Majestic managers in ChileFebruary saw Mike Edwards, Manager of our Northampton store, set out for a weeklong fact-finding trip to Chile with eight fellow Majestic Managers. They discovered a country on a winemaking crusade…

Still a relative youngster in modern viticultural terms, Chile is a land tailor-made for wine production. Bordered by the Andes to the east, the Pacific to the west, the inhospitable Atacama Desert to the north and the icy Antarctic to the south, the central region’s natural valleys soak up the sun, yet are protected from overheating by cool Pacific breezes.

Chilean VineyardThis combination of climate and topography allows Chilean grapes to ripen to perfection. On this unforgettable trip, my colleagues and I were fortunate enough to enjoy the results for ourselves, sampling everything from single-vineyard fine wines to top-value varietals produced using the latest sustainable techniques.

We started out in the hustle and bustle of Santiago, a sprawling modern city whose old buildings and cathedrals still show the influence of the conquistadors. We quickly made for the city’s oldest fish market to feast on fresh sea bass and conga eel (accompanied, of course, by a chilled Chilean Sauvignon Blanc). In our time there, we also managed a chance encounter with a national hero – Laurence Golborne, Chile’s energy minister and the man behind the rescue of the trapped miners in last year’s big news story.

Chile VineyardMoving on from the bustling heart of the capital, we explored the cooler, arid north. In Límari, low rainfall and high calcium content in the soils leads to fantastic minerality and elegance in fragrant varieties like Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. After a short stay here, it was time to head south to lush, green Pucón, set against a stunning landscape of mountains and volcanoes. At the end of our trip, we were fortunate enough to witness that landscape at its most dramatic.

Chile MountainIt happened as we were enjoying an al fresco steak and glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the shadow of Mount Villarrica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. All of a sudden the mighty mountain decided to put on a display for us, its summit aglow with molten lava. An extremely rare sight, so we were told – and one to cap a memorable journey through a fascinating country.

Viu Manent Reserva Carmenère 2009, Colchagua Valley
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Carmenère is a Chilean speciality and this example exudes the best of the grape. Full-bodied, rich and deeply coloured, with black cherry and mocha aromas, it delivers blueberries and dark chocolate on the palate, all wrapped up in soft supple tannins.

Viu Manent Reserva Viognier 2010, Colchagua Valley
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Lime, pineapple and orange blossom on the nose, with a full, fragrant palate showing pears and nectarines, cut through by a refreshing acidity and minerality. Fantastically fragrant; perfectly balanced.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2009, Casablanca Valley
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Chilean growers are really throwing themselves into perfecting Pinot Noir, with excellent results. This example is matured for six months in French oak, giving hints of vanilla and violets over smoky raspberry and cherry fruit.

Montes Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Casablanca Valley
£7.99 or £6.39 when you buy 2 or more bottles
This is a class act. A wonderfully expressive nose of limes, gooseberries and grassy notes gets even more exciting on a palate with subtle minerality, superbly balanced by crisp, clean acidity.

Montes Reserva Merlot 2009, Colchagua Valley
£8.49 or £6.79 when you buy 2 bottles
15% Cabernet in the blend gives this wine great structure and finesse. Alongside blackberries and raspberries, there’s an edge of black pepper spice, plus oaky vanilla notes. There’s more depth and interest here than in many similarly priced Merlots.

Rayuela Chardonnay 2010, Viu Manent, Colchagua Valley
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Rayuela is the Chilean name for the playground game Hopscotch, and this zesty unoaked Chardonnay really hops and skips on your tongue. Bursting with tropical pineapple and peach flavours, it’s great with summer chicken salads.

Rayuela Cabernet Sauvignon 2009/10, Viu Manent, Colchagua Valley
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
This wine, from 50 year old Cabernet vines, is full of ripe fruit and subtle spice. Aromas of plum and strawberry mingle with blackberry and sweet spices on the palate.

Yali Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Colchagua Valley
£7.99 or £6.39 when you buy 2 bottles
The dream partner for your barbecued meats, this is brimming with red fruits and vanilla on the nose, while the mouthfeel is rich, smooth and lingering. Waves of dark berry and chocolate make every sip a delight.

Yali Reserva Viognier 2010, Colchagua Valley
£7.99 or £6.39 when you buy 2 bottles
Yali have achieved an exquisite balance of fragrant honeysuckle and peach aromas, fresh acidity and ripe tropical fruit in this fantastic-value wine. A pleasure on its own or partnered with spicy pork or chicken.

Yali Winemaker’s Selection Merlot Rosé 2010, Colchagua Valley
£6.99 or £5.59 when you buy 2 bottles
Merlot makes fantastic rosé, especially where the climate allows the grapes to reach optimum ripeness. Here, sweet red-fruit aromas of strawberry and raspberry pour out of the glass. Well chilled, it’s the perfect summer rosé with food or on its own.

*Prices valid until 29 August 2011

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