Monday 24 September 2018

Hot offers from Chile

Chile is the most popular country of origin for Irish wine drinkers
Chile is the most popular country of origin for Irish wine drinkers

Corinna Hardgrave

If you're looking for a bargain bottle of wine, there's one thing you should avoid - supermarket wines that are slashed to half price. Even though we know in our hearts that this is true, we're suckers for a special offer. It's not what you spend, it's what you save. Right? But ask yourself, how many times have you seen that bottle on the shelf at full price?

Without doubt there is value to be had if you keep an eye out for promotional offers, but what you might not realise is that some of the smaller supermarkets feature fewer promotions because they follow an 'everyday low price' model, and wines are grouped under specific price points, generally ranging from €7.99 to €9.99.

When it comes to value, we often think of Chile, so it's hardly surprising that it clocks in as the most popular country of origin for Irish wine drinkers. Recently, there were a number of Chilean winemakers visiting Dublin and among them were Nicolás Pérez of Santa Helena, Adolfo Hurtado of Cono Sur, and Aurelio Montes Snr of Montes.

There was plenty of talk about wine trends in Chile, the influence of younger winemakers, the increased focus on quality and the shift from big, high alcohol wines to fresher, more fruit-driven styles. At Santa Helena, which is owned by one of the largest wine groups in Chile and known for its affordable wines, Nicolás, who, at 27 years old, is the youngest chief winemaker in Chile, has introduced two new ranges that are a step up in quality, the Siglio de Oro at €9.99 and Seleccion del Directorio at €12.99.

Adolfo talked about the importance of organics in wine making in Chile, and Aurelio, who was the first winemaker to break away from mainstream wine making in Chile back in 1987, explained how planting vineyards on the mountain slopes rather than in the valley has opened up numerous possibilities for producing high-quality wines at Montes that can compete at a premium level globally.

Aurelio describes Chile as a winemaker's paradise; it is spectacularly well-suited to growing grapes. With 4,500 kilometres of coastline from north to south, one of its biggest advantages is that it is totally isolated from the rest of the world by strong natural barriers. To the north is the Atacama Desert, the Andes mountains are to the east, the Pacific Ocean is on the west and to the south is Patagonia with the Antarctic and ice-cold weather. While this might sound like a boring geography lesson, there is a point to it. This isolation means that the country is free from most of the nasty diseases that create havoc for wine growers around the world. It also means that it is naturally suited to organic and low-intervention farming, so if you're looking to avoid pesticides, Chilean wine is one of the better options on the market.

It is also a perfect country for growing a large number of grape varieties. There is a huge diversity of terroir down the length of the country, and the climate, which is mainly Mediterranean, is ideal. On the coast, where the climate is cooler, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown, making wines that have good acidity and finesse; and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Carmenère grow extremely well in the warmer regions.

While Chile is the nation's go-to producer for affordable wines, it is also a region to consider when you're looking to buy a bottle for a special occasion. I've three bottles to try here, and it's well worth asking for more suggestions at your local independent off-licence.

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