WHAT: Summertime means lighter foods and wines to match. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up body and depth to get a lighter wine.
The Apaltagua Reserve Chardonnay proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great summer wine. This gem is perfect for all the seafood, salads and lighter fare we eat this time of year.
It is a gorgeous pale yellow color with a huge nose as aromas of pear, peach and melon flood out of the glass. The first sip tells you it is not one of those butter bombs that were popular not too long ago.
This Chardonnay never sees oak and is fermented in stainless steel. The taste is fresh, clean and crisp, with good acidity and flavors of lemon peel, citrus and melon.
The grapes are grown in the cool Casablanca Valley, a region known for its strong ocean influence. Most of the best white wines of Chile come from the Casablanca Valley. The cool climate and ocean breezes make it ideal for white wine production.
Winters there are cool and rainy. In the summer, morning fog rolls up from the Pacific Ocean and burns away by mid day to give the grapes plenty of sun.
The grapes for this wine come from three distinct areas of the valley, giving the wine a bit more complexity. It’s aged four to six months on the lees (stems and skins) and there is no malolactic fermentation, preserving crispness. The wine spends another three months in the bottle before it leaves the winery.
This Chardonnay is a lively, well-made wine at an incredible price. Serve it well-chilled.
WINERY: While on vacation in Chile in 1995, American businessman Edward Tutunjian fell in love with the country and its wines. He thought investing in Chile and its wines was a good bet, so he purchased a vineyard in the prestigious Curicó Valley. Later, other vineyards were bought and Viña Alpaltagua now owns vineyards in six valleys.
Although the company produces 235,000 cases of wine a year and exports to 40 countries, it specializes in small-production, appellation-based wines. Some of the vineyards are 65 years old.
The winery itself is located in the Apalta region of the Colchagua Valley. More than 80 percent of the production is red wine. The winery also produces two Carmenéres, a rosé Carmenére, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It also produces wine under the Tutunjian label.
The company is part of a growing movement among wineries in Chile to improve quality with sustainable agriculture policies.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I bought lobster tails (two for $10 at the supermarket) and had a real bargain feast. We added baked potato, peas, green beans and salad.
The wine was fantastic with the lobster, with the crisp, unoaked flavor providing the counterpoint for the succulent lobster dunked in drawn butter. After every bite of lobster or potato, the crisp wine would cleanse the palate so I would be ready for the next juicy morsel.
I would take an unoaked beauty like this every time over an oaky, buttery Chardonnay when eating seafood. This wine would go well with just about any seafood, chicken, turkey, salads and light cheese.