Yesterday I attended the New York Wine City (NYWC) tasting of MOVI, an association of smaller Chilean wine producers stretching from the northern limit of wine growing to the far South with the expectation that there would be some exciting red wines, but no Rieslings of any note. How wrong I was! The very first wine that the group’s representative, Jean-Charles Villard – yes, that really is the name of a Chilean winemaker! – poured for me was the dry 2014 Riesling from Meli in the Maule Valley. I’d tasted earlier vintages of this wine and placed it clearly behind the wines of Cono Sur, but with the latest vintage Meli has at least matched the established star of Chilean Riesling. Their 2014 was brimming with lemon, lime and floral aromas. The balance of juicy, creamy and crisp elements on the palate was spot on even the slight hint of the bitterness in the finish accentuated the freshness. The wine tasted a bit lighter than its 13° alcohol, which is always a good sign with young dry Rieslings. It was an uplifting discovery that made me feel confident that Chile and South America is realizing its Riesling potential, even if the wines don’t have a high profile compared to all those big reds.
As I was leaving the MOVI team wanted me to tell them what my three favorite wines at the tasting were and I told them to read this blog posting. So here they are in alphabetical order: Meli, 2014 Riesling; Trabun 2010 Syrah; Villard 2012 Le Grand Pinot Noir. Interestingly, none of them are “typical” for Chile, whatever that word means in a wine industry that has rapidly finding its way since Pinochet was replaced by a democratically elected president in 1990. The MOVI tasting prove that Chile’s wines are far more diverse than is widely perceived, and even in the field of big tannic reds from Bordeaux varieties there was a wide stylistic range. Jean-Charles Villard told me just how rapid development has been in the Casablanca Valley where his vineyards are. When his father planted the first Pinot Noir vines in this region in the early 1990s there were just 80 acres of vineyards there. Now there are more than 6,000 acres! By the way, his name isn’t so strange for a Chilean when you think that the great hero of Chile’s war of independence against Spain in the early years of the 19th century was Bernardo O’Higgins!