Chile is always a popular destination for our food and wine matching evenings and on this occasion we ventured to the far north of the country, to the Elqui Valley to see what a couple of Italians have been doing at the southern edge of the Atacama Desert, the sun works its magic on the grapes by day and the stars dazzle by night. With vines planted at more than 6,500 feet above sea level this is Chile's highest wine region. Its unique combination of geographic, geological and climatic conditions have resulted in some pretty impressive wines.
Viña Falernia was founded in 1997 by Aldo Olivier Gramola and his cousin, Giorgio Flessati, a seasoned winemaker from the Trentino region in Northern Italy. Located between La Serena and Vicuña, 470km to the north of Santiago, its 320 hectares are spread over three vineyard sites, and are Chile’s northernmost wine estate. The brand new winery is completely insulated and equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Underground cellars for barrel ageing (French and American) complete the set, along with the latest bottling plant facility.
The volume and variety of wines produced by Viña Falernia will increase gradually as new planting comes in production.
1. PEDRO XIMENEZ
Varietal:Pedro Ximénez Appellation : D.O. Elqui Valley
The grapes have been hand picked into small bins and immediately pressed. The juice has been clarified by natural sedimentation and fermented in stainless steel tanks at 14-16º C with selected yeasts. At the end of the fermentation the wine has been racked and aged in stainless steel tanks at low temperature. No malolactic fermentation. Cold tartaric stabilisation at -4ºC before bottling
TASTING NOTES: A grape more often associated with sherry. Pale straw yellow colour, brilliant, a very attractive nose with floral and aromatic notes, nice medium body with balance of acidity, minerality and fruity character. Dry, fresh and easy drinking.
FOOD MATCH: Dry,fresh and easy drinking, ,particularly as aperitif. Recommended with seafood, serve at 10º C
2. SAUVIGNON BLANC
Varietal : Sauvignon Blanc Appellation : D.O. Elqui Valley
Abv: 13 -13.5%
The grapes have been hand picked into small bins, de-stemmed, crushed and cold macerated for 12 hours, then softly pressed. The juice was clarified, then fermented in stainless steel tanks (95%) and in French oak barrels (5% 2 year) at 16-18º C of temperature. Ageing on the fine lees for 6 months with battonage and then blended.
TASTING NOTES: Brilliant yellow colour. Nose is intense reminiscent of figs, eldeflowers, grapefruits and sage. Good character (citrus and melon notes), acidity and long crisp finish on the palate. Very opulent wine.
FOOD MATCH: It works well with asparagus soup. Serve at 10ºC.
Varietal : Sangiovese Appellation : D.O. Elqui Valley
The grapes have been hand-picked de-stemmed and crushed. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 26-28º C, with enzyme for the colour extraction and selected yeasts. After the fermentation the young wine is kept on the skins for a further 4/5 days. 100% of malolactic fermentation is done. Ageing: 50% of the volume in stainless steel: 50% in French and American oak barrels for 3 months.
TASTING NOTES:Deep in colour, red cherry character, soft tannins, well balanced, it is an easy drinking red wine.
FOOD MATCH: Drink at 10-12ºC with pasta or white meats or as an aperitif.
Varietal : Carmenere Appellation: D.O. Elqui Valley
Abv: 14% Vol
The grapes have been hand picked, de-stemmed and crushed. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 26-28º C with enzymes for the colour extraction and selected yeasts. 100% malolactic fermentation is done. Ageing 70% in stainless steel tanks; 30% in new French and American oak barrels for 4 months. After blending the wine has been clarified, gently filtered and bottled.
TASTING NOTES: The barrels are used to mature and complex the wine’s character. Deep in colour, dark chocolate and vanilla character on the nose; full bodied, rich, with ripe and complex tannins on the palate.
FOOD MATCH: Mild chickpea curry and couscous
5. CARMENERE SYRAH RESERVA 14.90
Varietal : Carmenere 60% Syrah 40% Appellation: D.O. Elqui Valley
Grapes from 3 different vineyards of the Elqui Valley have been hand-picked, de-stemmed and crushed separately. The winemaking was as the same as the Syrah and the Carmenere. After aging in barrels (40% of the volume for 6 months) and stainless steel the wines have been blended just 3 months before bottling.
TASTING NOTES: Bright and deep colour. The wine shows a good fruit concentration; on the nose black pepper, red fruit, dark chocolate. Great body with soft tannins on the palate.
FOOD MATCH: Best a 18ºC (65/66ºF) with roasted or grilled lamb.