A ‘fine dining’ experience I really enjoyed recently became more than the sum of its constituent parts for argument given that I invited the restaurant’s sommelier to pick wines ‘by the glass’ to accompany my own food choices from the menu. Why not, considering that these highly trained arbiters of taste are well acquainted with their own particular establishment’s list? I mention this purely on the grounds that on this occasion our own tastes did not well agree, which raises the question not only of personal preferences but the subjectivity/objectivity balance across the palates of two quite separate tasters of experience. No real complaint, of course. I had assumed that the sommelier’s suggestions would have been offered enthusiastically in perfectly good faith, and the fact that the wine choices seemed off-beam as partners for what I had ordered for my plate reflected simply our own personal idiosyncrasies of taste. I guess, given the rigour of the sommeliers’ training that neither of us was ‘wrong’ – just different. Rest assured that this is not designed merely as a precautionary tale. To those of us either embarking on or continuing our personal journeys through wine tasting, all I can say, I think, is ‘keep practicing’ across as wide a spectrum of wines as your pocket can afford, and never be afraid of establishing your own personal expertise in sorting your own potential ‘sheep’ from ‘goats’ as taste matches with food at table. As tasters, we ourselves may wobble occasionally as we experiment– but be assured of this: wine will always tell the truth about itself! (So will food, of course.)
Rest assured I wouldn’t have you think that ‘Brexit’ has caused me to look away from Europe as a political gesture in making a wine choice for September, but ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’ – and I have found something I regard as particularly delicious to tell you about.
Chile may well have earned its reputation as South America’s leader in the field for its cooler-style red wines, so this month it may come as something of a relief that I am not offering one of the well known ‘fruit-bombs’ produced elsewhere in that part of the wine world…no disrespect meant to some of Argentina’s vinous Arnold Schwartzeneggers based on Malbec – impressive though many of them are. For me at least, Chile, under clear South American skies, is ideally placed to offer ‘almost’ European styles of wine – rivals in blind tastings (and sometimes overtakers) of a number of trusted big name Pinots closer to home. My suggestion for this month Terrapura Pinot Noir 2015 is a wine that exhibits the virtue of expert craftsmanship with that potentially wayward grape variety. The fact that the wine’s origins in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley are often affected by the fogs that roll off the Pacific thus tempering the microclimates thereabouts proves, if proof were needed, that the classic Pinot Noir thrives there very well indeed.
Equally, of course, the Pinot family overall is clonally very diverse, and what you find in the Chilean context, despite Pinot Noir’s usual hallmarks of taste, has every chance of differing quite markedly from the same grape variety grown in the ‘terroir’ of its Burgundian homeland. So what do I find? Well-fruited ripeness, principally, where a good extraction has offered a relatively dark colour (for Pinot) in the glass. The alcohol index here of 13.5%abv gives no sense of undue ‘heat’ – which again I count as a plus factor, and the wine is well balanced and certainly more-ish and with sufficient ripe fruit and ‘flesh’ to make it extremely food-friendly, particularly alongside simply grilled meats. Harvesting in this case takes place in March. This wine has the name Alfonso Undurraga in its production background which, given the wine’s quality and balance, is not surprising in the circumstances.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Chile
NAME OF WINE Terrapura Pinot Noir 2014
STYLE Soft, savoury red
PRODUCER Vinos Terrapura
RETAILER Lea & Sandeman Ltd.
PRICE £ 8.75 / 7.95 (case)