Last week we enjoyed the hospitality of a Majestic stalwart, Santa Rita wines at a tasting and dinner kindly hosted at the Royal Ocean Racing Club. We were guided through the range by none other than Carlos Gatica, the winemaker for the popular Santa Rita 120 series.
It’s great to taste wines in an environment other than at our tasting counter – it’s one thing to assess a wine critically, but let’s face it, who drinks wine at a party and whips out a tasting sheet? Wines are made to be enjoyed and just like books, they can be highbrow or they can be pulp fiction; 50 Shades of Gray will never win the Man Booker Prize, but it sold enough to spawn sequels and a Hollywood movie.
Fortunately, while the life of Carlos Gatica may not be coming soon to a cinema near you, his wines are available in a Majestic near you. Which is just as well, because they’re a showcase for everything we love about Chilean wine – tremendous value and with great flavour. The Sauvignon is pleasantly fresh and tropical – we also tasted the Carmen Waves Sauvignon from their sister winery, which displayed a touch of fresh greenery. The Merlot is soft and easy to enjoy, the Carmenere deliciously chocolaty. They’re exactly what you’d hope for them to be!
What has 120 got to do with anything, though? The wines are named for 120 Chilean patriots who, legend has it, sheltered in the Santa Rita cellars on a fateful night in 1814 during the war for Chilean independence. Today, the wines are crafted in the same cellars where these men took refuge.
Carlos explained how he aims for varietal style without hiding the fruit behind a lot of new wood – the idea is to create wines with character and freshness that are good for everyday drinking. His aim of wood in winemaking is to add texture rather than flavour, with a small proportion of both the 120 Chardonnay and 120 Viognier fermented in old barrels. There’s no flavours or oak character in the wood left to extract in any meaningful level, but instead the interaction with air during fermentation helps give texture and body to the wine without losing any of the fruit character.
The big treat of the night was the grand finale, the Casa Real – this is Santa Rita’s top wine and is made from a single estate block near the Santa Rita winery. It’s ripe, rich and full of juicy fruit with good grip, structure and all the things you’d expect of a top Chilean wine, but the real delight is how tasty it is. We could see it had the potential to age, but as with many good New World wines, it was delicious already.
We were very grateful to Carlos for his time, and to the Royal Ocean Racing Club for hosting us. You can browse the Santa Rita wines online here!