Much of Chile’s striking landscape is carpeted with rolling vineyards that sprawl far and wide in the foothills of the Andes. Winemaking in the country dates back to the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors brought European varieties of grape vine to Chile.
The Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua and Central Valley regions produce unexpected and complex varieties of wine renowned the world over.
It therefore comes as little surprise that last November, a record number of gold awards were presented to Chilean wines at the annual Wines of Chile Awards (AWOCA).
A panel of 12 international judges from the Americas blind tasted no more than 657 wines during the eleventh edition of the awards ceremony and dished out bronze, silver and gold awards accordingly. A total of 93 wines received gold while over half (322) gained silver.
The most sought after prize — Best in Show — went to Viña Errazuriz’s Don Maximiano 2011, a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Carménère, originally planted in the Médoc, is Chile’s most recognizable variety of grape.
The Carménère vine originated from the Bordeaux region of France but was almost completely eradicated by an insect plague in the mid-19th century, as a result it was thought to be extinct for 100 years.
In 1994, the grape was miraculously re-discovered in Chile when viticulture experts undertook tests to see why some Chilean Merlot varieties tasted so different to similar wines elsewhere. Sure enough, studies showed the grapes were not Merlot at all, but Carménère.
Don Maximiano also took home the top prize in the Best Premium Red Wine category meaning that the wine has retained its popularity and quality having won the same set of awards at AWOCA 2012.
Other award winners included Casa Marin’s Sauvignon Gris (Best Premium White), Viña San Pedro’s 1865 Single Vineyard (Best Cabernet Sauvignon) and Viña Caliterra’s Tributo (Best Carménère).
Cono Sur also went home laden with prizes — winning Best Pinot Noir for the second year in a row for their Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. They triumphed with their Single Vineyard Reisling and took home the Late Harvest Wine award with the very tasty Cosecha Noble — completing an impressive three award haul.
The awards were presented at the annual AWOCA conference and the prize giving was combined with the gala evening for Wines of Chile on Thursday, November 28.