I’ve alluded to the fact in previous posts that I tend to have a preference and bias for Old World wines, but more and more I am challenged (by myself and others whose opinions I value and trust) to try more New World wines.
I must admit, when I think of Chilean wine, especially Carmenere I often imagine a bottle I might take to a barbeque. This is not so much an insult as I love BBQs and am a firm believer that good wine is for all occasions. Paired correctly, good wine can be found to match any food, but perhaps I might take such a bottle to a party rather than save it for a birthday Chateaubriand or a finely cooked crusted rack of lamb.
Casa Silva has been touted as the most awarded Chilean Winery of the 21st century. A member of the Viñas de Colchagua (Chile’s first regional association of wineries), it is in good company with Lapostolle, one of the few other Chilean wineries I rate highly and enjoy drinking wines from.
A ‘microterroir’ is defined as ‘a small sector (0.1–0.5 hectares) of a base terroir with special features of soil and plant growth, which when combined with viticultural management gives a wine of unique value.’
This is a concept which the French have long declared and promoted in their Burgundy wines with terroir considered to be of more importance than producer, vintage and many other factors. Although perhaps less prevalent and accepted in other wine making regions, this approach by Casa Silva is key to this particular bottle of wine.
So how does it hold up and compare with its company and all of Casa Silva’s acclaim?
To start with let’s talk about the bottle! It’s very heavy with thick glass, and large punt (the recess in the bottom). The empty bottle weighing in at nearly 1kg compared to a standard Bordeaux bottle at less than 500g!
My mother in law (who is French) doesn’t drink wine but has a surprising ability to choose very good bottles of wine on the occasions she buys them for other people or when entertaining. Her technique, while not infallible is certainly a well publicised theory and in my opinion holds some truth and seems to have a fairly good success rate. She chooses bottles based on the weight of the bottle and the depth of the punt (the dimple) in the bottom of the bottle. There are many theories in why the depth of the punt might indicate quality but I won’t get into them now. One thing is true though, that thicker glass and bigger punts means the bottle is more expensive to produce and that may have some bearing!?
In the glass the wine looks dark and opaque but with a definitely red rather than purple or black hue. It is very high in alcohol (14.5% ABV) which is obvious from the legs (or more accurately the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect) showing trailing on the glass after a quick swirl.
On the nose I get subtle leather, and a prominent vanilla note almost certainly from some considerable ageing in oak barrels. There is also a sweet liquorice scent and the slightest hint of bramble fruit which while present takes a backseat to the other aromas.
A quick gulp and a swirl in the mouth and… Wow, this is a big heavy red! It has strong tannins with high acidity. I decide to leave it a little while and given an hour to breathe it is much more approachable but still a real powerhouse wine. Think big bold chewy Malbec or Tannat in style, but with a flavour complexity that is unlike any other Chilean wine I’ve ever tried. Much more Old World in style but with the Carmenere grape and its Chilean roots still showing through. The flavour profile and complexity reminds me of a high end Burgundy Pinot Noir but with the tannins and acidity of a southern/south west French wine like a Madiran or Languedoc.
This is likely due to the Silva family’s origins in France, from a Bordeaux winemaking background (Established in the 1920s, the company produced bulk wines for almost 70 years).
The liquorice and vanilla present on the nose also exist on the palate and the mix of tannins and acidity leave an ever so slightly bitter tobacco flavour. In balance with the sweetness of the bramble and vanilla notes and the complex burgundy-esque earthy tones however, this adds a very pleasant dimension.
The longer I leave this wine the more these flavours soften and mellow becoming harder to distinguish and identify but no less (and arguable more) pleasant. Despite the softening flavours, the palate lingers on long after the mouthful has been swallowed as you continue to chew and taste the wine – not in a drying mouth-puckering way you might associate with tannic wines, but rather a fond and evolving memory of the last mouthful.
As you might have guessed from my comments above, I rate this wine very highly and I’m not the only one! Several important and respected critics have rated this wine highly as well: Stephen Tanzer gave this 2008 vintage a score of 92.
It has certainly added to my new found and growing appreciation of New World wines, and has certainly been promoted from BBQ/Party wine to something more special. I hope to review a few more Casa Silva wines soon, including a fantastic Pinot Noir which I’ve sampled a few times and hopefully their flagship Altura at some point soon too, so look out for those. Hopefully they’ll impress as much as this fantastic Carmenere.
- Price: £20-25 a bottle
- Producer: Casa Silva
- Origin: Colchagua Valley Denomination of Origin, Chile
- Style: Old World style Bordeaux blend from a 100% New World Carmenere!
- Food pairing: Steak and other red meats, red meat in rich sauces and even some rich pasta dishes. Hard cheeses.