John Duval’s last vintage at Penfold’s was the Grange 2002 but like most winemakers, he couldn’t bring himself to retire and when Ventisquero heard he was leaving Penfold’s they snapped him up to be a consultant, as they were just beginning to launch their syrah making venture in Chile. John has produced two wines, we tried the ’05 vintages of the Pangea which is 100% syrah and the Vertice, which is a blend of syrah and carmenere. We had the pleasure of tasting his wines along with Ventisquero’s Grey range matched with some very delicious food at Apsleys in the Lanesborough Hotel.
John made the ’05 Pangea using grapes from the Apalta vineyards in the Colchagua Valley. Apalta being the heart of Ventisquero’s premium wine growing region, produces wines that are elegant yet fresh and lively due to the higher elevation of the vineyards. Made up of 100% syrah and aged in 50% new French oak (John likes his oak) aged 18 months and then let to rest for one year in bottle, there were floral notes on the nose as well as full on berry fruits emanating from the glass. A full bodied red with a hit of pepper on it and of course very nicely integrated oak notes. Soft, round, supple – plush! would be a good way to describe this wine.
The ’05 Vertice was a pleasing, lighter wine, a blend of syrah and carmenere also from the Apalta vineyards, this wine was lighter in character and had a smooth chocolaty character to it with some nice spice and red chili pepper coming out. Again having those nice round tannins which make this such a mouthfilling wine. Having said that though, both wines are quite big and powerful, neither being a shrinking violet.
Both wines were paired with roasted pigeon royal with a pearl onion and mustard seed sauce with a special surprise of a hunk of foie gras hidden beneath the breast. What a fantastic surprise! I love foie and with the wines it was just sublime, the fruit in the wines cutting through the fat of the foie.
The Ventisquero Grey Range was paired with our first few courses. The Grey range is their premium range and made by their wine maker, Felipe Tosso. The grapes come from the Maipo Valley which is situated near the coast. I found the wines to be quite round and full. We tasted through most of the range. ’08 Grey Chardonnay, ’07 Grey Merlot, ’06 Grey Shiraz, ’07 Grey Cabernet, and the ’07 Grey Carmenere.
My favourite match was a carbonara fagotelli matched with the ’07 Grey Merlot and the ’06 Grey Shiraz. The fagotelli is one of Heinz Beck’s signature dishes at Aspleys and is basically a pasta pouch of liquid parmasan cheese. The chef recommended we eat the pasta with a spoon and after popping it into my mouth and biting down, I could see why. It was like an intensely cheesy tsunami of flavour engulfing my tastebuds. So, so good. Both wines were lush with smooth tannins, the merlot having very intense ripe red fruit character on the palate and nose while the shiraz had plummy, peppery spice notes to it. Ventisquero uses oak liberally and while it is evident, it’s not overpowering but you will find plenty of tobacco, vanilla and earthy notes in the wines.
Ventisquero and John Duval are producing some elegant, full bodied wines from the high valleys of Chile. I think they are proving that while the wines can be rather lush and full, there is still enough fruits and well rounded tannins to carry the wines through and make them extremely approachable food wines as well.