. There are so many excellent Chilean Pinot Noirs to explore this festive season!
Dare to be different
If you want to surprise your guests at the dinner table this season, give some of Chile’s more unusual wines a whirl.
In the south there are many old vines that are being rediscovered and brought back to the limelight. Pais is making a comeback across the country, and there are some great Cinsault and Mouvedre to discover too. Fruit forward and often made with lighter vinification techniques like carbonic maceration or without oak, these are expressive and juicy wines that are easy-drinking for festive lunch times too. Try producers from Maule, Bio Bio, Curico and Itata.
In Maule there is another variety which might delight at the dinner table – Carignan. It is no longer a secret that Carignan is creating a stir in the south for the superb wines being made from this unusual variety. Coming from old vines in Maule, many Chilean wineries are working with the variety usually buying fruit from small, independent grape producers who have tended to their vines for generations. With a dark and enticing nose, Carignan has a great acidity making it a fabulous food wine (try the VIGNO labels).
Leading Star Syrah
It is perhaps no surprise that the Best in Show this year’s Annual Wines of Chile Awards was a Syrah. Chile’s Syrah has been at the top of every wine aficionado’s wish list for some time now, and it continues to gain fans. If you are planning a large BBQ or roast lamb for your festive celebrations, a spicy and dark Chilean Syrah will be a perfect pair.
Coastal Syrah offers intense and often herbal wines with great concentration; Elqui in the far north has a unique meaty and peppery style; and Central Valley Syrah from Rapel, Maipo, Maule and Colchagua offer plusher, ripe fruit wines. There are many wonderful Syrahs offered by the many producers of Chile, and it is sure to be a big star on the table this festive season.
Cabernet for Kings
If you are looking for the ultimate wine to gift this Christmas, think Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Any one of the three kings would have been proud to present this wine, Chile’s emblematic variety. Renowned from the Central Valleys and especially Maipo, Chilean Cabernet has a trademark rich fruit nose with an often minty freshness. You’ll find it as a single variety or blended with other classic Bordeaux varieties, and sometimes with Chile’s other star grape – Carmenere.
Usually aged in fine French oak, the wines are designed to age well and can be enjoyed many years down the line. If you just can’t wait to uncork a great bottle though, there’s no better excuse than being with family and friends this festive season!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!