Chile has a reputation for being sort of middley – a source of good value, reliable wines that are predictable and safe. Almost uniquely among wine producing countries, its sales are built on exports, rather than domestic consumption, so they have played their hand astutely, making wines with broad international appeal.
Sometimes it can feel all a bit corporate, as if men in suits are the ones in control, deciding which grapes are grown, and where and how the wines are made.
But recently there have been signs that the winemakers themselves are getting restive, tired of turning out glossy, international-style wines that could have been made almost anywhere and that they themselves don’t want to drink.
This quiet revolution is taking inspiration from the past in the form of the re-discovery and re-evaluation of old plantings of untrendy varieties like Carignan and Païs; a return to picking grapes earlier so that they retain natural freshness and acidity; and eschewing new oak barrels for ageing wines in favour of bigger, older vessels which don’t mask the flavours of the grapes. There is also an impetus forwards to the future of wine, pushing the boundaries of viticulture east up into the Andes, west to cool coastal areas, south towards the ice fields of Patagonia, even north to high altitude sites on the way to the arid Atacama desert.
Where to find the new, old Chile:
Morandé Vigno 2009 - £29.10 from Hedonism Wines
A taste of old vine Carignan from the Maule Valley, a field blend that also incorporates Syrah and Chardonnay, it’s tangy, fresh and alive with flavours of red fruit and dark, rich cocoa. It also won a Silver Outstanding Medal at the IWSC.
Viña Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – around £14-15 from independent merchants including Avery’s and Oxford Wine Company
Zesty, pithy, citrus flavours and a distinct minerality – this is a new style of Chilean Sauvignon from the chilly, Pacific-cooled Paredones vineyard.