Tag Archives: Wine

Antiyal: Starting the new year with the Son of the Sun

2010 was a rough year for Chile… so it seems only fitting to start 2011 fresh with a wine that evokes hope and light for the new year.

Antiyal 2007

Bottle Nº 1603 of biodynamically managed Antiyal 2007, from Maipo Alto, Chile

When you think about food & wine pairing, do you think about the occasion as well? I do. So when I was choosing the first wine we would drink on 01/01/11, I wanted it to be meaningful. I checked through all the special wines in my “cellar” (ok, so it’s a closet) for just the right one.

It had to be Chilean—my heart, soul, and life are here. I love Chile, and I love its wines. I wouldn’t dream of kicking off the new year with anything BUT a Chilean wine!

I considered the different icon wines: Almaviva, Lapostolle Clos Apalta, Errázuriz Don Max, Viu Manent El Incidente, Tarapacá Tarapacay, Canepa Genovino, San Pedro Cabo de Hornos, Seña, Concha y Toro Don Melchor, Cousiño Macul Lota, Errázuriz Kai… there were many to choose from, all excellent, many that truly evoke Chile, not only in  vitivinicultural terms, but in the emotional, cultural, and historic sense.

I finally narrowed it down to two: VIA Wines Chilcas Las Almas Carmenere 2008 and Antiyal 2007.

Las Almas is a Carmenere—hard to get much more Chilean than that! And the word “alma” means “soul” in Spanish, and the idea appealed to me. 2010 really was rough; it built character—it “strengthened our constitution” (as a close friend would say), and I’m truly hopefully that 2011 will have more heart, more soul. Chile’s collective “alma” could use a boost and Las Almas was a strong contender.

But then there was Antiyal. Son of the Sun in Mapudungun, the language of Chile’s native Mapuche peoples. A biodynamically made wine from carefully tended grapes in Maipo Alto. A wine that I have an emotional bond with. I know the owners—organic/biodynamic guru-winemaker Alvaro Espinoza and his wonderful wife Marina Ashton—and have been to the winery many times—have even danced on the roof by the light of the moon.

Biodynamics works by recognizing the very close tie between the earth and the cosmos, and after a year in which Mother Nature was very restless, it just seemed right to invoke the Son of the Sun to appeal to her good nature for a calmer, more peaceful 2001.

Antiyal 2007 it was then.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not just about emotions. This is one exceptional wine from Maipo Alto. Thick deep plum-red legs dribble slowly down the glass as aromas of rich, dark fruit waft out of it. Blackberries, plum, prune, with a pinch of spice, licorice, and hint of leather on the complex and heady nose. No need to stop there! It’s lush and juicy with more plum and blackberry on the palate, with a wonderfully long finish.

The tannins are there-but nicely balanced and sure enough of themselves to make their presence known without stealing the show. My tasting notes say “a ripple of muscle under a flowing silk shirt” (Can you tell I’d been watching Chinese movies?).

Delicious acidity keeps all that richness bright and juicy, although the alcohol is high enough that I put it in the fridge on this warm summer evening (New Year’s is summer here in Chile) to bring the temperature down to a very pleasing  16ºC / 60º-ish F.

Antiyal 2007:

53% Carmenere
23% Cabernet Sauvignon
25% Syrah
14.5% alcohol
Unfiltered and made with 100% organically grown, biodynamically managed grapes.


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Chile’s Culinary Front: the Best of 2010

It’s that time of year again: Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper’s Wikén magazine has announced its favorite Chefs and Restaurants for 2010. Here’s the skinny–in English– along with a bonus track…

El Mercurio's Revista Wikén, Aug 27, 2010

Cover Revista Wikén, Aug 27, 2010

At our house we always read Wikén, the weekly food, wine & entertainment supplement that comes with El Mercurio every Friday, but there is one edition per year that we especially look forward to. And today was the day: the Annual Ranking of Chile’s best chefs and restaurants.

You can read the whole thing yourself in Spanish here: (El Wikén: Mejores Chefs y Restaurantes 2010), but I’ll give you the basics in English right here, complete with comments as a bonus track. All restaurant addresses and phone numbers are listed in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Click to discover what the crew at El Mercurio (and I) think about the Best Chefs, Best Restaurants, and up-and-coming people, trends & foodie hangouts in Chile er, Santiago, er, kinda the same thing… ? What do YOU think?

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Just Say NO to Crispy Wine

¿Vino quebradizo?

Chilean Spanish uses lots of words borrowed from other languages, especially English, and, not being a purist, I generally have no problem with that—why would I? English is full of “borrowisms.”

But when it comes to “winespeak,” there’s one misused crossover that drives me up the wall. Wine is not, cannot, and never will be “crispy.” And I’ll tell ya why… Continue reading


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Casa Silva puts Colchagua’s Cool Coast on the Map

Terroir is a big thing in the wine world… It has to do with wines of origin… wines that reflect the geological and geographical and climatic conditions of the vineyards to create wines that cannot be reproduced any place else. Chile has produced wine for more than 450 years, but in the last 20 or so, it has engaged in the search for new places to grow wine grapes… and in a country full of amazingly diverse little nooks and crannies, there is plenty to be discovered!

Casa Silva Cool Coast Flight Plan

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Back Talk on Back Labels

By Margaret Snook, May 10, 2009

Walk into any decent grocery store, or better yet a specialty shop, and you’ll find hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. How to decide? You could (1) know what you’re looking for, grab it and run, (2) ask someone who works there and hope that they know their stuff—and fortunately, they increasingly do, or (3) check out the bottle and decide for yourself.

There’s a heck of a lot of marketing going on in and on a wine bottle. Dozens of decisions have been made about the size and shape, the color and weight, the depth of the punt, the type of closure (cork, screw cap, etc.), and then, of course, the most obvious of all, the label, or better put, labels.

The role of the front label is clear enough. It has to be eye-catching and provide certain required information: identifying characteristics and a design that hopefully (though not always successfully) attracts sufficient attention to entice someone to pick it up and read the back label. And that, right there, is where too many wineries fall short and miss the good-marketing boat. Inadequate information, unattractive presentation, excessively small font size, and poor translations mean the bottle goes back on the shelf, and the consumer moves on to the next bottle—and the next—searching for something that sounds interesting enough to walk it down the aisle to the register.

Back label: clincher or a clanker?

A back label is the place where a winery gets to tell consumers what’s actually in the bottle! It’s their final chance to clinch the sale by convincing us that this is the wine that we want on our table tonight… But, Oh! the missed opportunities! What do we get? Time and time again, we turn the bottle over and find yet another densely printed back label—way too often in unreadable 4-point font. Get out your magnifying glass, and you’ll learn about family history, soil textures, climate types, and canopy management, but little or nothing about what the wine tastes like.

True Example:

This blend of ___, ___, ___ (fill in 3 varieties) is a limited production wine from our ____ (very long name) vineyard in the ____ Valley. It was aged for ___ months in _____ (fill in French or American) oak barrels.

That’s it? Some 40 words dedicated to selling the wine. Take away the varietal and valley information repeated from the front label and what do we get? 14 words that tell us that the winery happens to own a vineyard and some oak barrels. So what? —CLANK— Would that convince anyone to shell out hard-earned lucas (that’s “bucks” in Chilean) for an unknown wine? Doubt it.

Back labels are small to begin with, and there’s not much room left over after including the bar code, warning labels, and other obligatory legal yada-yada, but why not dedicate that precious remaining space to the consumer? Leave the geek talk for the tech sheets that go out to buyers and distributors who might actually have some idea of what it all means. Tell the consumers something they really want to know, and give them what they need: plain language information they can use to make a decision on buying your wine!

So, on behalf of consumers everywhere, I’ve taken the liberty of drafting the following letter:

Dear Wineries:

We, the wine drinkers of the world, have a bone to pick with you. We want to try new wines, we’d love to experiment, and are even willing to try yours, but you’re not making it very easy on us. We are overwhelmed by volume and selection and frankly, more than a bit confused. We like your bottle, your label caught our eye, and we look to the back label to convince us to take it home… but we don’t know what “alluvial” means. Or “spur-pruned.” Or “mid-palate” either, for that matter, and we certainly don’t know what they have to do with anything we want to drink with dinner. And you know what? We don’t care how many hectares you have planted, unless of course we discover that this wine is really good and you’re trying to tell us that there’s plenty more where this came from. And sure, while it’s nice to have a bit of back story about your family and your winery’s architecture, or the llama that eats the grass, what we really want to know is what’s in the bottle.

We aren’t asking for much—just a little useful information that will give us a hint about what to expect from this wine. What does it taste like? Is it fruity? Oaky? An easy-drinking fun wine for movie night or a sophisticated, complex wine that will impress our guests? Is it bright and acidic and perfect for ceviche? Rich and heady and ideal with lamb? A refreshing aperitif best served chilled on a summer afternoon? Give us some ideas! Do a bit of marketing! Help us decide!

We’ve got the money and want to try something new. Please give us a hand. Convince us!

Cheers, Salud,

The Wine Drinking Public

Consumers: Support your local chapter of United Wine Drinkers of the World (UWDW) by leaving a comment here!


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De Martino 2008 Legado Sauvignon Blanc

Legado Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Legado Sauvignon Blanc 2008

By Margaret Snook, December 26, 2008

Herbal and citrusy on the nose. Bright, fresh, crisp–even a bit spritzy–although that won’t last long. Juicy, juicy, juicy and seems just a tad sweet.

Great aperitif. Great with ceviche–ok, that’s a no brainer, but try it too with something shrimp-and-Thai (I’m thinking a Thai shrimp soup with coconut milk and lemon grass). This would also be good with salty foods- Serrano ham, blue cheese, anchovies (Caesar Salad) or fresh foods that are slightly bitter, such as an arugula salad with bits of crisp bacon, blue cheese and strawberries.

A great choice for a Chilean dish would be a green bean and carrot tortilla… forget the Mexican bread… in Chile a tortilla is made Spanish style with egg (like a frittata), cooked til set in a skillet, flipped, and cooked til set on the last side then slid out of the pan onto a serving platter.

Denomination of Origin: Casablanca Valley
Winemaker: Marcelo Retamal


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Wine by the Light of the Moon

Biodynamic-inspired winery Antiyal celebrates ten years of winemaking in Chile’s Maipo Valley.

By Margaret Snook, December 13, 2008

Moon over the Maipo

Moon over the Maipo

One of my favorite things about living in Chile is the opportunity to do such amazing things as dance by the light of the full December moon on the roof of a biodynamic winery in the Andes. How much cooler can life get?

Last night winemaker Alvaro Espinoza–Chile’s organic guru–and his wife Marina Ashton invited a couple hundred people to join them in celebrating 10 years of their personal wine project, Antiyal.

It all began in 1996 when they planted some Cabernet Sauvignon in their front yard. Two years later the first Antiyal–or “Son of the Sun”–was born and quickly gained fame as Chile’s first “garage wine.”  They have since bought another 4 hectares down the road and closer to the Andean foothills, where they planted more vines, built a new bodega, and moved their llamas up the hill.

It’s all organic and biodynamically managed, which means, among other things, that the lunar cycles play a key role in the winegrowing process, so it was absolutely no coincidence that they chose Friday, December 12 for the celebration. Not only was it a gorgeous summer evening perfect for a high-altitude roof-top party, it was also the date when the moon was closest to the Earth.

The guests were also in for a special treat. The popular Chilean singer-songwriter Joe Vasconcellos performed and closed his generous set with the his hit song “Hijo del Sol Luminoso” (Son of the Shining Sun) in honor of the wine of honor.

Anityal is a well-balanced premium blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Syrah whose proportions change from year to year. I tasted the latest vintage–the 2006– at the party (not the best conditions for serious tasting, but perfect for the occasion! Wine is made to be enjoyed, not analyzed). It’s rich and full-bodied, without being overblown. There’s plenty of red berry fruit with enough tannins and complexity to find a perfect partner in Marina’s incredible chicken liver pate topped with a red-wine & raspberry reduction.

Hmmm- life’s good.

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