Posted by: tomciocco | December 17, 2013

FEELING QUITE CHILE TODAY

You’ll not see too many wines from Chile written up in these pages – hell, maybe none at all – but things change, and there’s a time and a place for everything, so here we are. For me – and not just from me mind you  – too many, hell, most wines from Chile are perceived to be quite well made in a paint-by-numbers sort of way, but that’s precisely the issue – too many lack any real soul or terroir. There’s a joke about Chilean wines that pretty well sums it up: there are hundreds of wines from Chile with just as many names, but unfortunately they all get filled from the same few vats the size of the city of Santiago. For various reasons, a huge percentage of Chile’s wine production lies in the hands of a few HUGE concerns which makes for very salable, but ultimately soulless wines.

Well, here we’ve got a wine that breaks all of those stereotypes. First, it’s a Pinot Noir, which is definitely not the first variety that comes to mind when you think about the Chilean wine scene; Carmenere for sure, but Pinot, not so much. But that said, this is a Pinot Noir that really stays true to the profile of the grape while still adding a real sense of the unique growing area from which it comes.

And where it comes from is the northernmost Chilean wine region called Coquimbo, and more precisely, from the Coquimbo sub-region called Limari (lee-mah-REE). Most of what are considered to be the most prestigious Chilean growing regions are situated considerably further south. Traditionally, Coquimbo is a region that has been devoted to the production of table grapes as well as fruit to produce pisco, Chile’s signature grape brandy, but don’t tell anybody from Peru I said that – Pisco is a HUGE bone of contention between these South American neighbors…

The particular vineyards from which this wine emanates boast a truly unique terroir. The soil is a complex melange of of gravel, sand, clay and limestone in a very sunny and very dry spot that experiences a dramatic cooling effect from its proximity to the stiff and chilly winds that blow in off of the Pacific. Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow, and this part of Chile is nothing like Pinot Noir’s Burgundian homeland or even one of its alternate homes like Oregon, but despite Limari’s dramatic divergence from these celebrated pinnacles of Pinot, somehow it does right by this fussy variety, maintaining its characteristic “Pinot-ness” while still managing to add its own distinctive twist to this very fine red variety. All past, current and future kudos lauding this wine are well deserved. The rest of the nation needs to take a lesson from the folks at Tabali.

I served this exceptionally high value wine with a griddled potato, cheese, cilantro and watercress pancake appetizer, followed by a main course of browned  chicken breasts that I finished in a braise of broth, red wine, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peas and herbs and spices, with some plain white rice on the side.

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Tabali Limari Pinot Noir Reserva 2011

Slightly browned, just transparent, purple/garnet color. Big but in no way overblown nose of spicy black cherry, salty plum, and ripe tomato fruit notes with strong supporting aromas of black tea, dried mint, toasted walnuts and new leather. The body of the wine is medium full and very round and well balanced  with a smooth and silky tannin structure and a juicy, fresh acidity, shot through with a savory, minerally quality around which big but sophisticated flavors of strawberry, raspberry, red currant and blood orange fruit flavors hang, backed up by secondary tastes of mocha and black truffles. A superb value Pinot Noir. 

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