A Taste of Honey

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Now then, here’s an interesting question. What do the following have in common: black pepper, menthol, tobacco, gasoline, green tea, wax crayons, gunpowder and honey? Of course, you’ve probably guessed by now, because all of them can be detected on the aromas or tastes of different wines.

The smell of black pepper is often in Shiraz and there’s sometimes a whiff of menthol or tobacco in Cabernet Sauvignon. The smell of gasoline sometimes appears in Riesling and green tea in Nebbiolo.

Part of the Purisima vineyard in Chile. Part of the Purisima vineyard in Chile.

The Gamay grape of Beaujolais could smell of wax crayons and you can sometimes smell gunpowder on Sauvignon Blanc. But honey? Only a few grape varieties produce this aroma, notably Chardonnay.

Purisima “Reserva Estate” Chardonnay 2010 (white) Chile (Bt. 499 @ Foodland)

Purisima (it means “extremely pure” in Spanish) is the brand name for a range of wines from the distinguished Hugo Casanova Winery. The Purisima “Reserva Estate” range is exceptional value and brings out the essential characteristics of the grape. This is a surprisingly rich golden yellow, with that attractive oily appearance that you often get with quality wines. There’s a tantalising floral aroma of grapefruit, peach, mature pineapple, honey and a subtle touch of oak and vanilla. But wait – there’s something else; a smell so familiar yet so difficult to define. Then it suddenly struck me. It’s that old-fashioned buttery smell of nutty toffee.

If you are over a certain age, you might remember the sweet shops of yesteryear with their shelves filled with glass jars of boiled sweets, licorice allsorts, mint imperials, humbugs and of course, buttery toffees. And do you remember Dolly Mixture? As a child, I rather liked them but I used to get chided by the other boys for daintily eating Dolly Mixture when they preferred those enormous and vulgar gob-stoppers. (Oh, do get on with it – Ed.)

Ah yes, the wine. It’s rather fuller in body than you might expect for a Chardonnay. But this is no ordinary Chardonnay. There’s an attractive, soft mouth-feel with just a slight touch of acidity which gives the wine a good firm body. You’ll probably pick up hints of toffee on the taste too. This very dry wine has loads of fruit on the palate and a long dry and slightly woody, citrus finish. In many ways, it’s a real classic, though if you are used to run-of-the-mill commercial Chardonnays you might be surprised at the authoritative character. Like all wine, it needs time to open up to reveal its true delight, so open it in advance and tip the lot into a decanter.

I think it’s very much a food wine, especially with an alcohol content of 13 percent. I tried it with a slightly spicy Quiche Lorraine and they worked together really well. If you can afford to do Christmas this year, it would go a treat with the roast turkey.

Viu Manent “Estate Collection” Chardonnay Reserva 2011 (white) Chile (Bt. 459 @ Villa)

This is another splendid Chardonnay from vineyards in Chile’s luxuriant Colchagua Valley, one of Chile’s best-known regions for top quality wines. It’s a shade or two darker than the Purisima with a pleasing bright greenish-yellow appearance. There’s a really classy aroma that tells you that there is something special ahead. You’ll probably pick up the tantalising smell of fresh young pineapples with notes melon and bananas on the creamy, slightly buttery aroma. If you persevere, you might even detect the delicate smell of fresh apples. And yes, honey too, since you asked.

This elegant wine has quite a soft mouth-feel with plenty of pineapple and peach on the palate and a surprising spritzy tang of acidity which gives it a lively touch. There’s a long, dry creamy finish with citrus and mineral hints. It’s a bit lighter in body than the Purisima and would make a terrific apéritif if you want to kick off the evening with something really interesting.

Viu Manent, by the way, is a distinguished Chilean winery owned by the Viu family and founded in 1935.  The “Estate Collection” range is intended to represent the purest identity of each variety. The makers suggest you could drink this wine with seared tuna and honey-glazed, cumin-scented vegetables; gnocchi with smoked salmon sauce or mild cheeses. I tried it with smoked salmon but the combination didn’t work for me, because the fish made the wine taste oddly sweet. With some fresh Swiss Emmenthal cheese, it tasted perfect.