The Chilean wine invasion continues

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The Chilean invasion continues—and why wouldn’t it? There’s a variety in both official colours, as well as high-quality winemaking and blending, and the prices are all-around terrific. Here’s a taste of new varietals from Viña Falernia, founded in 1998 by Aldo Olivier Gramola and his cousin Giorgio Flessati, a seasoned winemaker from the Trentino region in northern Italy.

The winery is located in the Elqui Valley about 500 kilometres north of Santiago; its 320 hectares are spread over three vineyard sites and comprise Chile’s northernmost wine estate. Three varietals have just arrived in town, all priced at $17.99. Here’s a quick taste-through.

Vina Falernia Carmenere 2011 A top-flight, delicious version of this still-new-to-us grape. (Black Hills Estate Winery produces some here in B.C.) The wine is full and spicy; some palates find hints of cardamom. Grapes were partially dried on the vines in order to yield a more complex and concentrated fruit. The soil is very rocky, and the microclimate gives ripeness to the tannins and a particular “appassimento” character to the wine. Fermentation was done in stainless-steel tanks, and the wine aged in small American oak barrels for six month. A treat for meat dishes of all kinds.

Vina Falernia Syrah Reserva 2009 This one shows an agreeable edge of bitterness, along with lots of fruit, despite its relative age. The grapes were hand-picked, and after cold maceration for 72 hours, fermentation took place on the skins in stainless steel. After malolactic fermentation, half of it was matured in French and American oak for five months. The wine is a bright, deep colour and shows aromas of red fruit, black pepper, meat, and spice. The palate is full and explodes with ripe berries, even some smoky leather. For all manner of meats, from steaks to roast turkey. Or leftovers.

Vina Falernia Carmenere-Syrah 2011 This is the smoothest of the three. Grapes from three different vineyards in the Elqui Valley were hand-picked, de-stemmed, and crushed separately. This is a thinner wine than the other two, but it still has plenty of ripe fruit, with black pepper and hints of dark chocolate. Lamb is the ultimate match here, either roasted and sauced or grilled.

A little bubble, please. Very little—like 200 millilitres, what they call in Germany a piccolo. Barely enough to slake a thirst. But that’s what the Spanish producer Segura Viudas has released in time for the season of celebration. Bright-tasting sparkle, cava in a single-serve bottle, a speculative listing for $4.99 a hit. All the top trade journals love it: Wine Spectator, Food & Wine Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, and many more. Fits in a stocking, but beware the twist-off plastic cap: it can get bubble all over you.

Besides being delicious and thirst-quenching, it’s so much cheaper than true Champagne. The grape blend is typically Spanish: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo in a bright, straw-yellow mix of varietals. It’s fresh and well balanced on the palate, especially when chilled, with lots of green apple and citrus flavours. Of course it still comes in the big 750-millilitre bottle, but the little single-serving size is perfect with a Cheddar cheese and dill pickle sandwich for your lunch. Where is it written that you can’t have Champagne with cheese and pickles?

While Harry McWatters has relinquished Sumac Ridge, all is not lost. The first vintages of his new label are in town—that’d be Time Estate Winery. And his Pipe wine is still out there, under the Black Sage label, the 2008 just released. This fabulous fortified wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, with 18.23 percent alcohol, in the port-style. Sweet and elaborate, with a new label on the 500-millilitre bottle, for $29.99. It goes perfectly with mince tarts or Christmas pudding, or as a pre-bedtime nip all on its own…

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