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MWG January 8th tasting: A pair of Chilean Pinot Noirs with a French connection

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Casablanca 2012, Pinot Noir, Refugio, Montsecano y Copains ($25.05, 12184839)
The estate is a joint project involving three Chileans and Alsatian André Ostertag. Two wines, both 100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodyanmically farmed vines, are made. This is the second wine. Manually harvested. Macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts for 12 to 18 days. One-quarter is matured in 16-hectolitre concrete eggs for 12 to 18 months, three-quarters in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of volcanic sulphur is added at bottling. Screwcapped. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
After the faint screwcap reducto-fartiness blows off, a nose more mulberry than red berry with whiffs of undergrowth, minerals and spice (had I been drinking double-blind, I would have guessed it was a young-vine, cool-climate Syrah). Supple and juicy, full of sun-drenched fruit, grounded in minerals, structured by light tannins and bright acidity, faintly streaked with a stemmy greenness. Kirsch and a hint of smoke scent the credible finish. Far from profound but certainly drinkable. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Valle del Aconcagua 2012, Pinot Noir, Subsollum, Clos des Fous ($24.05, 12304335)
“Clos des Fous is about four friends who decided to grow vine in gloomy, cold and unpredictable places in the southern regions of Chile.” The estate’s first commercial vintage was 2010; the 2012 is the first vintage of the Subsollum. The grapes for this 100% Pinot Noir come from organically and semi-biodynamically farmed young vines in Malleco and coastal Aconcagua. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in lined concrete vats. A small proportion is matured in barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Not what you’d call a Burgundian nose: red berries and plum intermixed with “cinnamon candy,” “Worcestershire sauce,” “green ketchup” and “a leather jacket with mothballs” (to quote four tasters). A medium-bodied mouthful of solarized but not very sweet fruit, raspy tannins and trickling acidity, all shadowed by earthy mineral and spice flavours/aromas and a faint underlying bitterness. Long. On the plus side, the wine’s got character in spades. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat coarse and unfocused. Maybe it needed more time in the bottle or carafe or maybe it’s the young vines. In any case, it leaves me curious about future vintages. (Buy again? In years to come, quite possibly.)

Both wines were a hit with the New World aficionados, a bit less so with the Old World fans. But even the latter had to admit they had a certain appeal and were true to their origin, not slavish imitations of Pinots made elsewhere, including Burgundy. In an article on Chilean wines published last fall, the Gazette’s Bill Zacharkiw advanced that “once they [Chilean winemakers] stop trying to please export markets and simply make the wine that is the best expression of what they have, those markets will come to them.” Wines like these and Clos Ouvert’s various offerings are a definite step in that direction.

(Flight: 4/8)

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Written by carswell

January 26, 2015 at 11:18

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