Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Viva Emiliana! (Part 2)

In my previous post, I introduced Emiliana Organic Vineyards.  My conversation continues with Fernando Pavón of Emiliana and Liam Doody of Diamond Estates, their agent in most of Canada...

Reviewing Emiliana’s website before sitting down with Fernando, I was struck by the importance that Emiliana places on terroir. New World producers don’t often talk about terroir, except dismissively, perhaps because understanding terroir is something that takes generations. I asked Fernando whether Emiliana’s devotion to Biodynamics accelerates its understanding of terroir. Fernando wasn’t sure whether that was the case or not. Emiliana’s commitment to both Biodynamics and terroir are complementary aspects: It’s the vineyard, and not the winemakers, that drives how the wine expresses itself; the winemakers adapted to the vineyard and the terroir, not the other way around. It’s an Old World approach. Perhaps Biodynamics draws winemakers who believe in “terroir”?

Just as Malbec is now closely identified with Argentina, Chile has its own “signature” varietal: Carmenère. Fernando says that Chilean winemakers are convinced that Carmenère has the potential to make great wines and be a premium-brand varietal. Chilean winemakers look with concern at how the global marketplace perceives Argentinean Malbec. Like Carmenère, Malbec can make great wines. But the market is full of very ordinary Malbec as well. For many consumers, this can be confusing: if there’s an $8 Malbec, how can there be an $80 Malbec? Chilean winemakers want to avoid that confusion for Carmenère, by moving Carmenère-labelled wines into a narrower, higher status space.

We tasted 3 Emiliana wines, released by Vintages earlier in March. Before I get to my tasting notes, something similar struck me with all 3 of these blended wines: each varietal brought its typicity to the blend with enough assertiveness that it was quite straightforward to identify it. I haven’t had that experience very often with blended wines.

EMILIANA NOVAS WINEMAKER'S SELECTION CHARDONNAY/VIOGNIER/MARSANNE 2007, Casablanca Valley (Chile); #63909; Price: $18.95; 15.0% ABV
This is like a trip to a tropical island. Brilliant yellow, aromas of pineapple, mango, pear and ripe peach along with honeysuckle and oaky aromas of almond, butter, and toffee. Full-bodied, it’s luscious, full, and round. Acidity from the Marsanne shows up on the back palate, but not quite enough to balance the richness of the tropical and oak flavours. Good length, the pineapple and pear flavours dominate through the finish. If you like this style, you'll love this wine.  It’s Chardonnay (65%) with a couple of Southern Rhone varietals, Viognier (20%) and Marsanne (15%).

EMILIANA NOVAS LIMITED SELECTION CARMENÈRE/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Colchagua Valley (Chile); #66746; Price: $14.95; 14.5% ABV
Typical aromas of jammy fruit (blueberry, cassis, black cherry, fig) from the Carmenère (54%), with sweet spice (cinnamon), clove, coffee, and chocolate, and a hint of fresh herbaceousness. The Cabernet Sauvignon (46%) brings some good acidity and there are some suede tannins. Flavours of cassis, black cherry, sweet spice and chocolate. Full-bodied, the richness of the Carmenère fruit dominates at the front, with the suede tannins on the finish. Good length.

EMILIANA NOVAS LIMITED SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT 2007, Central Valley (Chile); #685792; Price: $14.95; 14.5% ABV
This one lets the Cabernet Sauvignon (62%) take the lead. Black cherry and cassis aromas, with some chocolate and spice. Moderate acidity and softer tannins, with flavours of black cherry and chocolate. Full-bodied, it smoother and more restrained than the Carmenère/CS blend.

The bad news? In Ottawa, Vintages is sold out of the Carmenère/CS blend. The quantities of the other two are low but you can still find them in some stores. The really good news? We can expect two more wines (single-varietals) from Emiliana in Ontario later this spring, so keep an eye out for those releases.

To learn more about Emiliana, check out their comprehensive website, especially the Interactive Vineyard.

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