South American wines pack a flavourful punch

One of the best wine dinners of the season took place at The Brasserie in conjunction with Jacques Scott, who brought some exceptionally great tasting and surprisingly great value wines to the table, for a Taste of the Andes that delivered the goods with style. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull was in attendance and reports.

When Jacques Scott decided they wanted to showcase their best value wines from Argentina and Chile they looked no further than The Brasserie, with Argentine chef Manuel at the helm ready to create a memorable trip to the Andes with every bite.
A delicate scallop ceviche Chilean-style graced diners’ plates to start the proceedings, the lightly cooked seafood redolent with green fresh flavours of cilantro and green onion. A Montgras Chardonnay Reserva from 2007 (CI$18.99) was duly poured to complement the dish.
Viña MontGras, in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, was established in 1992 by brothers Hernán and Eduardo Gras, together with their partner Cristián Hartwig. MontGras produces estate grown wines from their 200 hectares planted to vine in the heart of Chile’s wine-producing region in the Colchagua Valley, located between the Coastal Range and the Andes.
Lee Royle, wine sales professional did a great job of introducing each wine to diners and he described the wine thus: “This is 100 per cent Chardonnay and 40 per cent of the wine is aged for 11 months in French oak barrels. There’s a sweet aroma of pear and pineapple with just a hint of vanilla.” 
Not dwelling too long in white wine country (this is South America, after all, home to some superb big reds) diners plunged straight into an Empanada de Humita (a creamy corn filled pastry. Mexican Sergio Serrano, senior wine associate with Jacques Scott demonstrated the perfect way to eat one’s empanada – i.e. with the fingers, so diners duly followed.
The Salentein Malbec Reserve from 2006 (CI$25.99) which followed hails from the remote upper reaches of Argentina’s Uco Valley on the eastern slopes of the Andes, where Bodegas Salentein produces a remarkable collection of wines from vineyards planted at some of the highest elevations on the planet. From this lofty outpost, 65 miles south of the bustling city of Mendoza, Argentina’s winemaking capital, Bodegas Salentein has started to forge an international reputation for its fine wines.
The 100 per cent Malbec grapes for this wine are hand-harvested and eventually barrel aged for just over a year in French oak.
The result is a wine filled with ripe berries on the palate and cherries, plums and spice on the nose. Diners said they looked forward to drinking this in a year or two when the wine would no doubt mature even further.
Not for the faint-hearted, the Morcilla that followed was actually black pudding served with a refreshing chimichurri and a glass of the wonderful Salentein Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2004 (CI$25.99). Aged for 15 months in used French oak and then a further eight months in the bottle, this was a superb example of a well-priced Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon that would add lustre to any meat-filled dish without burning a hole in your pocket.
Lee describes the wine: “As can be expected, this is a big wine in every sense; a 14.5 per cent alcohol content definitely puts this in the full-bodied category. Inky purple/black in colour with jammy fruit aromas and even a whiff of grilled red pepper. Ripe tannins give us a smooth mouth-feel but with good structure and nice length.”
An eight ounce rib eye complete with Argentinean tortilla, tomato chutney and a cabernet-carmenere sauce was a fitting tribute to a dish that has made Argentina famous the world over. Served with a glass or two of Ninquen Antu Cabernet/Carmenere blend from Montgras Chile (CI$28.99), the dish was amplified to a super delicious level.
Grapes are sourced from MontGras’s elite ultra-premium category vineyards: 222 acres of prime vineyard atop Ninquén (means “plateau”) Hill in the heart of the Colchagua Valley.
Lee explains that the vines are just seven years old, located in soil that is rich in clay, strewn with rocks and stones. The grapes are 85 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon; 15 per cent Carmenere and are aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, then bottled unfiltered to preserve high fruit concentration, deep colour and intense aromas.
Lee states: “Again, another full-bodied, powerful wine with primary aromas of blackcurrant and plums rounded out with hints of clove and spice. Ripe but firm tannins on the palate, well balanced and a nice long finish.” 
Chef Manuel presented diners with an intriguing and refreshing end to his wonderful South American treat with a platter of sweet squash compote served with a selection of salty savoury cheeses to match. A glass of Intriga Cabernet Sauvignon from 2005 (CI$38.99) completed the dessert course. 
Dating back to 1865, the 568-acre Intriga property in Chile’s Maipo Valley is planted entirely with Cabernet Sauvignon vines ranging in age from 10 to 50 years. Alberto Antonini, one of Italy’s premier consulting winemakers, works closely with Intriga winemaker Cristian Correa on crafting this very limited production Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lee gives some background to the wine production: “The 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were aged for 14 months in a combination of French and American oak and the resulting wine gives a lovely currant and cassis aroma along with chocolate and a hint of mint. This is a rich and powerful wine with ripe, juicy tannins that give this wine an elegant texture.”
Look for more delicious wine dinners at The Brasserie in conjunction with Jacques Scott in the months to come.



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