Last week I headed down for a lunch thrown by Bancroft Wines for one of their wineries, Bouchon, based down in the Maule Valley in Chile. It was an invite I really wanted to accept because it was down at a restaurant, called Frenchie, that I’d heard was outstanding. Does that sound bad? Surely I should have been more pumped about tasting the wine. Well the reason I can happily admit that the restaurant was the big draw initially was that the wines were so good and interesting that they were all I was thinking about afterwards!
Chilean Trade Up
Chilean wines are going through a halfway house moment at the minute. For years they’ve been one of the most reliable growers of ripe, easy drinking, entry-level wine. That’s great for a while, but at some point the better and more hungry winemakers want the world’s wine-o’s to take note of the better stuff too.
Well Bouchon is definitely one of them, and in the line up of wines we had were some very well made Bordeaux blends, a very lovely Carmenere (a grape Chile wants to be their “Argentina’s Malbec” kind of success), and first up for dinner was a couple of wines from a grape called Pais. Arguably the most exciting thing on the table.
Origins of Pais
Pais was brought over by the Spanish donkeys years back when they were colonizing South America. It’s originally from Tenerife but found a home in Chile and became a grape used to make a lot of the table wine that gets drunk in the country. Premium growers got rid of it, and Bouchon was one of them.
Well, you can’t keep a good vine down. Wild Pais started growing in the woodlands next to the vineyards, and was left to train itself around the trees. They have to harvest it with ladders as the canopy has grown high in order to get to the sunlight. But once harvested it makes a top quality Pais. I’d heard Pais described as a bit of a Marmite wine, you either love it or hate it. But no one round the table was a hater. The red grape made a refreshingly citrus (pink) white wine, and a fruity and earthy red. Great stuff and looking forward to seeing more of it around.