Published 28 September 2010
Upon receiving an invite from Concha y Toro, and knowing little about Cono Sur, I was intrigued to see what was going on. The event was a pairing of Cono Sur’s wines with Japanese cuisine.
Unfortunately, due to striking tube workers in London on the day of the tasting, I’d only manage to catch half of the picture (and very sore feet): I missed the presentation by Adolfo Hurtado, Cono Sur’s Chief Winemaker.
In short, Cono Sur is a range of wines made by Adolfo Hurtado from grapes grown all over Chile. And, on the whole, Hurtado is doing a good job. The sparkler from Bio Bio has a pronounced, but delicate, mousse. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, mousse is the frothy sensation that you experience when you put sparkling wine in your mouth. Cono Sur’s was pronounced, yet delicate (noticeably frothy, but soft). There wasn’t much acidity coming through.
Following the sparkler were 3 whites: Riesling, Viognier and a Gewurztraminer. The various tasters in the room had different views on these wines. Personally I struggled to get much aroma from the first two, possibly because the wines were being served too cold. The Riesling had a biting acidity, low sweetness, and was slightly cloying. Adolfo Hurtado believes that “the aromas will come through after about a year [in the bottle].” The Viognier had a high-ish acidity, but none of the cloying effect of the Riesling. Hurtado believes it to have “good ageing potential”; I’d happily drink the lot tomorrow with the Gyoza to which it was paired.
But my favourite of the whites was the Gewürz from Casablanca Valley which had striking aromas of mango. Unfortunately, you may struggle to find it unless you live in Japan which devours an amazing 60% of its production! Although my co-tasters seemed to agree that the spicy tuna maki sushi was a perfect match, I thought the spices were too overpowering; even with the wine’s powerful mango and tropical fruit flavours. One lovely story from another taster, which has nothing to do with the tasting, was that a customer once told him that the pickled ginger was great to eat before eating fish: because it “would kill any bacteria in the fish”. Step aside Listerine, here comes pickled ginger juice.
It’s no secret that my passion is for reds, and so it was with excitement that we moved on to a Pinot Noir, Carmenère Rose, and Carmenère red. And the Pinot was the best of the day. From its one week of Carbonic Maceration, the wine was a great example of Pinot: light, with lovely acidity, light tannin and good length. If you’ve not had Cono Sur before, or have had it and not liked it, give the Pinot a try. See if it changes your mind. The rosé (85% Carmenère, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) and red (100% Carmenère) were a little disappointing after the Pinot. They were ok though.
And the food? Andaz, a swanky hotel in London’s Liverpool Street, was formerly called The Great Eastern Dining Room (which was a much better name in my opinion). Although not cheap, TGEDR was a good place for lunch, so I was dubious as to whether I’d like the change. But what I ate was very impressive. I only sampled the food, and it was being made for a small group of tasters, but I’d definitely go there for dinner to see if their everyday output was as good.
Quick fact: a flock of around 1,000 geese live on the Cono Sur estate and, during budding and flowering time, they are allowed to wander freely amongst the vines, picking off pests and insects. But, during the ripening period, they are kept well away from the vines: they love a grape or two! I’d be tempted to pop one in the oven and crack open a bottle of Cono Sur Pinot Noir…