Chile is a land of soaring Andes mountains, a mild Mediterranean climate and fine wines and it is here that Viña Errázuriz has been producing high quality Chilean wines for more than 130 years. Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded Viña Errázuriz in 1870 in the Valle de Aconcagua, 65 miles north of the capital city, Santiago. Recognizing that this valley, with its cool, rainy winters, hot, dry summers and moist Pacific Ocean breezes, was ideal for growing grapes, Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard. Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick, the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business. This past week’s tasting featured Nicolas Lopez, brand manager for Errazuriz, guiding tasters through seven of their wines, from a crisp, single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc to a powerhouse red blend and a few other stops along the way. We always enjoy having winery representative in the shop to offer our customers a more in-depth and enlightening experience – and without that pesky airfare! As the evening was a smashing success and there were quite a few bottles taken home by our guests, we recommend giving one a go!
Errázuriz 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Single Vineyard”
Chile isn’t known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but this brings great value to the quality bottlings available. This single vineyard offering shows beautiful notes of grapefruit and green pepper, a rounded yet bright acidity and a creamier palate from a few months of lees aging. Harvested from their Manzanar vineyard, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, this cooler climate reminds us of a more classic old world take on Sauvignon Blanc, though Chile’s hot, sunny days bring a riper fruit profile to the mix. The final product is a balanced wine with the ability to please all Sauvignon Blanc fans alike.
Errázuriz 2011 Chardonnay “Estate”
Errázuriz 2010 Chardonnay “Wild Ferment”
Chardonnay is a fairly malleable grape, and the next two wines sampled showed just how varied this varietal van be vinified. Both the Estate and the Wild Ferment chardonnay show great characteristics of the region and varietal, but at different price points varied qualities are expected. The Estate Chardonnay sees a quarter fermented in oak, no malolactic fermentation and brings a fresher, brighter profile. Bright orchard fruits, a more vibrant acidity and a crisper profile combine to create an easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing Chardonnay. The “Wild Ferment” Chardonnay is a homage to a more hand-off style of winemaking, using whole cluster fermentation with natural yeasts. About half the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, rounding the acidity and softening the palate, ages 10 months in French oak, only 4% of which is new, bringing very subtle spice notes to a hint of butter amongst lemon and lighter fruit. For the price, we prefer the Wild Ferment, but tasters took home a fair bit of the Estate Chardonnay as well – reinforcing our belief that there is a style of Chardonnay for everyone!
Errázuriz 2010 Carmenere “Estate”
Errázuriz 2010 Carmenere “Single Vineyard”
Simply stated, Carmenere is Chile’s grape. Historically a blending grape in Bordeaux, Carmenere has taken deep root in Chile and has formed a great identity for the country and the ability to produce pure varietal bottlings. Black fruits, dried herb notes, and a savage quality all give this grape a wildly unique character. The next two pours again showed what a classic, everyday Carmenere represents next to a single vineyard Carmenere with a bit more polish. The Estate Carmenere sees a blend of oak (French and American) both new and re-used offering flavors of vanilla, spice and coconut to support the dark fruits and weedy green flavors this Carmenere offers. With a step up to their Single Vineyard Carmenere, we see more French oak utilized (80%, the remainder American) 33% of which is new – allowing the wine to extract more brown spices. Aging 12 months in this oak tames the Carmenere’s feral qualities and brings a more international palate, though one could never mistake this wine for any other grape. Dark black fruits, a bit of earth and spice amongst faint herbal notes with a touch of umami on the palate and a smoother, lush palate create a truly fantastic Carmenere that well over-delivers for its price. We have carried this wine in the shop for years and tasting it again reinforced why it’s a staple on our shelves.
Errazuriz 2009 Syrah “Single Vineyard”
Syrah is certainly a world-class grape, producing classic wines of the northern Rhone and the modern Shiraz of Australia. Chile isn’t the first place we think of for Syrah, but this bottle forces us to question why. With a dark and brooding profile of dark black fruits, cocoa powder and a touch of pepper amidst spices from a year in French oak, this Syrah is a winner. Syrah is thicker skinned, bearing more tannins and pigments and the winemakers use this to their advantage to create a wine rich purple in color with tannins tamed by the oak, however still containing a subtle grip creating complexity. For those who prefer an old world Syrah, this may be fruitier and lusher than desired, and for Shiraz drinkers this is a step away, as well, however this style of Syrah is far more accessible than understood. Never had a Chilean Syrah? This is the one to try first.
Errazuriz 2007 “Kai”
This was the big boy for the night, representing the higher-end wines that Errázuriz produces. For those who enjoy their heavily oaked wines with lots of fruit and lower acidity this is the one. A blend of primarily Carmenere with touches of Syrah and Petit Verdot sees 20 months aging in just about 100% new French oak bringing great depth and complexity to this wine. After aeration and decanting, this wine blossomed into a powerhouse wine full of intense purple and black fruits, faint notes of roasted peppers with a little earth and brown spices galore. There is serious structure to this wine allowing it to age for several years or, with a good decant, the ability to drink a little sooner. A great way to end the tasting.