Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, DO Limari Valley, Chile

250 kilometers north of Santiago lies the wine region known as the D.O. Limari Valley, home to the El Molle people.

Limari Valley, Chile
   A hardy people, it was this indigenous people who taught modern winemakers how to produce fine wines @ 30 degrees latitude south (the same latitude as Cairo): plant in the ravines where there is shade from the sun and residual moisture. The Limari river brings run-off from the northern glaciers, but the Limari Valley itself is bordered by the Atacama desert; the driest place on Earth. Not what one could consider as a "prime" location for growing grapes.

   And yet they do. Most of the plantings in this valley began in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and only recently has the Chilean wine industry started to realize the potential of this special place. One of the most important factors is the proximity to the Pacific Ocean, less then 30 km away and bringing fresh, moist, moderating breezes. Vina Tabali ( has recently pushed that boundary and has new planting only 13 km from the ocean, on steep terraced vineyards - something that excites their chief winemaker Phillipe Muller as he compares the terracing to the terrain of Bordeaux.

   As to whether Pinot Noir will ever rise to the great heights here that Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc have risen to in Bordeaux - only time will truly tell. Asides from the obvious climatic impact that occurs being at this latitude and being so close to a desert, there is also the impact of soil type: the Limari Valley is home to a rare soil for Chile. Due to tectonic activity, former seabeds have been risen and the soil here is dominated by fossils and shells, rich chalk deposits overlaying fractured limestone. In comparison to other parts of the world, one would expect it to be a natural pairing with Chardonnay and perhaps Chenin Blanc, and indeed, Chardonnay is a star in the region as is Syrah. Perhaps Pinot Noir may only be a curiosity in this region, but an incredibly interesting "take" on the heart-break grape and I'm very glad I had the opportunity to taste Vina Tabali's handiwork.

2009 Tabali Reserva Especial Pinot Noir
D.O. Limari Valley, Chile
13.5% ABV, $24 CAD  ** GOOD VALUE**

soil:   rich chalk deposits over fractured limestone with gravel and sand topsoil
work:   all work from picking to sorting is 100% manual
aging:   12 months in 100% French oak
  • visual:   clean; light ruby-garnet core with slightly oxidized cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense developed bouquet of wild herbs (lavander grows nearby), gamey meat, new leather, rare roast beef, white truffle mushroom notes, candied fennel seed, plum compote, slight peppery finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, full red currant acids, moderate+ slightly green and grippy tannins, moderate alcohol, moderate- body, moderate+ intense developed flavors mimicking the nose with a substantial amount of tart red berries hitting the palate immediately - followed by deeper fungal, beefy, herbaceous notes. Very good balance and structure, medium (-) length
  • conclusion:   wine is drinking well now to late 2012... concentration of flavor isn't enough that I would want to keep it past that. Will not develop further.
  • PAIRINGS:   Serve this with your more subtle red meats... beef tenderloin is a classic, but if you don't want to spend that much money then consider a good cut of pork from a local supplier. Pork schnitzel with caramelized onions and fresh thyme would be great - the light fat in the pork with the moderate acids, the onions play off the fruit and the thyme will enhance the light herbaceous qualities
As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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