Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Chilean Wine, What’s All The Fuss About?

Well, the fuss is all about quality and value for money and we’re all interested in that, right?  The trick though is to recognise the difference between “value for money” and “cheap” because they are not the same thing at all.  I will explain…

I’ve just looked at the Chilean wine selection on the website of the major national supermarket where we do our family grocery shop.  Here the vast majority of the 35 wines are either £4.00 or £5.00.  Cracking value on the face of it, but that’s only half the story.  Well over half of a £5.00 bottle of wine is tax (£2.73) and at £4.00 it’s nearly two thirds tax (£2.57).  With much of what remains occupied by the cost of the bottle, label, cork, transport (and dare we mention some profit) what are your expectations of a wine where only a few pence is left to cover the stuff which you are actually going to consume?  A £4.00 bottle might be considered comparatively cheap, but value for money it ain’t, because you’ve not spent enough on the wine itself.

35 Chilean wines sounds like lots of choice too doesn't it, yet it represents only a small cross-section of what is available.  It's a bit like having 35 different feature films to choose from at your local cinema but then realising that they all star Sylvester Stallone.  Not much choice at all then...

There is good news though, because if you are prepared to spend a little more on your bottle only a small proportion of your extra spend goes in taxes.  At £8.00 only 40% of what you pay is tax and this drops further if you are prepared spend more still.  What are you likely to get more fun from anyway, two bottles of forgettable £4.00 plonk or one cracking bottle at £8.00?  Unless you’re only in it for the booze my money is on the £8.00 bottle!

Our September Chilean Offer is about helping you to discover the huge jump in quality for only a modest increase in spend.  This applies everywhere of course, not just in Chile, but Chile is an excellent place to start and we’re making it easy for you to do by offering a discount on all our Chilean wines above £7.00 per bottle, and a discount kicks in even if you initially only want to dip your toe in the shallow end of the offer by buying a single bottle.  The Chilean Offer discount doubles from 5% to 10% when you hit 6 bottles though, which may be mixed.  Our Chilean Explorer Six Pack offers an impressive 15% discount and contains some real treats.  Have a look here.

There’s something for everyone here.  Thanks to the unique geography of Chile, a long narrow country bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the east, the climate is so varied that the diversity of the wines is tremendous.  Compare the cool freshness of our Gewurztraminer from Torres in Curico with the ripe luscious Chardonnay from Tabali in Limari for instance.  Or the rich bramble-and-vanilla of Novas Carmenere/Cabernet with the delicate perfume of their Casablancan Pinot Noir.  Not everything is a new world fruit bomb, there is subtlety and elegance here too and flavours that will truly amaze.

So, here’s your chance to do two things; try a few bottles at the next level of price up to see if you can spot the difference, and explore the fascinating array of flavours from Chile.  I’m sure you will be impressed at just how good Chilean wine is once you release the winemakers from the shackles of the supermarket buyers and let them make the best wines they can!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Manzanilla La Sanluquena

A sample bottle of a previously untasted Manzanilla found its way onto our tasting table (Ok, desk) recently (via the fridge of course).  We are both mad about Sherry in all its beguiling forms, but in its crispest, most appetite-awakening incarnation, Manzanilla, it is just about the best aperitif in the world.  Frankly, it's something of a mystery why more people don't "get" just how brilliant a drink this is.  With a handful of olives or some toasted almonds (Er, both please actually) this stuff is our idea of heaven on earth.

We currently list 2 different Manzanilla, both from Bodegas Argueso; the Las Medallas which is their mainstay, and San Leon which is a Manzanilla Pasada (Pasada is aged for longer  - about 7 years as opposed to 5 - to develop a fuller flavour).  What landed on our desk was Manzanilla La Sanluquena from Bodegas Teresa Rivero.  It has a wonderfully old-fashioned pre-Raphaelite style label, presumably depicting “La Sanluquena” herself, though no classic beauty she seems to fall into that category of Spanish lady who always gets more attractive as the evening progresses…

We have tasted Manzanilla in its homeland, and we have tasted it here and we’re not sure why there always seems to be a bit of a difference.  In Spain - specifically in Andalucia - it is fresher and more delicious somehow.  Maybe it's the surroundings (and a particular memory of the Bar Zapata in Cadiz comes to mind) perhaps it's the travelling that it doesn't like, or more likely it's the fact that Manzanilla for the UK market is kept at 15.0% abv so that it attracts the regular Excise Duty rate rather than the higher fortified rate which the traditional Spanish level of 15.5% abv would attract.  Either way finding Manzanilla in the UK that comes close to that tasted in Spain always seems to be a bit of a challenge.  To date, the closest we've got is with the Manzanilla En Rama bottled unfiltered for the Ferria de Sanlucar (in May) by Bodegas Argueso.  The trouble with this is that it's only available for a short while, only then in limited quantities, has a short shelf-life, and costs plenty.

What a revelation it was therefore to open this chilled sample of La Sanluquena (and compare it with the San Leon from Argueso of course).  Whilst the San Leon was delicious, fresh and tangy the La Sanluquena was equally so, still with the same level of yeasty freshness but with somehow more depth and length.  The best news though is that it’s cheaper than the San Leon too.  In fact, La Sanluquena is only slightly more expensive than Las Medallas which is even better news!

If you know what we’re on about when we rave about Sherry then we understand each other, and we know you’ll be in to snaffle some before it all goes.  However, if you have read this blog and still don’t know what all the fuss is about, do yourself a favour and chuck £6.25 at a half bottle and stick it in the fridge for a day.  When you get home, prepare some posh nibbles (olives, nuts, stuff with proscuitto on, you know what we mean) and serve yourself a chilled glass of Manzanilla La Sanluquena.

Click here to visit our website and order some.