Drinking Chile – Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir

The next wine we tasted from Chile this week was the Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir from Chile is getting big. Not necessarily in style, but in wine circles. When I visited Pinot Noir in early 2006, I tasted a few Pinot Noir from a few wineries, but as of yet, had only seen one (from Leyda) in the United States. Nowadays, there are plenty more.

It makes sense. Chile has fantasticl cool climate regions like Casablanca Valley and Limari, and grape growers are finding new regions every year.

I tasted Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva about 2 years ago, and was impressed. For $12, it was a delicious example of Pinot Noir. Fresh berry fruits, but with nice spice, a touch of smoke and that savory characteristic I always seek in my Pinot Noir.

The other night I got to taste the Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir – a slightly higher end version than the Reserva.
Well, yum. I have to say it was excellent. It was also darker and more dense than most Pinot Noir, and while I knew what I was pouring myself, my father tasted it and was surprised when we told him it was a Pinot Noir – it has typical flavors of the grape – cherry, berry & spice – but it’s not delicate. We paired it with some rotisserie chicken, rice and a big salad and it was great. It could also hold up to some grilled meats, though, considering it’s dense nature.

If you like fuller bodied, more fruit-forward Pinot Noir, this is a perfect wine for you!

Don’t forget that this wine is in our Support Chile program, so stock up before March 31!

Mmmm… Carmenere

So I've taken a week to hang out with my folks in the DC area so that they can spend time hanging out with their granddaughter and I can get some work done. One of the benefits of this trip is going through the few cases of wine I sent them the week before.

One of these cases included the a few Chilean wines from our Support Chile program, where every case sold donates $100 to the relief effort in Chile.

Two of these wines were tasted over the weekend, both from Errazuriz -the Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere and the Wild Ferment Chardonnay. I've tasted both before, but I loved re-tasting them because they were even better!

First, the Carmenere – if you aren't sure about Carmenere or have never tried it before, this is the bottle to try! Ripe, rich fruits are supported by lots of spice and hints of smoke. Great structure and balance between that fruit and spice. You can tell it's Carmenere from the flavors, but there are no bell pepper or green notes, something that occurs in Carmenere if the grapes are not ripened enough. I can assure you that the grapes used for Errazuriz ripened enough. I don't have a scale, nor do I rate wines, but I will say that this is the best example of Carmenere I have yet tasted.

Next up, the Wild Ferment Chardonnay – I drank this with my dad as he is not a fan of big, buttery, over-oaked Chardonnay. And while this is not big or over-oaked, the nose certainly gives away it's Chardonnay, and one that used oak. New oak. So if you are not a fan of any oak, this is not the wine for you. But if you like a wine that is balanced with oak, you will enjoy this bottling. There are ripe, tropical fruits, baked apples, a bit of vanilla spice, roasted nuts and toast. But on the palate this is all well-balanced by bright acidity and the finish is quite long. Don't get me wrong – this is a creamy, luscious Chardonnay. But a well-done one for a nice price.

Don't forget to support Chile with us here at Wine.com! You have now till the end of March to use your Chilean wine habit to do good! Go here for more info.

What is your favorite Chilean wine & why? 

Yalumba Part II

Continuing on with my tasting with the lovely and charming Jane Ferrari of Yalumba Winery, here are some more notes.

First, a few Yalumba facts a they are a fantastic winery with a long history.
– Founded in 1849 and still family-owned, Yalumba is one of the largest and oldest family-run winery in the country.
– Yalumba is the only winery in Australia that owns and operates its own cooperage, so they have full control over the barrels for their wines. One wine, The Octavius, owns it's name to the 90-litre octave barrels used specifically for aging the old vine Shiraz.
– Yalumba operates as a sustainable facility and have not used pesticides in the vineyards for over 20 years.

Now onto the wines…

First, the Y series, which are what you may call Yalumba's "entry level" wines. Around $10-$12, the Y series are mostly single-varietal wines (save the Shiraz-Viognier) that are great value representations of specific grapes. This new vintage has some spiffy new labels, with each variety sporting a different icon that reflects Yalumba in some fashion. We tasted the Viognier, whose label depicts vine cuttings. This wine was deliciously crisp, not as unctuous as much Viognier. Some peach and apricot come through on the aroma and palate, with a very bright finish. Lighter bodied for Viognier, but a good example and a great value. The Shiraz-Viognier was similar – straight-forward wine with bright berry fruits and black pepper spice – a great burger wine! This bottles sports a horse on the label. Though I did not taste the recent vintage, Y series varieties that I typically enjoy include the Unwooded Chardonnay, the Riesling and the Sangiovese Rose (a must try).

Next up, the Eden Valley Viognier

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier – I've always enjoyed this wine, even though I had to be in a full-bodied white mode. But it is even better this year. Jane telle me that may be because it’s no longer a single vineyard wine – they have started to blend in some other Eden Valley vineyards to boost acid and make it brighter. Well, it definitely worked, as this wine was bright and fresh, but unctuous and viscous like a good Viognier should be – apricot, peach, floral, all the key components were there, with a fantastically creamy mouthfeel balanced by bright acid and a lingering finish. While we have older vintages in stock right now, stay tuned for the '09 when it comes in.

Viognier started here at Yalumba in the early 1980s, when a love for Condrieu prompted the winemaker to plant some of this often finnicky grape. As Jane put it, they made Viogner for 10 years, and did it poorly. After nearly throwing in the towel, the team started experimenting with longer hang time, whole brunch pressing and wild fermentation. It worked. There are now 13 clones of Viognier, some of which came from Guigal's property in Condrieu and the winemaking team pretty much lets Viognier be Viognier, meaning it intervenes in the process as little as possible. It's a grape that they can now say they do quite well.

A red worth trying – the Yalumba Scribbler
Ever had the Yalumba Signature? Fantastic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and a delicious old-world style wine. Unfortunately did not get to taste this wine, but what I tasted with Jane was a new release called The Scribbler, which is a younger sibling to the Signature, made of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) and the remainder Shiraz. The names are fairly indicative of the tastes – the Signature is elegant, refined and seamless, while the Scribbler is a bit more straightforward, drink-it-now kind of style. Still, it's good stuff, with blackberry and black currant, a slight herbal undertone and balanced acid and tannins.

So that's the dig on my lunch and tasting with Jane & Yalumba. They are one of those "big" companies that still has roots to the wines, and that is something to admire. You can also follow Jane & her travels at her Yalumba Stories blog.


Sometimes Old Friends are the Best Friends: Yalumba Part 1


Not only in life, but with wine, too! I had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba last Thursday. What a hoot she is! She loves her wine, her company and traveling. She is a total foodie, which is so much fun, and she unabashedly tells you what she thinks. Yes, there are many winemakers like that, but she’s got that Aussie personality that is a total joy to be around.

Meeting Jane was new, but Yalumba wines are old friends of mine. From the first Y series I drank years ago, to the delectable Octavius that I try any chance I get. And the great thing about Yalumba is that they are constantly improving their selection, coming out with new wines and working to perfect the current lineup.

Speaking of lineups, here are a couple we tried at lunch (you’ll get more stories and more wine later in the week as these wines have some great stories behind them.

Bush Vine Grenache – This wine reminded me of a cru Beaujolais, but better. If you are out buying those $10 or $11 Shiraz from Australia rated 90 points from Robert Parker, stop! This wine is so much better and comes in at the same price point! It shall be my new staple on the Thanksgiving table. Yumminess is what I say. Meaning, if I were rating it with some Netflix stars, this one would get 3.75.

Yalumba Organic Shiraz – woo-hoo! I love the organically grown Viognier from Yalumba and was excited to see a red with the same label. Jane loves the story behind this wine because the grapes come from where they are not supposed to come from. The grapes for the organically grown Shiraz come from a vineyard in the Riverland region. For those of you not familiar with Australia geography, Riverland is Yellow Tail country, aka, high yields, mass-produced fruit – not a region associated with organics. Some of the Oxford Landing grapes come from Riverland (though they come from producers who Yalumba has worked with for years), and while sourcing grapes for these labels, they came across a vineyard owned by the Barich family near the town of Renmark.

This family was passionate about organics – in fact, everything they grow and do there is certified organic. Plus, they are experimenting with biodynamic farming as well. They spread volcanic soil sourced from a lake made by a crater under the vines and their sprays are based on molasses. When the Yalumba team tasted wines from this vineyard, they were beyond impressed, and that is where this delicious Shiraz comes from. The wine is purple, with an elegant nose full of crushed red berry fruit and a hint of spice. The palate has great ripe berry, with an underlying note of black pepper – which is so telling of Shiraz. Bright acidity and mild tannins make this a light-bodied Shiraz, definitely not Barossa Valley style. It is perfect for food and all around pleasing.

Those are two of the reds I found most intriguing. Stay tuned for notes on the Eden Valley Viognier and the newly-labeled Y series wines.


All about Chile

Recently, Chile was hit with a devastating earthquake. As communities and businesses struggle to re-build, we here at home can help. Buy Chilean wine! Wine is one of the top 10 exports for this country and while the overall loss to the wine industry in the country is lower than first thought, the loss is still high, particularly for the citizens. As you may have seen on our homepage, with every 12 bottles sold, Wine.com, in partnership with its suppliers and Wines of Chile, will donate $100 to the relief effort in Chile.


Chile is a remarkable wine region. It’s location is unique in the wine world – with an ocean to the west, a mountain range to the east, a desert on the north border and the cold Patagonia at its south border. Secluded and isolated – an ideal situation for agricultural land as it remains protected from many pests or diseases. In wine, this means that Chile has avoided the phylloxera louse and many vines are planted on their own rootstock. The climate is varied, but not as much north to south as east to west. The ocean and mountain ranges have far more impact on the climate than the latitude of the vineyards.

A number of varieties flourish here, the most popular of which are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carmenere, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Every region needs a grape they can call their own, and for Chile this grape is Carmenere. How it gained this stature, however, was by accident. For years, Chile has made Merlot. It became quite popular in the 1990s for its distinct aromatic qualities. Turns out, Chilean Merlot was not just Merlot. In the mid-1990s, DNA profiling of the grapes showed that many vines in the Merlot vineyards were in fact Carmenere, an old Bordeaux blending varietal that had faded out of fashion and was practically non-existent in plantings France.

Chileans recognized that this grape was a key in giving the Merlot blends its distinctive characteristics. Vintners worked to separate their Merlot from their Carmenere and in 1998, it was given varietal status. Carmenere grows quite well in Chile, perhaps because of its unique climate. Problems with disease and rot are not a problem here as they were in Bordeaux.

To make good wine from Carmenere, it must be ripe so it is grown the warmer regions of Chile like the valleys of Maipo, Colchagua and Rapel. It is a deep, red, crimson color and its aromas are full of rich, ripe berry fruit and spice. The tannins of Carmenere are soft and smooth, which makes an easy drinking wine. Other flavor characteristics can include herbal notes, such as mixed herbs or bell pepper, as well as smoky undertones. It’s a great wine to pair with grilled meats or hearty stews. My favorite Carmenere right now is the Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere, but I’m excited to try the Montes Alpha Carmenere as well as the Concha y Toro high end bottling. Carmenere is also part of the Bordeaux blends in Chile. Blends that show Chile best are: Primus from Veramonte, Maquis Lien -cool label, Syrah-based wine, and MontGras Quatro– Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Carmenere.

Some other favorite wines from this region are:

Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley – the Casablanca Valley is in close proximity to the sea, so the cool climate is ideal for Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, grassy, citrus and clean are the highlights of these wines. Veramonte is a favorite for only $10.

Pinot Noir – You’re seeing it more and more, and why not? There are excellent Pinot Noir growing regions in this area and we’re starting to see more exports of the grape into the US. The Pinot Noir I’ve tasted so far are 2 types – one has savory red fruits, spice and excellent acidity. The other type is bright berry fruit and bright acidity. Veramonte (both Reserva and it’s newest release, the Ritual) is a great example of the first, Cono Sur a good example of the second. Both are excellent.

Elqui, Limari & Bio Bio – three regions to keep an eye on. Limari and Elqui are situated north of Santiago near the coast. They are making a name for themselves with cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. When I visited Chile in 2006, I visited De Martino to tour and taste – their Legado Chardonnay from Limari was in the line up and after one taste I said, “This is the best Chardonnay I’ve had from Chile.” As more Chardonnay comes from the cooler region, we’ll see if they hang on to that title. Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay has sure given them a run for the money. It’s not as lean or crisp as the Legado, but it’s rich and balanced. I digress… Bio Bio is further south than Santiago, but again, near the ocean and focusing on cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Keep an eye out for wines from these regions as there are showing some serious style.

Chile is such an exciting wine-producing region right now. Our thoughts an prayers are with the people of Chile as they recover from this disaster, and we will continue to support our favorite export of theirs – wine.

Care to learn more? Check out Wines of Chile's website – they have fun Chile facts, statistics and stories.

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