Chilean Cheapies

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You may be surprised to know that they’ve been making wine in Chile for over four hundred years, ever since Diego Garcia de Caceres first planted vines there in 1554. Just to put that distant year into some kind of perspective, Shakespeare was born ten years later and the composers Bach and Handel were not born until 1685. The infant Mozart wouldn’t see the light of day for another two hundred years.

Not until the late 19th century did Chilean winemaking really get off the ground, with huge exports to Europe and elsewhere. During the late 20th century, the country benefited from lavish foreign investment and the expertise of visiting winemakers. The result was that Chilean wines really started to have an impact and began winning even more awards at international competitions.

Here are two exceptional bargains. They are typically Chilean and in this price-range they knock most of the competition out of the window.

“Mundo Ignoto” Syrah – Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (red), Chile (Wine Connection Pattaya Bt. 299)

From the award-winning Bodegas y Viñedos De Aguirre, this wine has a lovely delicate, fruity aroma of plums and strawberries. I picked up a very subtle floral smell there too, possibly violets, though to be honest, I wouldn’t lay money on the violets. Give it time though, because this wine needs plenty of air contact for the aroma to develop. It’s dry and pleasantly assertive, with a refined fruity taste. Some wines are packed with too much fruit so that every mouthful is a bit like being hit in the face with a sack of plums. I prefer something more restrained and I think wine-maker Sergio Correa has got this one absolutely right.

It’s fairly light-bodied and in some ways has a rather French feel to it, but with very soft tannins and a decently long dry finish. At 13% alcohol content, it would be an excellent food partner and would work well with red meat dishes, pizza and pasta and medium flavoured cheeses. You’ll probably find that after the bottle has been opened for about forty minutes, the taste of the wine softens considerably. So if you prefer your reds with a softer mouth-feel, I’d suggest that you tip the whole lot into a decanter or wine jug well in advance. In any case, serve it quite cool. At this price, it would make an excellent daily drinker, if it’s not all gone by the time you get to the shop.

“Mundo Ignoto” Sauvignon Blanc – Chardonnay 2010 (white), Chile (Wine Connection Pattaya Bt. 299)

Here’s a light-gold wine with a delicate aroma, so you’ll need a nose in full working order, otherwise you might miss some of the more subtle smells. I picked up pineapple, gooseberries, lemon and dried herbs. After these delicate aromas, the assertive taste comes as a bit of a surprise. If you normally enjoy mild “off-dry” Chardonnays, you should know that this sharp and lively little number is not one of them. The Sauvignon Blanc in the blend (and I’d guess that there’s quite a high proportion of it) sees to that. But I like a bit of authority in a wine. You must understand that I am a rather butch, masculine sort of fellow (you can ask any of my dogs) and I get bored with feeble wines that have nothing much to say.

But I digress. The first thing you’ll probably taste is the zesty lemon; then the background flavours come through. It’s a medium-bodied wine with a lemony dry finish and at 13% alcohol absolutely cries out for food. With its bright acidity and citrus flavours, it would make ideal partner for creamy fish dishes.

In case you’re wondering, “Mundo Ignoto” means “Undiscovered World”. Now I’m not trying to impress you with my Spanish, because it’s not too good and I had to search for a dictionary. Mind you, when I visit Spain, I always brush up on the language, making sure that I know all the essential words like “wine” and “red”.  I usually memorise a few useful everyday phrases too, such as the useful “Excuse me, but I think you are sitting on my aardvark”.