A few weeks ago I went to a wine workshop organized by the Chilean premium wine producer, Santa Rita Estates on the top floor of Millbank Tower. What a view! What was just as impressive was the vertical of their super premium wine, Casa Real. Going back to the first vintate 1989, we tasted through to the latest 2010.
Casa Real is a true “vintage” wine in that they only make the wine in exceptional years, just like Vintage Port or Vintage Champagne. Since 1989 there have been only 8 productions of Casa Real. The region is dear to the heart of the winemaker Cecilia Torres, who has been the winemaker of Casa Real since 1989. She thinks the vineyards, Alto Jahuel, are capable of producing such fine wines because of it’s terroir of alluvial soils above a layer of clay which gives excellent drainage and impart a minerality to the wines. The vines are 50 years old but still going strong.
The wine is 100% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak barrels for between 12 and 14 months. Tasting the wines, they all showed excellent balance- fruit, acidity, tannins all there existing harmoniously. One of the presenters noted that these wines are very exciting because they show the future and the ageability of Chilean wine. He predicts that in future, Chile will have more super premium wines appearing in the marketplace. Cecilia commented that her favourites were from the 1990’s as they exhibited light and elegant qualities and they haven’t dried out or lost their fruit character. Off all the vintages, the 1989 is her favourite.
We tasted 2010, 2008, 2005, 2002, 1999, 1997, 1995 and 1989. I started with the youngest and worked my way back. The 2010 and 2008 were full of ripe red fruits and bitter chocolate notes, the tannins still grainy but not unpleasing to the palate. I could taste already that they were going to develop into exceptional wines, the quality of the fruit disclosing itself already.
2005 was a great wine, complex with tertiary notes already starting to come into play, leather, spice, cedar – this was a wine with real character and developing very well.
I liked 2002 but a lot of my fellow tasters did not because of a pronounced brett note. When I say pronounced, it was there but not so strong that it was off-putting. Medicinal and very savoury with a much lower fruit profile. It reminded me of old- style Bordeaux, maybe that’s why I liked it so much.
Getting into the 1990’s, the 1999 was full of sweet spicy notes, herbal and mineral with a layer of black fruits and tannins that were not so much round as still a bit edgy. A lively wine, not showing it’s age at all. The flavours were deep and intense but here I could see what Cecelia was saying when she said the wines from the 90’s are light and elegant – the ’99 had a certain delicacy about it. It could also be because the wines of the 90’s had alcohol contents of around 13% while those from the 2000’s are averaging 14%.
1997 was another favourite, a calm wine and not as expressive as the ’99, this wine was a bit more elegantly seductive with beautiful tannins, well balanced oak and fruit that seemed to hang back a bit, taking it’s time to reveal itself to my palate.
1995 was not as smooth as the ’97 but it was still kicking, tertiary aromas predominate but I could still detect green peppery notes, olives and even a bit of sweet spice. The fruit was much less evident and I found this wine to be earthier then the others.
The 1989 was a bit of a surprise because after the ’95, I thought it might be a bit decrepit but I after tasting it, I could see why it was Ceceilia’s favourite. Fresh and clean, it was tasting like a much younger wine. Spicy with red and black fruit notes still very much in evidence. A supple wine, oak, fruit and tannins perfectly in tune with each other. This was a wine to be savoured and it seemed a shame to throw it away, so I didn’t 😉
The best thing about these wines is the price. Unlike their Argentine neighbours, Chile seems to be pricing their wines much more reasonably and the Casa Real wines are retailing for between £25- £35 pounds. If I saw one in the shops, you can bet I would snap it up. In particular, I would look for the ’89, but with that bretty note, I bet there’s lots more of the ’02 hanging around!
Do you like a touch of brett in your wine or is it just me? Leave me a comment either way!