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World of Wine

Issue: TW11 April '14

SPRING IS UPON US and, as I write, the sun is shining and the ghastly weather seems long forgotten. I am now moving away from robust, winter reds to a more varied array of wines that will match the inevitably variable weather.

This month, I am taking a close look at Chile, starting a new series of Wine and Cheese matching tips and return to Bacco for an Aussie food and wine dinner.

Chile – Extraordinary wine country
I have been running a number of Chilean wine tastings recently and it has really flagged up the amazing innovation and diversity that is emerging. With the Atacama desert to the north, Andes to the east, Pacific to the west and ice fjords to the south it is 2600 miles long yet averages only 110 miles across. Viticulturally, this has created an enormous opportunity for a spectacular range of microclimates to be exploited for wine production. A relatively unknown area is the San Antonio Valley, 100km west of Santiago, where the Casa Marin estate grows vines a mere 5km from the sea. The pacific breeze creates a cool climate where Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer all thrive. Yet as you head inland, in a very short distance, you can experience warmer Mediterranean temperatures and the famous Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes will thrive. It is very hard to generalise about any one region as you can get dramatic changes from valley or hillside to the next. In recent years, a number of new areas have been developed such as Elqui and Limari Valley to the north and Bio Bio to the south – and they have quickly gained an excellent reputation.

The Carmenere revelation
No discussion about Chilean wine is complete without a review of the Carmenere grape. Originally from France, the grape was only officially identified in Chile in 1994 – many producers had confused it with Merlot and labelled it as such! Despite being relatively unknown and despite the prices for Merlot being much higher, Chilean wine producers have adopted Carmenere as their own in a similar way to Malbec in Argentina with ever increasing success. The Vina Chocolan Carmenere Reserva 2012 was an intense, fruity example with lots of structure.

Top Ten Wine & Cheese Matching Tips
Wine and cheese is, without a doubt, one of life’s great joys and the permutations are seemingly endless. Despite this, many people tend to stick with the same old styles without perhaps realising the exciting taste adventure that is just a mouthful away.

Tip Number 1 – Sauvignon Blanc and
goat’s cheese
This may come as a surprise but white wine is a surprisingly good partner for many cheeses. The famous Crottins from the village of Chavignol, which is very close to Sancerre in the Loire Valley, are a case in point. This famous cheese can range from very light, young, soft and fresh with a mild goaty tang through to really distinct, earthy, pungent and very mature harder style. Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and other Loire Sauvignons work extremely well. The natural high acidity of the grape cuts gracefully through the texture of the cheese to create a wonderful taste harmony.

Tim’s dinners
I had another lovely gastronomic experience at Bacco in Richmond recently as we endeavoured to match a variety of top class Barossa wines from the iconic Turkey Flat Estate. As you can imagine, a slow roasted beef casserole was perfect with the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon but the really imaginative highlight was a pancetta, onion & thyme bread and butter pudding served with a sparkling Shiraz… unbelievable but it worked!

Tim Syrad runs the
Teddington Wine Society