Chilean Wines 101: Concha y Toro

Finally a little sun here in Santiago! Yesterday was raining and gloomy and I needed a little sun this morning to bring back my faith in humanity.

Despite the drizzle, Saturday morning my fellow wine tasting companions (winos) Katie, Tali and Nathan and I set out down the green line at 9am to investigate one of Chile most famous wineries, Concha y Toro. Even though my feet were cold, the drizzle actually made for a pretty tour. Felt a bit like we were in Ireland.

Yeah yeah, okay, the absolute best time to go would be a sunny, warm Fall day when the leaves on the vines are changing colors, but why not go again? There are many wineries in Chile to visit and I think it is an essential part of my education that I investigate them all in the hope that if I hear about wines over and over, maybe some of it will subconsciously enter my brain. Essential. 🙂

Because, the truth is, although I think I’ve made some heavy strides in the food writing world, and collected some dorky, Seattle-focused foodie vocabulary (you got lightly seared, flambé, grass-fed, foie gras, reduction, al fresco, resto, blah blah blah) I’m totally lost in the world of wine. I blame this on my parent’s lack of alcoholism. Curse you! (I kid, I kid…)

The one time I got  little wine knowledge happening in my brain is when I did some fact checking at Seattle mag on wine labels, but that was about it. I also remember being really nervous because I had to call the winery and pronounce French words. It was interesting.

ANYWAY. The tour was lovely albeit cold and the wine was fabulous. I’m not a great listener or very mature, so I didn’t learn very much, but here’s the very barebones information I gathered:

1. The wine is called Castillero de Diablo because originally the owner of the winery found out locals were stealing his precious wine!! Oh no! Preying on their suspicious, ignorant ways, he decided to dress up like the devil to scare them off! Shaking in fear, the local them deemed his house the house of the devil. What a sweet story!


2. To be called a reserve wine, the wine must be aged for a minimum of 8 months and can be aged up to two years.

3. Red wines are aged in oak barrels, but most wine whites are not. They are aged in stainless steel barrels. This does not reduce quality, but it simply better for the white wines. Particularly Malbecs.

4. Most Chilean red wines are grown near Santiago, where the weather gets very hot and very cool during the year. This combined with the type of soil (terroir), fresh clean Andes water, and the barrier created by the mountains creates the perfect atmosphere for reds.

4. Chilean white wines are grown near Valparaiso, nearer the ocean. The white wines need less extremes in temperature and the cool ocean air is good for the grapes.

5. When tasting wines, they may ask you to look for “acidity” “dryness” “earthy undertones” or even “fruity hints” in additional to smell and body. You may or may not taste/notice any of these depending on how much wine you’ve had. Wines with a strong acidity go well with pasta. Noted.

6. Do not drink the whole glass of wine before your tour guide describes it and says “salud”. It makes you look dumb. Cough. Again, noted.

7. Wines go through a cycle! This is my very simplified version A) Add yeast to the juice  B)Yeast turns sugar into alcohol C)Some other stuff happens D)They put it in barrels for a long time.

8. Finally, do not go on a wine tour without eating. You’ll feel dizzy and super hungry and probably buy a churro.

After the tour, we pooled together our meager teacher earning and purchased one bottle of Carmenere for the road. And on the way to Tali and Nat’s we stocked up on cheese, bread, and ham (obvio) and went to town! A perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday. Inside, eating wine and cheese.

Until next time…


Cheese Tray


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