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Prince Albert
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Home Opinion Wine time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Wine time with Aaron the Wine Guy


Hello Prince Albert! One of the most popular wine sections at the liquor store has to Chile. The country produces some delicious wines at affordable prices and there is a huge variety of subzones to choose from, each giving its own unique character and flavor to its large variety of wines.

What makes Chile so unique? There are two specific geographical features that make the wines of Chile exceptional and unique, one is the general elevation of its vineyards (often over 1000 meters above sea level) and the second is its close proximity to the ocean. Why do these things matter? This is where the terroir of Chile comes into play.

The most obvious advantage of Chile’s position close to the ocean is the cooling influence that it infers on the vineyards. Daytime temperatures can get dangerously high for grapes which creates the potential for sun burn or over-ripening (creating grapes that are full and fruity but lack acidity and proper water content). Cooling breezes and shadows created by mountainous surroundings aid in lowering sugar levels and increasing acidity in the grapes.

At higher elevations, vines struggle to produce grapes which is highly desirable for producing balanced, long-lived wines. It may sound strange but the more the vine struggles, the better the grapes it makes.

Vineyards near mountains also benefit from what is called rain shadowing. Too much water can dilute the flavor and character of grapes and mountains can help by literally blocking out rain which would have otherwise reached the grapes. This is referred to as a “rain shadow” and it is an important feature in vineyard management.

The wine geography of Chile is essentially a series of elevated terraces and valleys with the lower-altitude areas producing mostly entry-level wines and the higher elevated regions producing the higher-quality options. Entry-level and high-quality wines can be found in all regions and the price on the shelf is the most obvious indicator for quality.

Chile produces excellent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and is relatively easy to study as the valleys and vineyards all extend in a straight line down the coast (with some exceptions).

Chile also has a point of difference from other countries: carmenere. This grape is often very affordable and produces wines with a burst of blue fruit and smoky undertones of earth, mocha or tobacco. Capsicum (green peppers) and bacon can sometimes also be tasted in these wines. Another great feature of carmenere is the lower tannin content which makes it a smoother option for those that don’t enjoy bitterness in their wine.

Come check out the Chile section and have a taste of the Vina Chocolan at the tasting station! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Vina Chocolan Gran Reserva Carmenere 2017: (Maipo Valley, Chile). Dry red, deep ruby color. A mix of earth and fruit rise from the glass with scents of blueberries, plums, chocolate/cocoa, green pepper, mocha and black pepper. The wine opens on the palate with blue fruits followed by a silky chocolate note. Green pepper and toasted tobacco transitions into warming black pepper on the long finish. Intensity is medium-plus with medium body, medium acidity and medium tannins. While tannins are present and this red will go well with steak, consider pairing it with pulled pork, blackened chicken or roast beef. It will also pair wonderfully with a cigar like the Oliva V Melanio. Very good! $21, 14% ABV

QU Chardonnay 2019: (Central Valley, Chile). Dry white, medium lemon color. The medium-intense nose displays fresh and fruity notes of golden apples and pears, vanilla frosting, hints of butter, wet rock and mineral. On the palate, the wine has more intensity with an immediate mineral note of gravel and wet river rock. Citrus peel and floral elements come in on the finish (lemon/lime, soapstone). Stone fruit is short-lived on the mid palate and quickly moves into mineral-like flavors. Medium body, medium acidity and a tiny bit of tannin creates a bit of grip on the tongue. As the wine warms, some gentle spices can be tasted (vanilla, gentle pepper). The wine is good but mineral/citrus bitterness seems to be the focus. Good! $23, 13.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!