The central Atacama Desert is distinctively known to climatologists as the driest,
non-polar geography on Earth; desolate and desiccated to such extremes that
it’s biologically sterile, with some zones having never recorded any measurable
rainfall–ever. Here in the northern 3rd of Chile, to an unpractised outside eye, the
cultivating of fruit at the outer fringe of an expanding desertification seems likely
to be a futile exercise? Undaunted, the imaginative and resourceful Chileans are
applying their ancient understanding of the land while also employing innovative
and sustainable techniques such as drip irrigation–to excel in the face of these
challenges. Also blessed with a relatively pest-free environment, they’re naturally
exercising less-invasive, organic and biodynamic farming practices; both healthy
and more economical in terms of production costs. The sum of this viticulture
intelligence is imparting a discernibly fresh character into their premium wines,
while also compellingly demonstrating Chile’s new age, winemaking leadership;
now becoming an additional, largely unrivalled and fruitful export of expertise!
Just southwest of this hostile territory, the Limarí Valley stretches east to west
from the Andean foothills across to the Pacific shore. Open at the seaward end,
the valley acts as a funnel for the low-lying, billowing coastal fog named Garúa or
Camanchaca by the indigenous Aymara and Atacama Indians. In having passed
on the long understood benefits of this climate dynamic, modern descendants
continue to explore and exploit its magical properties both as air-borne irrigation
and air conditioning. Softly blanketing the vine stock with precious moisture each
morning, the fog then gives way to an equally significant cooling breeze later in
the day; providing some critical respite in an otherwise hot, semi-arid landscape;
emerging as one of the most promising of Chilean terroirs.
The growing of vines is not new to Limarí agriculture as some of these vineyards
were established in the mid-16th century; roughly corresponding with the arrival
of Spanish Conquistadors. In more recent ages, the majority of plantings here
are destined to produce table grapes or lesser grades of wine grape suitable for
the distilling of Chile’s trademark brandy, Pisco, also generically referred to as aguardiente (firewater). A quarter century or so on from the introduction in the
1990’s of Noble varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and
Syrah, this maturing vine stock coupled with the savvy of wine makers like the
much heralded Felipe Müller, is now yielding world-class, varietal wine in a range
of accessible price points.
For this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of Tabali Reserva Syrah 2012,
the fruit is sourced from an alluvial terrace of clay, chalk and limestone silt lying
adjacent to the Limarí River; acting as a conduit for mineral-rich meltwater that
flows downslope from the Andes Mountains. This intriguing and substantial wine
has an appealing balance of tannin structure and softness; helped by a yearlong
maturing in second-use, French oak barrels. This will cellar for some time, but if
you prefer red wines with an acidic brightness—then start drinking immediately!
TABALI RESERVA SYRAH 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #662692 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Made in Limari Valley, Chile
By: Vina Tabali
Release Date: October 3, 2015
This fairly rounded Syrah gives off dark fruit aromas, juicy cherry and black plum
flavours with expected pepper and bitter chocolate notes that define the grape.
Try with roast lamb, braised short rib in leeks or bacon-wrapped tornadoes.
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