There is a random element to Overton’s blind tasting group – the wines that is, not the people to whom I could devote many pages on this blog! The idea is that each of us, 6-12 people, bring an impressive bottle which we taste without knowing what it is. Inevitably that means that sometimes, actually usually, it flies but occasionally the wines disappoint. Regrettably, that did happen with our modest selection of wines from South America. There were some particular reasons for this … but there could be an underlying point as well.
One very positive feature of these wines was that they were true to type: green fruit with a touch of some ripe peach, youthful and fresh on the palate with some more tropical fruit alongside the gooseberry and asparagus pointed clearly to Sauvignon Blanc in a warmish place. Medium in length, slightly odd pelargonium aroma too: Cipreses Vineyard, Casa Marin, San Antonino Valley, 2009. Best Sauvignon Blanc in the world according to its publicity – very good but not great according to us. Janet and I had been tasting current and old vintages of Sancerre/Pouilly Fumé during the day and would certainly beg to differ.
The second wine comes from another large Chilean enterprise which on this showing has been spending rather too much money on new barrels. Youthful, with the nose dominated by vanilla, butter and sweet spice from oak, the fruit here is mainly represented by a lemon theme on nose and palate. This may have just been too young (but it is two and a half years old) or just over-ambitious. Very drying finish from those oak tannins again. Medalla Real, Gran Reserva, Chardonnay, Santa Rita, Leyda Valley, 2011. Great value – if you like über-oaked Chardonnay – at £10.
On to the red with some necessary steak! (Sadly no Chilean Pinot Noir in this tasting and our Argentinian pure Malbec was corked.) We had two of the continent’s grandest Bordeaux blends. Sadly the Don Maximiano, Founder’s Reserve, Errazuriz, 2006 should have been outstanding (on past showings) but wasn’t – muted ripe fruit, liquorice, soft tannins, rather simple. Fortunately, Pulenta Gran Corte, Mendoza 2005 was on top form despite the ridiculously heavy bottle: a hint of ageing on the rim, refined oak and ripe fruit on the nose, powerful, concentrated black fruit (‘blackcurrant cordial’) on the palate with a rich, velvet texture. Excellent.
From Montes, two more big reds. Purple Angel, Carmenere, Valle de Colchagua, 2007 weighs in with classic, lush ripe fruit. It is full and dense on the palate and with the softness of fully ripe tannins. This is a very well made wine and yet… Also good was Syrah, Valle de Colchagua 2002, mid-weight, mature but difficult to assess the fruit character and modest tertiary development. I guessed correctly it was Syrah for the dark, rounded palate – but that was mainly by eliminating Cabernet and Merlot.
We were not really in luck this evening – there was no Pinot Noir, the Malbec was corked and the Dom Maximiano did not appear to be in good form. But having allowed for those factors the wines here impressed for their weight and powerful fruit, rather than their complexity or challenge. South American wine has come a long way in a very short time but there is still some way to go in terms of excitement and finding a distinctive character. For a happier selection see the June 2013 tasting of Signature grape varieties of South America.