Earlier this month I traveled north to the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival and took a break from Northwest wines to attend a seminar that featured a tasting of syrahs from Chile.
A couple of things really stood out during the tasting. First, most of Chile’s grape growing regions are located in temperate, rather than warmer climates. These regions are often influenced by cool ocean breezes as well as a wide variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures. The desirable result: wines that display leaner fruit flavors, have plenty of acidity and are excellent candidates for food pairings.
Second, Chilean winemakers produce a diverse selection of syrahs while still remaining true to the characteristics of the varietal. Quality levels are good, prices are reasonable and affordable, and the range of flavor profiles is certain to please even the most diehard syrah enthusiast.
To give you an idea of what you might expect from Chilean syrah, here are my tasting notes on several of the seminar wines I enjoyed:
Chono 2009 Syrah Reserva (about $15) – Savory and oily, with notes of black olive and a meaty, gamey character. Pair it with barbeque meats for a winning combination.
Montgras 2010 Antu Ninquén Mountain Vineyard Syrah (about $19) – Cherry, black plum, coffee and mocha flavors predominate. The finish is fairly velvety with touches of toasted oak.
Arboleda 2009 Syrah (about $19) – Fragrant dark fruits on the nose, with a mouthful of cherry, blackberry and blueberry flavors. The almost-elegant finish is capped with just the right amount of acidic edginess.
Emiliana Vineyards 2009 Cool Climate Syrah (about $24) – Stunning violet aromatics, juicy plum and black cherry flavors and a soft, round finish. This one’s a bit more plush than expected…and thoroughly enjoyable.
Viña Tabalí 2009 Syrah Reserva Especial (about $24) – Begins with a whiff of blackberry, then moves to lean, bright cherry flavors with chalky tannins and a hint of black pepper. Roast beef and prime rib come to mind as food pairings.
Viña Morandé 2009 Gran Reserva Syrah (about $25) – Aged in American oak, this syrah shows beautiful balance and acidity. Red cherry, bittersweet chocolate, mineral notes and plenty of character.
Viña Maipo 2009 Limited Edition Syrah (about $27) – Comes across a bit like a cabernet with touches of chocolate, berry, plum, and a hint of savoriness. Dense and chewy, but the acidity still shines through.