WHAT: I have rarely had a wine from Chile that didn’t overdeliver. Chilean wines have long been bargains at every price level.
Last week several of my friends and I had a chance to taste nine wines from Chile, ranging in price from $7.99 to $19.99, and we loved them all.
The good news is you can try them all at Whole Foods through the rest of this month. Their global beverage buyer picked his favorite Chilean wines under $20 and made them available at each store. It’s a marvelous list, and I can’t quibble with any of the picks. The wines also will be available at Whole Foods’ Friday night wine tastings this month.
The Casa Silva cab has a rich, rounded taste, with plenty of ripe fruit. It is a gorgeous deep red in the glass with intense aromas of strawberries, cherries and cassis with some spiced black pepper notes. There are juicy raspberry flavors with bold tannins and smooth acidity to put everything in balance.
After harvest, the grapes were placed in a cold soak for several days and then fermented. Eighty percent of the juice was aged in oak barrels for 10-12 months. Then the various blocks were blended, fined, filtered and bottled.
The grapes were from Casa Silva’s estates in the Colchagua Valley on plants descended from Saint Emilion vines brought from Bordeaux to Chile by the first generation of the Silva family in the 19th century.
The valley is more than 1,400 feet above sea level and gets cool air rolling down the Andes Mountains and temperate breezes from the ocean.
Here are the other wines we tasted that will be featured at Whole Foods:
• Odfjell Armador Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley 2016, $12.99 – Crisp, clean wine. Very austere. Grapefruit and herbal flavors. Great with chicken.
• Viña Erraruriz MAX Chardonnay Aconcagua Costa 2015, $17.99 – I loved this one, others called it tart. Citrus profile with some pineapple.
• Autoritas Pinot Noir Valle Central 2015, $7.99 – It tastes like a pinot, which is amazing at this price. Jammy cherry and plum.
• Boya Pinot Noir Leyda Valley 2014, $14.99 – Bigger pucker factor, nice and dry. Cranberry and raspberry with fine tannins.
• Criterion Carménère Colchagua Valley 2015, $13.99 – Flavors of black and red berries with spices. My second favorite of the tasting. Elegant.
• Mayu Carménère-Syrah Elqui Valley 2014, $12.99 – Great to sip by itself. Big flavors of blackberry and blueberry. Dark and jammy.
• Erasmo Reserva de Caliboro Maule Valley 2010, $19.99 – Red Bordeaux-style blend. Black fruit with spice flavors. Old World elegance.
• De Martino Estate Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 2014, $12.99 – Another great cab. Ripe, lush, gorgeous. Perfectly balanced.
WINERY: The Silva family planted the first vineyards in the Colchagua Valley in 1892, and their cellar is the oldest in the valley. Now in their fifth generation to run the winery, they continue to look for ways to innovate.
Though the family grew grapes for other producers and made some of its own wine, it was not until 1997 that Mario Pablo Silva, the oldest son of the fifth generation, and his father, Mario Silva, achieved the dream of making wines under their own label.
The elder Silva had spent much of his life rejuvenating the old vineyards and restoring the wine cellar. Through all his work he had developed a unique understanding of the terroir in the Colchagua Valley and knew which grapes would thrive. His other sons Francisco, Gonzalo, and Raimundo joined the winery and contributed to its development.
Casa Silva is one of three pioneering wineries that have achieved certification of 100 percent of its vineyards under the new Wines of Chile Sustainability Code. It also has a large area under organic management and is constantly improving its processes in the cellar and its relationship with its community.
The family’s love of traditional life is evident from the extensive equestrian facilities they have developed at the Angostura estate. Visitors to the on-site restaurant, hotel or wine bar can take in the sights of the Casa Silva polo team in action or local Huaso cowboys demonstrating their skills in the rodeo stadium. Visitors are also able to learn to horse-ride, participate in the show-jumping arena or even learn the traditional Cueca dance – all surrounded by the beautiful vineyards with the dramatic backdrop of the Andes Mountains.
I had the opportunity to visit Casa Silva, and it is a spectacularly beautiful property. The tasting facility is first rate, and the restaurant and hotel are worth seeing. There is even an antique car museum.
GOES WITH: To taste these wines, I grilled some chicken and pork. I rubbed the chicken pieces with a merquen spice mix. It is a Chilean favorite mix that gives dishes a smoky barbecue flavor. I love it with all kinds of food.
I divided the pork into three portions. One I rubbed with a Chilean citrus herb chili mix, another I rubbed with jerk spices and the third I rubbed with hot jerk spices. All the meats matched the wines pretty well, although I think I preferred the citrus herb mix with the Casa Silva cab.
The winery recommends red meat for this cab, such as grilled burgers, ribs, T-bone steak or herb-marinated pork tenderloin.
If you can find some merquen, you should try it. You can mix it with soups and stews, make a marinade with it or just rub it into meat on the grill. If you can’t find it locally, you can get in online from a Chilean group in New York.