Fresh fruit from foreign places

Edit: As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you. 

IN the Irish Examiner today (Saturday July 31, 2010) I’m taking a quick look at Torres Chile…

Torres Santa Digna gewurz

Santa Digna Gewurz

Get to the point, Blake. Oh, okay, sorry. If you want one recommendation for a fab bottle,  check out Torres Santa Digna Gewürztraminer (RRP  €12.99). It’s a creamy delicious white just made for sipping on its own or to accompany racier spicily-seasoned seafood dishes. The gewürztraminer grape can be a bit OTT, as it inclines to a scent of rose petals which at its overpowering worst can come across like an explosion in a courtesan’s boudoir. But here that tendency has been tamed to great effect, leaving you with a touch of an evocative, slightly heady scent giving way to fresh floral flavours augmented by a gorgeous touch of spice and a slinky, silky texture. For stockists see the list at the foot of this page. Can I continue now? Ah yeah, go on so. Right. Well Torres, the Catalunyan wine giant, has been in Chile since 1979, when Miguel A Torres effectively kick-started the Chilean wine industry. The wine empire has certainly made hay with that astonishingly prescient and courageous greenfield start in south America, unencumbered by the often contradictory and unhelpful mish-mash of traditions and laws governing how wine is made here in Europe.  However, this open wine-making regime was also open to competitors and, commercially at least, Torres Chile has been eclipsed by a slew of more recent entrants. But now the Curicó-based Chilean operation looks set to be re-energised by the appointment of Miguel A’s son, Miguel Torres Maczassek, as its head. A marketing specialist, he has worked for the likes of Danone and a perfume maker as well as in the wine industry, including five years as marketing director of Torres back home in Spain. Miguel was in Ireland last week to present a handful of combined tasting-and-talks. I was particularly glad to drop into one of them, as I was unable to visit the Torres stand at this year’s Wines Of Chile tasting in Dublin. Having the  head of the rapidly-growing Chilean department of the massive Torres empire on hand was pretty posh, as catch-ups go.

Miguel Torres Maczassek

By the way, you may see him referred to as Miguel Torres Jnr to distinguish him from his (so far) more famous dad. This is a kind concession to us English-speakers  who may be baffled both by his unexpectedly German-sounding last  name, and by the Iberian practice of a son taking it from his mother – in this  instance, mum is the artist Waltraud Maczassek. Torres is a born communicator, warm and self-effacing (typically, he apologised for his poor English which was of course impeccable, as is his command of a fair handful of other languages, apparently). His talk included one of the best summaries I’ve heard of Chile’s extreme geography, and where wine-growing fits into it, including a glimpse of the winery’s astonishing-looking new terraced vineyards in the Empedrado sub-region. I’ll be adding a post here soon about Chile’s improbable geography. It’s fun, believe me. Anyway, the tasting featured a few upmarket numbers which are far too pricey for my pocket, such as the Cordillera range (which Miguel told us are in the €30 to €35 bracket) and Manso de Velasco which will cost you €45 a pop.  Not alone are these simply too dear for the people who are supposed to be in charge of the wine market (us), but I’m not convinced they’d stand up convincingly to their similarly stratospherically-priced counterparts should you be so inclined. I’m not. I’d rather celebrate my ordinary life with a decent bottle of wine I can afford.

Santa Digna cab sauv Rosé

Santa Digna cab sauv Rosé

Which is where the Santa Digna range comes in. It was a pleasure to revisit some of them. The two whites and single rosé shown at the tasting are excellent examples of moderately-priced quality. In fact those three beautifully-nuanced wines are the entire point of my piece in the Examiner today.

One bit I didn’t understand is how in July 2009 Torres listed the price of the bottles in the Santa Digna range as €11.99, and now in July 2010 quote €12.99. There is no good reason for that price to go up. It should be going down. Having said that, I’m guessing that the real prices in stores may be considerably less, with that price pitched artificially high to enable the illusion of “special offers”. It’s a pity if that’s the case as I’d prefer us to buy wines for what they offer buck-for-buck without that illusory come-hither of the money-off “deal”. I still think the Santa Digna range earn their place in our affections though.

You may be familiar with the Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. I’m a big fan. A rosé for red-drinkers, it’s as fresh-from-the-ice-bucket as you ought to expect or desire on a warm day. But there’s no concession on the gorgeous tart character of the cabernet  grape. The temperate Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc is a handsome, nuanced take on the grape. Sometimes the electric piquancy that I love in sauv blanc can be just… too much. This on the other hand isn’t showily pungent, but is a pretty, fruity number with a touch of that moreish texture all three of today’s recommended wines seem to share.

Is that okay? Yeah, grand. All the best now. Goodbye.

♦ Bottles from the Santa Digna range (rrp €12.99) are available in Ireland as follows.

Nationwide: Selected Supervalu; Selected Centra; O’Briens; Next Door, and at the Fine Wines Group’s 19 stores in Limerick, Galway, Ennis, Dublin, Clonmel and Cork. Cork: Bradley’s of North Main Street, Cork; O’Donovans 10 off-licences around city and county; O’Driscolls;  O’Sullivans, Blarney;   The 1601, Kinsale. Greater Dublin: Mitchells; Gibneys Malahide; Deveney’s Portmarnock; Martin’s Fairview; Molloys. Ennis: Griffins, O’Keefe’s, Jaynes. Galway: Harvest Group. Limerick: Mac’s; Fine Wines. ♦

The tasting featured a few upmarket numbers which are too pricey for my pocket, such as the Cordillera range (which Miguel told us are in the €30 to €35 bracket) and Manso de Velasco which will cost you €45 a pop.  Not alone are these simply too dear for the people who are supposed to be in charge of the wine market (us), but I’m not convinced they’d stand up convincingly to their similarly stratospherically-priced counterparts should you be so inclined. I’m not. I’d rather celebrate my ordinary life with a decent bottle of wine I can afford. Which is where the Santa Digna range comes in. The two whites and single rosé shown at the tasting are excellent moderately-priced wines.

Edit: As of October 2012, I am no longer drinks columnist with the Irish Examiner Weekend. See the home page of this blog for more details. I’m leaving much of the info I posted here in case it might be helpful. Thank you. 

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