Vietnam’s colonial heritage has had a profound influence on the traditional perception of what is considered wine: Bordeaux. Fortunately, for those of us who like a bit of diversity in a wine list, the times, they are indeed a-changin.’ Younger folk in Vietnam now understand that fantastic fine wines can come from lots of places around the globe. Chile is no exception, quickly rising over the past few years to become one of the second most imported wines in the country, second only to its imperial matron France.
A Perfect Storm
Chile’s wine growing regions are located along a Mediterranean-type strip of more than a third of the country. The varied valleys up and down this narrow strip of land allow for a plethora of international commercial grape varieties to grow. In many cases, they grow really, really well. South America’s spine – The Andes Mountain Range – also supplies not only a nice variation of topography but also ensures a controlled and clean water supply.
Every wine region lays claim to something that they consider, in some way, their own. For instance, Napa Valley, California prides itself in producing top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia’s Barossa Valley redefined a classic Rhone grape from Syrah into Shiraz.
Chile considers the Carmenere wine its own. Once a common, though minor part of the classic red Bordeaux blend, Carmenere was thought extinct by the famous Phyloxera epidemic that swept through Europe in the late 19th century. It was rediscovered in Chile a few years back thanks to DNA testing. For many years, unsuspecting Chilenos thought that they were growing a unique Merlot clone, as the leaves and berries looked similar, and produced what one might call a quite expressive Merlot-like drop.
What I’m drinking this month: Escudo Rojo Carmenere, Rapel Valley, Chile, 2012:
Made in Chile by the heirs of Bordeaux legend Baron Philippe De Rothschild, this wine is available at The Warehouse and is on the wine lists of many fine restaurants. It expresses dark fruit and subtle spice and finishes with fine tannins. I recently paired this particular Carmenere with Ho Tram-style charcoal spit-roasted pork belly and sticky rice to the delight of everyone at the table, including a local guest of an earlier generation who was happy to hear that the grapes could trace their lineage back to Bordeaux.
Michael Kloster is an independent hospitality consultant with more than 20 years experience. He can be reached with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org