Chilean Wine Specialist Lizzy Buttler visits

It’s been a parade of direct connections to our wines the last few weeks, friends. This week Lizzy Buttler visits. Lizzie has lived and worked with wine on both sides of the Andes, starting in Argentina working for the Catena family and then landing in Chile to work for Viña Mayu in Elqui.

After The New Chile portfolio launched in 2013, Eddy Nick hired her on full-time as Vine Connection’s Chile Brand Specialist. Lizzy combines her marketing skills of writing, photography, Spanish and Chilean wine expertise to support the education and sales of VC’s pioneering premium “New Chile” portfolio in the U.S. Lizzy also leads dynamic educational trips for distributors and key trade in Chile every harvest. In her free time, Lizzy loves being outdoors–exploring her passions of trail running, hiking, writing and photography.

Chile’s Unique Geography

Chile’s vine cultivation area is by width rather than length, climatically speaking. The height of the Andes provides lower temperatures, as we climb upwards. Our coast has two great features, its western orientation and icy Humboldt current. These two features make the continental winds cause cool weather on the coastline, allowing viticulture closer to the equator, obtaining wines with higher acidity and elegant aromas.

The path taken by the country to arrive where it is today as one of the principal wine exporters in the world started almost at the same time as it was conquered by the Spanish. Owners of a privileged climate, Chilean land became an exceptional place to cultivate the grape seeds brought from Europe.

Lizzy Buttler

However, this paradise for viticultural production didn’t transform into one until the middle of the 19th century. Thanks to an economic boom, Chilean business men travelled to Europe with their wealthy families to explore wines and castles, and found a model to follow. Excited by the possibility of replicating it, they brought a section of the finest “cuttings” to Chile, just a couple of decades before the great phylloxera plague–a parasite that completely devastated vineyards in the Old World.

In Chile, these cuttings grew in their own roots and converted, without knowing, into very valuable genetic material for the future. In particular because they allowed Carmenere–an almost extinct variety–grow undiscovered for over a century within the Merlot vines.

Another relevant moment in the history of Chilean wine took place in the beginning of the 1980s, when Spanish producer Miguel Torres arrived to the country and modernised the viniculture production. He was the first to install stainless steel tanks and French oak to transform the process of production. His example was followed by Chilean producers, producing an explosion of new plantations and constant growth in the exportation of wines.

Onto this week’s wines:

Casa Silva, Valle del Colchagua, Sauvignon Gris (2015) :: $21 sale $18

Pale yellow with green hues. On the nose, delicate melon aromas and mineral notes. On the palate, fresh, good body, very good acidity and notes of ripe green melon. Excellent with seafood, this wine is especially good with delicatessen items such as oysters, caviar or whitebait. Fish is also delicious with this Sauvignon Gris. Enjoy it with Easter Island tuna, Peruvian ceviche or Chilean seabass with mussels sauce. If the choice is a light meal, try it with a spicy salad. As an aperitif, enjoy it with a seafood platter, cashew nuts, garlic mushrooms or blue cheese.

Casa Silva, Valle del Colchagua, Carménère, Los Lingues Vineyard (2014) :: $18 sale $16

Deep ruby with a violet rim. On the nose, intense, with notes of ripe black fruits with hints of wild forest fruits. On the palate, good balance between fruit and oak, good structure, powerful, sweet and round tannins, and notes of boysenberries and hints of tobacco. Excellent finish. This Carmenere will accompany a surprisingly broad range of dishes. It’s sensational with lamb stew, beef Wellington, seasoned turkey, Thai red curry chicken or any kind of barbecued meat. Also ideal with kebabs, Indian or Mediterranean food.

About the producer

The Silva family has its origins in the Colchagua Valley and projects its work out from there to the world each day. Its wines reflect its commitment and the passion each member of the family has to and for the earth. Viña Casa Silva is a 100% family-owned company that seeks to transfer the pride of its roots and its respect for nature and their people, to the world and its future generations.

From Colchagua’s best terroirs, these perfectly balanced wines are complex and intensely elegant. They are made with the precise use of oak and have the structure necessary to accompany a wide range of culinary possibilities. The Casa Silva line was created with the best restaurants and wine shops around the world in mind.

Mayu, Valle del Elqui, Pedro Ximénez (2015) :: $14 sale $12

Grown in one of the highest vineyards on earth at an altitude of 6,320 feet, the 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Huanta Vineyard Pedro Ximénez offers an intriguing mineral-driven aroma and an abundance of citrus and orchard fruit flavors to please both the nose and the palate, and at the same time slake the thirst. Unlike most of its Spanish and Australian cousins, the 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Pedro Ximénez possesses crisp acidity and laser-like precision to accompany its wealth of unique white and yellow fruit flavors and exceptional minerality. Light on its feet yet long on the finish Mayu and Giorgio Flessati have fashioned a distinctive, character-filled wine in the 2015 Mayu Pedro Ximénez from the lofty Huanta Vineyard. For optimal enjoyment we suggest moderate chilling of the 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Huanta Vineyard Pedro Ximénez.

Food Pairings

A natural accompaniment to seafood, charcuterie and tapas. A seafood salad of shrimp, calamari, baby octopus, carrots and celery in oregano vinaigrette provides an exceptional companion to Mayu’s Valle de Elqui Pedro Ximénez. Green hummus made with chickpeas, arugula, green pepper, and green onion and served with fresh vegetables and Naan chips offers another wonderful accompaniment to this wine. Thinly sliced pepperoni, prosciutto and salami also make tasty accompaniments to Mayu’s Pedro Ximénez. Pan seared scallops, roasted oysters, mussels in an herb-infused broth and grilled fish all make splendid choices with a glass of the 2015 Mayu Valle de Elqui Huanta Vineyard Pedro Ximénez. Many will also enjoy this wine on its own as an aperitif.

The Olivier family are pioneers in Chile’s Elqui Valley and the founders of Viña Mayu. “Mayu,” meaning river of stars, draws its name from the Inca word for the Milky Way. The Oliviers first ventured into fine winemaking in the Elqui Valley with Viña Falernia in 1998 after decades of producing pisco (Chile’s national spirit made from white wine and akin to grappa) with plantings of Carmenère and Syrah. Subsequently, they established Viña Mayu as an independent family winery in 2005. In just a little more than a decade Viña Mayu has achieved extraordinary success with Carmenère, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pedro Ximénez, an exceptional Spanish grape variety that thrives in warm, arid climates.

The Olivier family started Viña Mayu in 2005 and were the first to bring winemaking to the Elqui Valley. They honor the place and its history with the name of the winery – “Mayu” is the Incan word for the Milky Way’s “river of stars”. The driving force for Mayu was transforming a tract of extreme terroir with enormous potential into a vineyard producing premium wines.

Since he was a young boy, Mauro Olivier worked for his family’s table grape business and later in the family’s production of pisco, helping the Oliviers become one of the three leading Chilean producers of pisco. A visit to Elqui Valley by Mauro’s oenologist cousin Giorgio Flessati at harvest time for the pisco grapes set the stage for Viña Mayu.

Giorgio Flessati was born in Trento, Italy to a long line of viticulturists and chose to continue the family tradition by completing his studies in oenology at San Michele all’Adige, Italy’s celebrated wine academy near Trento. Giorgio serves as winemaker at Mayu. He is also the General Manager and Chief Winemaker for Lagaria in Italy with projects in both northern Italy and Sicily.

Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley lies 325 miles north of Santiago and is Chile’s northernmost wine region. Elqui Valley borders the Atacama Desert, reputed to be the driest spot on earth. The valley’s lack of water vapor and a dearth of ambient light are ideal for stargazing as well as the cultivation of warm weather grapes, which thrive on the valley’s brilliant luminosity and pure water from irrigation projects that flow from Andean snow melt. Elqui Valley’s unique orientation and great variance in terroir provide a spectrum of environmental elements that account for an enormous diversity in the valley’s viticulture.

Elqui Valley possesses three distinct microclimates, Coastal, Mid-Valley, and High Mountain Range, which allow for the successful cultivation of a wide range of white and red grape varieties. In addition to coastal breezes, temperature extremes, differences in solar radiation, rainfall index, and soils, altitude plays a key role in the quality and variety of wine produced in the valley and allows wineries such as Mayu with viticultural and oenological expertise to craft wines of character and originality. With some of the cleanest air on earth and a high UV radiation index from the desert sun, Mayu produces grapes of incomparable color, flavor and polyphenol content.

Pedro Ximénez

Pedro Ximénez (also known by various aliases, including PX and Pedro Jiménez) is a Spanish grape variety most associated with the extraordinary dessert wines of Spain’s Denominación de Origen Montilla-Moriles, and it is highly regarded as a key player in many of Spain’s finest Sherries. Indigenous to Andalusia in southern Spain, Pedro Ximénez thrives in warm, dry climates. Although cultivated most extensively in Spain, Pedro Ximénez has made its way to Chile where it produces dry aromatic wines of exceptional character and to Australia where it yields fine botrytised dessert wines.

Boya, Leyda Valley, Pinot Noir (2015) :: $20 sale $18

Boya wines are made using fruit that is harvested early, in order to achieve a very bright, low alcohol, fresh style. For the reds, they choose only old barrels that have been used four to eight times, and they age the wine for a short period of eight to ten months. Natural acidity and good balance give Boya wines a remarkable sense of place, representing the cool coastal climate of Leyda Valley.

Viña Leyda is located at the west side of the Coastal Mountain Range of Chile, just seven kilometres from the Pacific Ocean and 95 kilometres west of Santiago. The Coastal Climate of Leyda presents a moderate rainy winter, with an annual rainfall of 250mm, and a dry summer. Single blocks receiving different levels of sunlight, results in a variety of ripeness and unique characteristics from each vineyard.

Tasting Notes

Intense nose of fresh fruits like strawberry, red cherries and plenty of floral aroma. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, good natural acidity and fresh berry fruits towards the finish. It is well balanced, clean and expressive. A coastal, approachable Pinot Noir that melds lively acidity with bright red fruits in a well-balanced, harmonious style.

Dark red. Perfumed aromas of fresh red and dark berries, dried rose, peppery spices and smoky minerals. Lively and precise on the palate, offering bitter cherry and black raspberry flavors that deepen and gain sweetness with air. Finishes with appealing sweetness, very good length, silky tannins and an echo of candied flowers. This is extremely easy to drink at this point but it has the stuffing to age.

Food Pairing

Try with grilled salmon, Gruyère cheese or wild mushrooms with polenta.

These prices good through Tuesday, May 23.

Friends, the Saturday tasting for this week is a classic: whiskey and beer. This week, that’s Baers Brewery and Laws Whiskey.

Bears began not with a bang but a whisper. On July 5, 2014 that whisper became Baere Brewing Company. They are a small, 2.5 Barrel Brewhouse proudly residing in a strip mall in the Baker District of Denver, Colorado. They have plans to expand, and we’re proud to introduce them to you at the “ground level.” 

Local legend distiller Laws is also small, but they are in high demand and have made strides to accommodate. We love them because they live by a few simple rules: “Craft over commodity. Quality over quantity. Whiskey above all.”

Come on down and enjoy these great beverages with us! We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it! Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.