Como Sur | South American Gastronomy

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Tomo Sur: Fresh, Easy-Drinking Wines Are Trending Now (ES)

Maria Claudia Eraso is a sommelier living in Lima, Peru. Originally from Mendoza, Argentina, she is the co-author of Dos Mujeres y Cientos de Vinos. Currently, she is the Director of Content for Almendariz News and Wine magazine and Vivanda magazine. Always eager to talk about wine, today she gives us some insight into the wines that are trending across Latin America.  

[Patrick Hieger]

[Patrick Hieger]

By Maria Claudia Eraso

Since the beginning of the 2000’s, the words “varietal” and “barrel” have become the talking points in the Latin wine market; wines appeared to be competing in a category that wasn’t legislated by a governing body, and hadn’t previously been explored by anyone. It was the category of the explosion of grapes, the exploration of aromatic descriptors of both the barrel and the grape. The most common questions were, How many months does it pass in a new barrel? How much aging did this wine have? What level of alcohol did it reach?

Wine Wednesday: Warm Up With A Glass Of Chilean Navegado

By Patrick Hieger

[Foods From Chile]

[Foods From Chile]

As winter sets in in the lower half of South America and the cold permeates the walls of every building, steps must be taken to fight the frigid temperatures.  Since the majority of Chile isn’t outfitted with central or even efficient heating systems, alcohol is a great way to combat, and perhaps even forget about the cold.  If that alcohol is warm it’s even better.  Enter Chile’s Navegado, another in a long line of drinks made from mixing two of the best products to ever come from the country–wine and produce.  After a few sips, you’ll be thinking sunshine and sailing, not cold and miserable. 

[image: Como Sur]

Wine Wednesday: Could Tax Reform Cut Into Chile’s Wine Industry?

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[image: Como Sur]

[image: Como Sur]

It’s been just over a month since now President Michelle Bachelet took office, and a quick perusal through Chile’s newspapers, talking TV heads and radio shows will bring lots of talk about a widespread tax reform.  We won’t get into the politics of it, but one of the impacts of the proposed changes are increases in the taxes placed on wine sales in Chile, among other spirits. The wine industry association (Wines of Chile) president René Araneda, recently spoke with the country’s largest paper, El Mercurio, and sounded the four bell alarm.

His main concern is that by placing more taxes on Chile’s wine, the domestic market will be hurt. If you have not traveled to Chile, most vineyards in Chile produce almost exclusively for the export market. Something around 80% of Chile’s wine production is shipped abroad. Back here in Chile, a substantial portion of the population is not spending much on a bottle of wine. Hence a trip to your local corner store outside of the upscale neighborhoods in Santiago’s east side will render few options above CLP $6.000, and according to Araneda, 80% of wine sales in Chile sells at an average price of CLP $1.400 PER LITER. That amounts to just over $2.00 US  for a bottle.

What Wines of Chile is worried about is that not only will the government increase its basic tax it has on the bottle, it will add on another surcharge based on the alcohol content. In other words, stronger liquors will have even more tax than a light beer. And then another surcharge as well.  For wine, Araneda says the government is claiming the increase will be to a 24% tax instead of 18%, but he says that that is not accounting for the third surcharge, which according to the association’s calculations would mean an increase to a 42% tax. In terms of the final price of a bottle, Araneda says the average retail cost will increase by 20%, which considering that 80% of Chile is very sensitive to the price, such an increase will wreak havoc on sales. It could mean disaster for the wine industry, Araneda warns, saying that up to 70,000 jobs could be at risk.

We’ll take a step back and say, there is, of course, some serious politicking going on, and the idea behind the reform is to redistribute wealth in a nation with a serious equality issues. Will Chile’s industry collapse? Probably not. But wine making is a risky, time-consuming task, and adding uncertainty at home due to taxes, which has a growing taste for the fine wines that are produced but previously not sold here, will only make it riskier.

The argument that Araneda is making is that wine is not one of the more damaging, health-threatening liquors, and that it is extremely sensitive to the final price. Elasticity, or the fact that people will greatly increase their volume of consumption if the price is lower, means wine should not be treated the same as say, a whiskey.

This is unlikely to be the last time we’ll hear about this, but let’s just say we want more of Chile to be able to access more of the incredible wines being produced here. And hurting sales for the handful of small, quality winemakers is also taking away from what the wine scene could be here in Chile.

[image: Foody Chile]

Grape Wednesday: Waqar Pisco Steals The Show In San Francisco As World’s Best

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[image: Waqar]

[image: Waqar]

If Waqar Pisco conjures up a question mark, don’t feel bad–they have only been around for two years. But what a two years it’s been, and it’s nearly a sure thing that after their recent successes, you will find this award-winning pisco in all sorts of new places.

They have set up in a number of different festivals and events over the last two years, with a young sommelier team promoting the brand as a quality product perfect for cocktails, something better than your average Capel, which is destined for little much than a piscola.  And while telling event-goers that a pisco is premium is one thing, having the San Francisco World Spirits Competition crown it as THE BEST PISCO IN THE WORLD…is quite another. Not only did they shine against a staunch set of pisco competitors, they were also awarded the Best White Distilled Liquor (without aging) as well. So it was a big deal for pisco in general.

Not a surprise, Waqar is focusing on small-batch producing, bottling only 5,000 cases a year. They might have to increase that a bit, as the company’s partner in charge of markets in the Americas, Juan Carlos Ortúzar, says this is much more than a medal; it’s going to take them to a whole new level, and they want Chilean pisco in general to come along for the ride.

“It’s not just another medal, it’s the start of a new era for Pisco in Chile and in the world. [The award] validates even more what we are capable of producing in Chile and that Pisco is recognized as just a noble and excellent quality product as any other spirit,” Ortúzar said in a company statement.  Jaime Camposano, the maker of the pisco and partner in the company, said that the award is a result of bringing his own past, which draws on five generations of pisco makers, and creating world class standards that reflect his roots.

In Chile you can find the pisco in Jumbo or specialized wine stores.

[image: Como Sur]

Wine Wednesday: Welcome To The (Not So) Sunny Desert Of Mendoza

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[image: Como Sur]

[image: Como Sur]

If there is one thing that Mendoza lacks, it is definitely not sun. The Eastern side of the central Andes, just in the shadow of the might Aconcagua, has bright, sunny days most of the year. A winemaker I met with recently put the figure at more than 330 days on year, on average.

It’s become a reality for their wine industry. Lots and lots of sun, and finding elaborate irrigation methods through an impressive network of canals and aqueducts has allowed Argentina to develop an impressive amount of vineyards in what looks like a nearly arid desert. If there is one thing it definitely does lack, it would be water. At least in a NORMAL year.

But today weather is anything but normal. Chile felt it this year, with some of its worst frosts last November in 84 years. But in Mendoza, this year the challenge has been too much of a resource which is normally scarce: water. During the same recent visit to Argentina’s wine country mid-March, the tally was around 200cm in 2014, for a region which usually receives around 240cms in total for the entire year, and it should still be the hot and sunny season.

Too much water and cooler temperatures, means a smaller harvest, less quality and less quantity of grapes to work with. Some predicted that next year will be the year of Rosé in Mendoza as a result, with so many big, fat, sugary grapes coming off the vines this harvest instead of a prime Malbec crop.

Citing numbers from Argentine Institute of Vitiviniculture, the local press has put the drop in production at around 27.5%, making the headline something to the tune of: fifth worst Mendoza harvest in the last five years.

That means to you, the final wine consumer, less wine in the market, and a very good prognostic for higher prices. It’s just one of the small impacts of our climate which seems to be doing anything but staying predictable. Here’s to the year of the Malbec Rosé. May it be only an anomaly.

[image: Como Sur]

Wine Wednesday: Where To Wine Down Post–Ñam

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[image: Como Sur]

[image: Como Sur]

Ñam kicks off next week bringing with it a long list of presentations, chef demos & talks, tapas and much more, all in the GAM cultural center in Barrio Lastarria. If the show leaves you feeling inspired for a glass of wine following the day’s close, here are three nearby options to get into the feeling:

Bocanariz | José Victorino Lastarria 276
The obvious choice, and Santiago’s only true wine bar. There are plenty of bars with wine, but here it’s the main act. With more than 300 wines available by the bottle, some 35 by the glass, this place is all about selection. What’s even better is that you can order flights, three samples all centered around one theme. They have a selection of small, international dishes, but the wine is the standout here.

Gatopardo | José Victorino Lastarria N° 192
This is the option if you want to eat as well and are not looking for a flight. Serving Mediterranean dishes, Gatopardo is housed in an old Colonial style building and has been in Barrio Lastarria for more than 20 years–in other words, before the neighborhood became the culinary hub it is today.  They are also operating the incredible space across the street from GAM in the Universidad Catolica campus, called La Cava. A must see set refurbished brick cellar, but that still awaits the liquor license.

Santiago Wine Club | Rosal 386
So forget about the glass, go for a bottle and take it home or wherever else your path might take you. The Santiago Wine Club distributes and stocks a wide variety of producers, paying special attention to the independent winemakers and boutique vineyards.  It’s small, but packed with quality goods, offering also beer and a few artisan beers. Their sales floor is located in Barrio Lastarria, but they also distribute to your home.

[image: Como Sur]

Wine Wednesday: Viejas Tinajas, The Old Clay Pots Of De Martino

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[photo: Colin Bennett]

[photo: Colin Bennett]

Lest we forget that wine is an old, storied drink, visiting vineyards full of stainless steel, plastic bins and the great wonders of modernity, it’s easy for that very obvious fact to slip into the back of your mind. Generations past, wine was something that had to be local and as simple as possible. As one of the first producers of wine in the new world, brought via Jesuit missionaries, Chile has a rich tradition of wine making that dates back centuries.

It’s great to see that tradition reflected in the modern industry.  Specifically, the use of tinajas, those large, clay pots–or as they would say in the museum, amphorae–to make a wine that engages this tradition, rescuing it for all the modern, cosmopolitan wine drinkers reading this on their iPads. There are a handful of places in Chile that still use these for wine making. For example In San Esteban, just near the border town of Los Andes, Chile, La Bodeguita de Muñoz has about five that they use for their house wine served at the restaurant. Many more use them as decoration.

But on a larger scale, Viña De Martino has taken up the old clay pots to create a new line of wines. This label, Viejas Tinajas, started in 2011 as part of the vineyard’s move to banish the over-oaking of their products.  To start, the vineyard found and purchased 14 clay pots. That alone was a feat, as those proper for winemaking are, for the most part, a lost artisan trade. Each one they found is at least 80 years old. You can buy a garden version, but it’s not what you need to make wine.

 
To make the wine they fill them with the whole grape and seal them to ferment. For reds, this means from the harvest in March until the middle of June, at which they are opened and only the liquid is reintroduced to the pot. It then sits there until October or November, spring in the Southern Hemisphere, when it is bottled and sold. For whites, the process is actually longer. The grapes sit whole, sealed in the pot until the festive, celebrate-independence-day-of-Chile month of September. Then it’s another six months as only a liquid, finally seeing the bottle a year after harvest.

For grapes, they are using three traditional varieties found in Chile: Cinsault, Carignan and Muscat. The latter being the only white grape. The rock star is the Carignan Cinsault blend. The Carignan grape comes from old vines–in fact 61% of the Carignan grapes they use are coming from vines which date back to the days prior to World War II. The Carignan Cinsault blend is so special, they only have it available at the vineyard’s wine store.  For the rest, you can find them at La Vinoteca, or at the vineyard (with a nice discount of course), and the retail price is CLP $12,900. The first round was only prepaid, but now, with 155 tinajas, they have a wee bit left over for you to buy.

What does it taste like? Here are some tasting notes to peruse.

[image: Como Sur]

Wine Wednesday: Get Your Vendimia On For 2014

By Colin Bennett
Colin Bennett is the founder and owner of FoodyChile, a Santiago-based culinary-focused tour provider that gives insight into Chile’s growing gastronomy scene.  Originally from Iowa, he now resides in Santiago with his wife and young son.  When not giving tours, Colin takes advantage of the diverse landscape and wine regions that Chile has to offer.

[image: Como Sur]

[image: Como Sur]

In case you missed the note from last week, Vendimia 2014 has arrived! You should be excited, and here’s why:
The vendimia is the harvest of the wine grapes. For the vineyards it’s a critical window that will shape the quality of the vintage and their product for that year.  It’s a time for stress and precision, when picking and handling the new generation of grapes becomes critical.

News here in Chile is that there is an overstock of both white and red varieties.  The reds released to the market in 2013 are particularly overstocked, which could mean discounts of up to 35%. Whites things are a bit more even, but again, overstock could mean a drop of around 10% in retail prices.  This year’s crop has gone through a whole lot to get here, including Chile’s worst frost in 84 years. The overall impact is projected at a 10% loss of the entire production of wine grapes compared to last year.

But enough about the business of wine. What if you just want to drink?

Then vendimia is even better news.  As part of the fun, each valley holds a festival usually in the center square of the largest city. Each vineyard brings a selection of their wines from past years, setting up stands with sommeliers and company reps to tell you all the wonderful things about their wine.  Entrance is usually free–you just pay between $4000 to $6000 CLP and they give you a nice wine glass with that Vendimia’s logo and several tasting tickets. Each stand then will exchange the ticket for a tasting.  In Chile, all the major valleys have some sort of festival.  Some, like Maipo, have several, in Pirque, Buin and Isla de Maipo. These are the easiest to get to.  To Buin you could even take the metro.

The advantage of Chile’s geography, long and slender from north to south, is that the harvest advances south over time, rather than happening all at once. So you could head north and catch the harvest in Limari, and go festival to festival over about six weeks before you get to Maipo. There is some overlap, but generally March until the middle of April there is a festival every single weekend.

The public festivals are as much a cultural display as an ode to winemaking. BBQ, artisan crafts, and music all line the streets with the presence of the vineyards. It’s a celebration of all that is good about Chile. Normally they run Thursday or Friday through Sunday. The weeknights, even if only Friday, are great because less people go.  That’s the night to go if you want to have more time to talk to people manning the wine stands. It’s also the inauguration night so the VIPs are out. You could meet the mayor of Isla de Maipo at a show like this. Or, as I did, the President to be (Piñera in his run up to the 2008 election).  You could see great music too. I’ve already seen some of Chile’s best acts, among them Los Jaivas and Inti-Illmani, all with a glass of wine in my hand.

More than an elegant night of exclusivity, the public festivals are a party.  At some, like Curico’s (Maule Valley) vendimia, they almost overflow the glasses and blast loud music. Others, like when Colchagua gets started, the portions are more conservative. Lines, like in anything truly Chilean, are always present and sometimes annoying. Bathrooms–well, let’s avoid that topic, but there are a few. Public displays of affection and drunkenness become a norm.

But if you don’t mind paying for a more hands on experience, it’s also an opportunity to get out and actually pick grapes. A number of the tourism-friendly vineyards (De Martino, Casas del Bosque, Kingston, Casa Marin and Viu Manet, to name a few) have special tours and tastings that combine picking grapes into the regular program. Contact your friendly tour operator (like FoodyChile ), for more info.

Above all, vendimia is an opportunity to enjoy the incredible wine diversity that Chile has to offer.  Don’t miss out on ’14.