Distinctively known to climatologists as the driest, non-polar geography on Earth, the Atacama Desert is 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 third of Chile, to an unpractised outside eye, the cultivating of fruit at the outer fringe of an expanding desertification seems a futile exercise? Undaunted, the innovative and resourceful Chileans are reapplying their ancient knowledge while employing modern 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 using organic and biodynamic farming practices. Healthier and economical in terms of production costs, the sum of this viticultural intelligence is discernibly imparting a fresh character into their premium wines. It also demonstrates Chile’s largely
unrivaled and fruitful export of new-age-winemaking 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.
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 winemakers like the heralded Felipe Müller is now yielding world-class, varietal wine in a range of accessible price points.
For this DéClassé recommended, limited-edition, Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah 2012, the fruit is sourced from an alluvial terrace (former seabed) of clay, chalk and limestone lying adjacent to the Limarí River; also acting as a conduit for mineral-rich meltwater that flows downslope from the Andes Mountains. This substantial wine has an appealing balance of tannin structure and intriguing softness; helped by a year maturing in a combination of new and second-use, French oak barrels (and now, an added year in bottle). This will continue to cellar for some time, but if you prefer your red wine with a touch of acidic brightness still present in the fruit—then start drinking!
TABALI RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #213538 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in Limari Valley, Chile
By: Viña Tabalí
Release Date: April 30, 2016
This fairly rounded Syrah gives off dark fruit aromas, juicy cherry and black plum flavours with the expected peppery spice and bitter chocolate notes that define the grape. Try with roasted lamb, braised short rib and leeks, grilled steak with Chilean salsa or bacon-wrapped chicken tornadoes and peppercorn sauce.