Possibly The Best Chilean Sauvignon Wine You’ve Not Tried?
‘Have you got any Sauvignon Blanc?’ And so began the average conversation during our weekend exhibiting at the BBC Good Food Show in London recently. Well it was either this or, ‘Why are you called Rude Wines?’ but we’ll deal with that another time…
The Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc from Chile is our Wine of the Week.
Our thirst for Sauvignon Blanc knows no bounds – with a recent survey highlighting this and Prosecco as the two main drivers in retail wine sales. Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, it seems, have been abandoned, left on the dance floor when the lights go on, while Sauvignon has already moved on to the after-party with all the cool kids. It is, without exception, the most popular, crowd-pleasing of all grapes – indeed if a grape could have jazz hands, Sauvignon Blanc would be there with the best of them. It can vary quite dramatically depending on where and how it is grown, but manages to retain an innate fruitiness, not to mention adapting well to growing conditions and wine-making techniques, making it a popular choice for grape growers and winemakers alike.
France may be the grape’s stronghold (with a third of the world plantings), and New Zealand its’ adopted home, but Chile can lay claim to some of the best new Sauvignon Blanc vineyards around and plantings here are still on the up (by 50% since 2007). Casas del Bosque, an award-winning winery voted Top Chilean Winery twice by the IWSC, is located in the Casablanca Valley, one of Chile’s premium ‘cool-climate’ regions. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean just to the west and the capital Santiago and beyond that, the Andes to the east, this valley enjoys a very specific micro-climate, with warm, dry days and cold nights, perfect for the production of fresh, aromatic white wines.
Enter winemaker Grant Phelps, a native Kiwi who claims to have been breastfed Sauvignon (which conjures up images we’d rather not discuss). Having worked for some of New Zealand’s top Sauvignon producers, he hot-footed it to Chile over 14 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Grant’s unbridled enthusiasm for Chile’s winemaking potential is infectious and he can talk at great length about the importance of the soil in the character of the final wine. Check out his Sauvignon explanation if you don’t believe us. But whatever you do, don’t get him started on the similarities between the Welsh and the Kiwis (hint: it’s nothing to do with rugby).
The Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc is part fermented and aged on its lees in oak to add texture and complexity to the palate, so while you have the rich tropical fruitiness, you also get a more rounded, creamier feel and longer finish, which is where Sauvignon often falls short of expectations. This very clever use of oak, not to add masses of flavour but to enhance and improve the grape’s natural character, is precisely what make the Casas del Bosque wines so appealing. It’s very crisp and citrusy, with a lovely mineral swish and will appeal to the dyed-in-the-wool Sauvignon drinker as much as it will the uninitiated (if there is such a thing). Unlike many Sauvignons, this is a great food wine. Try with good old fish and chips – think of it as the necessary squeeze of lemon; with any kind of seafood dish including prawns, ceviche, squid or sushi; and especially with spicy foods such as Mexican, medium tomato-based curries or the aromatic spices of tagines.
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