London: Mercado Andino 2 – Chile
If you’re ever covering a wine fair and aren’t sure where to taste next, look out for Jancis Robinson.
She’s easy to spot – angle-posed, elegantly draped, surrounded by hushed admirers; regally nosing, sternly analysing and moving purposely on like a majestic perpetual motion dipping bird. Hush, observe what she pauses on and swoop in afterward. It’ll be instructive at worst. I lucked into the Bougainville Petite Sirah 2010, Santa Rita, Maipo.
Oh joy! this is inky purple with a white rim, there’s matter here, it’s sucking in light. But it’s emitting a hawking radiation of raspberry coulis, cherry, violet, mace and cinnamon and white pepper, more violets, from Parma now, sherbetted, clean sweated. Cripes. Huge acid, huge burly tannin, ridgeback-ridge furry, resolving after a good minute leaving only some finger stains and the problem of finding a spittoon far enough from Jancis’ gold and ivory silk finery to avoid burying one’s wine-writing career at first outing. The charming Tom Lethany gladly accepted my eulogies but commiserated how tough a sell a £50 plus Chilean Petite Sirah was. This would fly off the shelves if only everyone with the budget could simply nose it! Truly benchmark stuff, the only comparison I have is Ridge York Creek, but I reckon Paul Draper would kill to get his hands on the fruit that went into this boyo.
A palate cleansing, easily-washable breather came in the form of the Ritual Syrah Rose 2014, Veramonte, Casablanca. It’s a pretty pink strawberry sorbet of a wine with a flighty floral candy nose belied by a broadness and grip in the mouth – stamping its foot and demanding to be taken seriously. Well-made wine, apparently they’re almost biodynamic in the vineyard excepting the most occult practices.
Duly refreshed, I stumbled across the wine of the tasting! kinda knowing it would remain so. We don’t see much Sauvignon Gris and while apparently much revered in the past, it came close to extinction as a criminally low-yielder until a recent revival in the Graves, Australasia and a smattering in Chile. Damn, we ought to.
While it’s still unclear which came first, it has all the benefits of its widely planted sibling but, in this case at least, supplants the green pungency of the Blanc with layers of extra flavour and a plush widebodiedness thrown over the acidity. I hope it wasn’t anything to do with the charm of Romy Martín Moreno who patiently expounded the philosophy of the estate as I raptured over its expression, but Sauvignon Gris Estero Vineyard 2014, Casa Marin, Lo Abarca – San Antonio struck me as divine. My notes read: smoke – kiwi fruit – stone – rain – alpine flowers – wide magic. That’s all you get, with an exhortation to find this wine, grab two bottles, your best friend and get high.
I finally pulled myself together after I’m-not-sure-how-long-sitting-in-a-corner nuzzling a proper glass (thanks Romy!) and sloped back to look over the rest of the range. The ‘entry level‘ Casa Marin Pinot Noir Cartagena 2014, Lo Abarca – San Antonio, while markedly different in style and character, harked back to our earlier encounter with the Trapiche Mar y Pampa. Strikingly also raised a mere four km from the sea at the ocean mouth of the San Antonio valley (a zone so marginal their excellent Syrah only reaches 11.7% ABV, damned fog!) this again is the sort of unique expression of the variety that springs from a sainted spot on the knife’s edge of viability, a million miles from Burgundy or anywhere else, something wild and fresh and new, wine that sings a poem that could only be inscribed on that particular unlikely patch of earth. As individual, equally original, but an entirely different proposition.
You know when you first really like Pinot Noir? Really love it? You get into wine and you drink pretty well and broadly, but the Pinosity you find with your budget and knowledge is bollocks and it’s just that expensive thin stuff. Then you encounter something delicate, pure, delicious and savoury at its apogee. You get it and you’re never the same. You will die broke but having drunk well. Well, this is it.
I love this wine, I have a simple note in capital letters – honest, great (non) winemaking, the grapes defined the wine. Simply perfect and perhaps best explained by what it is not… The curate’s egg of the tasting was an under-the-table Errazuriz Las Pizarras Pinot Noir, a new high-end £65 ‘Burgundian’ bottling from their best Aconcagua schistous sites. This was a pretty and delicious wine brilliantly made with superb oak treatment but the fruit didn’t choose the handling, it was like a vivacious redhead prematurely closeted into a nun’s habit; still beautiful but sombre and dulled. Sad. (Happily, however, the Pizarras Chardonnay is a head-turning joy, everything in dazzling counterpoint, like the blonde sister spared the cowl and bubbling with joy at her choice of wedding gown. It’s going to be a bargain at £35, whenever it’s released.)
And so after sneaking a final draught of the Marin Gris and at last swallowing some bloody wine, I strolled the hour home headily enthused. Having grown up with this industry, I’m glad to find it’s become an interesting, erudite and well-rounded personality, a relationship to re-consummate for decades to come.
And you know what, the Clerkenwell 2015 harvest ain’t looking too shabby – watch your backs, amigos!