Wine of the Week

(by peter)

Chilean game-changer

Chilean game-changer

Sometimes a wine comes along that is more than just a wine. It is a statement that rises, bold and fearless, above the vinous hubbub.

Such is the new Miguel Torres Reserva de Pueblo País 2012, 12% (£7.50, The Wine Society) – a joyous, vivid wine with fresh, juicy acidity, waves of succulent dark cherry flavours and an utterly revitalising, almost rejuvenating finish. It’s unashamedly rustic (in the good sense of the word), refreshingly honest, wonderfully un-reconstructed.

Think of it like a Beaujolais beefed up with a dollop of peppery Syrah at a cracking price (it’s also registered Fairtrade) and serve it cool on a warm summer’s day with a plate of charcuterie.

As for the statement business: I will talk about this more in my upcoming Chile Wine Brief. In short, though, it’s made from the much derided País, or Mission grape variety, which was originally brought to South America by the conquistadores for functional (communion) purposes rather than any ambition to make fine wine. Until now it’s been thought of as a third division grape, good for local plonk or the odd bit of sneaky blending but little else.

Now, though, this wine changes everything.

I asked winemaker Fernando Almeda for the story behind the wine. ‘We’re rescuing our history, our heritage,’ he told me via Skype from Chile. ‘Chilean wine has been developing so rapidly that we’ve lost sight of where we’ve come from.’

He went on to outline how the company has been working on reviving the image of País since 2007 with support from the FIA agricultural research body and the University of Talca. They already have the Estelado sparkling wine and now this. Intriguingly, Almeda notes that the lessons they have learned from trying to coax decent table wine out of País has lead to significant advances in their mainstream viticultural programme in terms of prioritising freshness, balance and complexity.

‘The way we manage our vines now has completely changed since 2007,’ observes Almeda. ‘And all this has come from learning from País! That’s the fun of it…’

Fun indeed. Fill your boots.