Our wine of the week

(by peter & susie)

Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (from £7.49, Majestic)

This wine went down a storm at our first Back to Basics wine course, and it’s easy to see why.

Aromatically, it’s very expressive, reminiscent of an Awatere style from New Zealand’s famous Marlborough region. Which roughly translates to less of the exotic, tropical, passion-fruit style notes, and more of the crunchy citrus, tomato leaf and green pepper character.

On the palate, it is fresh and tangy, with a lovely persistent finish. Really concentrated for the price and very food-friendly (goat’s cheese salad, all kinds of simply prepared fresh fish/seafood, lightly spiced Asian dishes and fresh vegetable stir-fries, the list goes on…)

All this from a region that, as recently as five years ago, was more famous for its fire water pisco (local grape brandy), astronomical observatories and hippies (they came for the similar reasons to the astronomers, but that’s another story).

The Elqui Valley is a scenic, steep-sided valley, quite narrow across but always with a huge expanse of deep blue sky above it. This area is on the fringes of the Atacama Desert, one of the most arid places on earth, hence the reliably blue skies – and the observatories.

What you also get in Elqui is a sort of wind-tunnel effect. Because Chile’s ocean is very cold, and the country quite thin, in a narrow valley like this, on warm days the cool air is sucked in off the ocean when the land heats up. This makes for brisk winds (the Chilean national windsurfing championships are held on a man-made lake in Elqui) and pleasantly cool afternoon conditions.

All this is, of course, ideal for making wines that combine expressive character (bright sun) with natural balance (refreshing acidity from moderated temperatures).

Syrah is another star variety in the region but Sauvignon Blanc is also doing very well, as this example proves. It’s a distinctive style and fantastic value for money.