Chile – the country – came to Manhattan today with a spectacular tasting at the gorgeous Gotham Hall (love that name – it makes me think that Batman would be swooping down any second). I had been looking forward to a seminar on the various terroirs of Chile to be given by Michael Green, Wine & Spirits Consultant to Gourmet Magazine, yet the time did not fit my schedule. I was able to conduct my own education-focused tasting of Chilean wines by tasting through the aisles and asking the winemakers or their representatives about the various terroirs and climates – which only whetted my desire for more information about this exciting country.
Chile is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the world. Its wine industry developed in the middle of the nineteenth century in the Maipo Valley with Bordeaux varietals being the fashionable grapes. Now many different varietals are grown, mostly because Chile’s varied terroir and climate can support it.
I stopped by Viu Manent to taste their wines, fabulous Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, Carmeneres, and Cabernet Sauvignon Reservas. Tasting them, I had a sense of déjà vu as I had sipped many of them taking a blind wine tasting class from the winery’s distributor, Andrew Bell of Wine Symphony, also President-CEO of the American Sommelier Association. Gathered around the tasting table were various acquaintances discussing the new vintages and trends in the region. Also present were the winery’s PR and marketing folks, Pamela Wittman and Tamara Stanfill, who are building great buzz for this prestigious producer.
PR pro Hanna Lee, dressed in her usual crisp style, stood near her client Terra Andina, offering several varietals from many of Chile’s regions. You could taste Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley, Chardonnay from the Limari Valley, Carmenere from the Rapel Valley, a delicious Carmenere/Carignan blend from the Maipo Valley, and a Bordeaux style blend called Terra Andina Suyai from the Maipo Valley.
Yet another PR pro, Jennifer O’Flannigan from Cornerstone Communications, could be seen chatting with friends and tasters near the table of her client, Montes. A few years back I had the good fortune to attend a tutored tasting conducted by the winemakers, the handsome father/son pair of Aurelio Montes Sr. and Aurelio Montes Jr, whose enthusiasm for the grape is palpable.
Becky Sue Epstein, my friend from Boston, now Wine & Spirits Editor for Intermezzo, tapped me on the shoulder and we tasted wines together. I later tasted with Tracy Kamens, co-owner of the Grand Cru Classics wine school who I first met in a roundabout way via Eric Asimov. Yet one of the high points of the tasting was watching Keith Beaver, aka The East Village Wine Geek, use his iPhone to photograph wines and upload the images and some tasting notes to Twitter.
“Let me video you doing that!” I said, taking some fun footage of Keith out-doing the Internet’s Gary Vaynerchuk with his smooth wine-rapping schtick. Keith gave me iPhone envy with the way he was able to snap a pic, type a tasting note, and upload it in 40 seconds – I’ll load the video soon so be sure to check back.
I'm very excited that Chile is getting the recognition it has so long deserved. This afternoon I had some fantastic Syrah (and I am not ordinarily a Syrah lover), and some crisp, citrus-focused Sauvignon Blancs that could replace the New Zealand SBs on my wine shelf. With many wines under $10 a bottle, this region can’t be beat for price and quality.