Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Chilean Way

No one's asking but, what's going on in Chile?  They're legislating new appellations and something called "Climatic Designations", something unheard of elsewhere in the worldwide wine industry.  No one questions the uniqueness of the place.  Geographically it measures 4,300 kilometers (2,672 miles) long and averages 180 kilometers (112 miles) across.  80% of its area is mountainous in the form of the Andes on the eastern side.  Maybe they need more rules because of what it is.

Chile measures from the 17th to 56th latitude but it's the 30th to 38th that interests us.  It's that middle third of the country and the Central Valley in particular that has the Mediterranean climate with locales that make truly superior wine.  Of course, there is also a lot of plonk made in Chile and for wine lovers like us it is at least helpful to know which areas make the best of what we're looking for...hence, the appropriateness of wine appellations.  These legally defined production areas direct us to both the types of wine produced there and the relative quality we should expect from the place.

At the store we have a pretty decent map of the Chilean wine country clearly showing thirteen appellations north to south, some lying outside of the "sweet spot" of the Central Valley midsection.  Each appellation depicts a transverse river valley ideal for certain grape varieties.  The Andes to the east are very different than the Argentine Andes.  In Argentina they have the massive Mendoza plateau where some of the finest wine in the world is made.  Chile has the Nazca plate subducting under South America proper forming the Atacana Trench 160 miles off shore.  They also have the Humbolt current from Antartica keeping the coastal waters very cold.  But it's that subducting plate that pushes the Andes steeply upwards on the Chilean side.   The river valleys where the wine country flourishes are created by the runoff from the heights.

The last item in need of mentioning is the coastal mountain range which is nothing contrasted with the Andes but it too has meaning for the legislation the Chileans have deemed necessary.  The three Climatic Designations therefore are the Andes, Entre Cordillas, and Costa.  A climate designation of Andes recognizes the mountain influence on the terroir; the Costa, the coast; and the Entre Cordillas, the area between the mountain ranges.  Makes sense, I guess.

The four new appellations are: Lo Abarca, Licanten, Apalta, and Los Lingues.  Lo Abarca and Licanten are small and coastal regions.  Chilean wine law is most similar to California so a slew of different grapes are allowed to be grown there.  Los Lingues is four times larger than each of the first two and similarly allows for a lot of different grape types.  It is an Entre Cordillas appellation.  Apalta however, is the crown jewel of the lot.  It is more than twice as large as Los Lingues and it appears to be Chile's Napa Valley.  It is a horseshoe shaped valley at the foothills of the Mountains so it is consequently an Andes climate designate.  Apalta is where Cabernet Sauvignon and the other Bordeaux varietals strut their stuff.

Please join us this Thursday after 5pm as we taste Cabernets here at the store.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Villa Sparina Gavi

We've sold three cases of this one over the course of the last month which is pretty good for this little store.  While you expect to sell more whites in summer the return business on Sparina is what informs us that this one is for real.  Gavis have historically been called the finest white wine of Italy and Sparina is at the very least evidence of the assertion and it may, in fact, be the best we've ever tasted.

The grape here is Cortese and it is native to Piedmont, the finest wine production region of Italy.  Gavi is the town in Piedmont the wine is named after.  First mentioned in wine industry documents in 1659, Cortese performs best in the southeastern quarter of Piedmont where it is sandwiched between the Alps to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.  It is actually separated from the Mediterranean by the thin Liguria appellation but you get the idea.  Its proximity to the seafood there may be the grape's reason for being there.

Villa Sparina was established within the municipality of Gavi by the Moccagatta family in the 1970's but some of its vines date to the 1940's.  It is a 100 hectare (247 acre) estate with sixty acres in vines.  The vineyards lie at an approximate 900 foot elevation with south/southwest exposure.  The soil is largely marl and clay.

Wine from the Cortese grape is almost always a bright yellow color, medium bodied with moderate to high acidity and light crisp flavors like apple, peach, honeydew, citrus, mown grass, minerality and almonds.  Cortese is also planted in Lombardy and other locales in northern Italy and its flavor profile reflects its environs.  The grape is also known for its delicate bouquet which remains aromatic to the finish.  In the case of Villa Sparina the bouquet shows dried pineapple and peach, pomelo, lemon thyme, and white flowers.

What else makes Sparina special?  The grapes are hand harvested from their guyot-trained (cold climate) grape vines, put through a soft crush, and fermented for three weeks in sixty-five degree temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  Then to tame the acidity the young wine goes through a partial malolactic fermentation to make it a little creamy and that may be the key to its popularity.

Please join us at the store on Thursday after 5pm when Ted Fields offers us a tasting from his fine Italian portfolio.  Expect a fresh wheel of Piave Vecchio to be on the cheese table for this one!