Pisco sours are a source of great national pride (and rivalry!) for two South American countries – Peru and Chile. Pisco sours are thick and foamy cocktails made by combining pisco (a distilled grape brandy) with lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white – topped with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. There has been a long-standing, heated debate on which country pisco sours originated from.
Peru claims that the cocktail was first made in Lima around 100 years ago while Chile holds strong that they were the first to issue commercial trademarks and legal recognition of the spirit. The regulations for what constitutes “pisco” in Peru and Chile both overlap and differ making things more complicated. Peruvian pisco has much stricter regulations while there are some leniences with Chilean pisco.
This November you can choose from two unique ways to visit the wine regions of Chile & Argentina.
Taste Vacations’ Chile & Argentina Wine Tour
November 4 – 12, 2019. This tour’s focus is on the wine and food of the Chilean and Argentine regions we’ll be visiting and includes wine tastings, pairings, and a wine blending course. A truly relaxing Taste Vacation!
Zephyr Adventures’ Chile & Argentina Multisport & Wine Adventure
November 3- 10, 2019. This trip includes hiking, biking, horseback riding and options to zipline, kayak or raft. Each day you’ll also sample and learn about the different wines of the two countries. A perfect variety of activities for the adventurous wine lover!
We can all be creatures of habit in one aspect of our lives or another – including which wines we drink! When is the last time you chose a wine that wasn’t one of the old standards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay?
It’s time to change things up a bit and try something new. After all, you never know if you’re about to meet your new favorite wine! Let’s take a little journey through some iconic wine regions and find a few wines that you may not have tasted yet. First up, Tuscany!
Carmenere, one of Chile’s most popular wine varietals, was once very close to extinction. Originally, Carmenere was grown in Bordeaux, France and used in some of the great Bordeaux red blends. In the late 1800’s, phylloxera, a microscopic aphid, destroyed a majority of the wine grapes in France. This period was known as the Great French Wine Blight, though it eventually made it’s way across Europe and even Australia and New Zealand. It was thought that all Carmenere vines had completely died during this time.
Before the phylloxera destruction, the Chilean wine industry began to take off. Back then, if you were starting a vineyard, the natural source for vines was France. Chilean wineries began planting a mix of Bordeaux vines, including Merlot and Carmenere. Merlot and Carmenere look very similar so over the centuries the identity of the Carmenere vines was lost and forgotten and lumped in with the Merlot. Even though every other major wine region at the time was affected by phylloxera in some way, Chile remained the only major wine producing country that completely evaded the bug, most likely due to it being surrounded by the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that someone noticed that the “Chilean Merlot” had a stronger and spicier taste than other Merlots that were grown in other regions. Using DNA mapping, a professor at University of Montpellier’s School of Oenology (a world-renown wine school) identified it as the long-lost Carmenere.
After the discovery, Chileans embraced their “new found” varietal so much that it is now considered the national grape.
On a recent trip through Chile last November, I had the pleasure of touring the stunning grounds of Viña Undurraga. During the tour, the guide introduced me to a new term that I have quickly fallen in love with – Terroir Hunter. Basically, a Terroir Hunter is someone that seeks out premium veins of soil to help optimize the growth of specific varietals of grapes in previously unexplored areas. Undurraga is one of the leading vineyards employing this type of practice and has even dedicated a whole line of wines under the TH (Terroir Hunter) label.
According to Undurraga, “T.H. is an innovative project in Chilean winemaking. After more than a century of producing wine, Chile is reinventing its viticulture, taking more risks, getting off the beaten track and emphasizing its diversity of climate, soil and topography. A country almost 5,000 kilometres long with abrupt topography ranging from sea level to mountains as high as 6,000 metres has potentially many more wine production areas than those that have historically been cultivated, which are located mostly in mid-Chile’s central valley. In fact, over the last decade, a small number of winemakers have ventured beyond the traditional areas. T.H. seeks to be the leader in this quest to explore new winemaking regions.”
Check out Undurraga’s video explaining their TH program.
Focusing on the terroir is certainly not a new practice for the rest of the world’s wine regions, but it is quite groundbreaking for South America. Over the past ten years or so, there has been a big shift in thinking, from caring mostly about the ease of farming and quantity of production to the terroir and ultimately the quality of the wine. Eric Asimov of The New York Times recently wrote about the same shift occurring in Argentina in his article To Move Beyond Malbec, Look Below the Surface. One potential reason for the slow adoption of this practice may be the complex nature of Chile and Argentina’s soil. “The process has been a challenge because the soils of Mendoza are incredibly complicated… The soils change radically from one row of vines to the next, sometimes over a matter of meters.”
As a consumer, it will be interesting to see how the wines from this region transform over the next few years as the Terroir Hunters track down untouched pockets of exquisite terroir right under their noses.