TV scheduling might not be at its peak for anyone not in love with the World Cup, so it’s only right us foodies get a fix too. With the world’s eyes focused on Brazil, and South America on the world’s stage I wanted to bring one of its (relative) underdogs in wine (and football) to the fore.
Don’t be fooled by this underdog status however. Chile’s high-energy and attack-minded football will make them one of the most watchable teams at the tournament this summer, just as their incredible diversity make them an increasingly exciting and innovative nation for wine.
If there were ever a truly unadulterated marvel of the wine world, Chile would be the one. Its length, (2,656 miles or 4,274km from north to south), combined with the natural forces of the Atacama dessert to the north, the Andes Mountains to the East, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west all make Chile a vinicultural utopia with incredible range in terroirs. These all-round defences also allow for some of most widespread organic practices in the wine world today because they provide natural barriers from pests and diseases. In fact, Chile was one of the only places on Earth not to be affected by the vine pest phylloxera in the 1850s,which wiped out most vine stocks across the planet.
The vineyards of Chile have enough variety to make your eyes (and mouth!) water, yet it’s hard to conjure up anything past the juicy table wine merlots and cabernets that clog up the wine shelves in supermarkets. However, times are changing. In a country once satisfied with simply churning out one-dimensional sun-baked reds, there are now delicate pinots, sauvignon blancs and even rieslings being produced here, and the quality is fantastic. Over the last 20 years growers and winemakers have started to explore Chile’s cooler climates and take advantage of its vast potential. In super-cool Casablanca, situated to the west of the capital Santiago, exciting progress is afoot.
For example, Cono Sur’s 2007 pinot noir displays gloriously fresh summer fruits while the age and cool climate give the wine firm acidity and elegance. Their 2007 riesling is pretty superb too; laced with clean grapefruit notes and a beautiful minerality, perfect for a sunny day.
So if you’re in your local wine shop or supermarket and reaching for your usual tipple, pause for a minute and browse the lesser known Chilean wines. You might just be pleasantly surprised, and, who knows, could this be their year to gatecrash Brazil’s party and become far more than an attractive sideshow at the World Cup this summer.
Header image by Leonora Enking
For more countries from Jamie’s Foodie World Cup, click here.