Vinexpo HK masterclass: Y Viva Almaviva

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6th December, 2016 by Patrick Schmitt - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3



The Panelists

> Andres Ballesteros, Asia director, Almaviva Winery (pictured, left)

> Ch’ng Poh Tiong, publisher, The Wine Review

> Franco Yeung, general manager, Jointek Fine Wines

> Yang Lu, corporate wine director, Shangri-La Hotels

> Nelson Chow, president, Hong Kong Sommelier Association

> Katsuyuki Tanaka, Japan’s leading wine writer and taster

> Fongyee Walker, co-founder, Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting

Noting in particular the inclusion of Carmenère in the Almaviva blend, a grape that was commonplace in Bordeaux before phylloxera, Ch’ng said: “These seven wines are going to be a revelation… these wines are like tasting nineteenth century great Bordeaux.”

Tasting began with the oldest wine in the line-up, Almaviva’s third release, the 1998 vintage. Of the panelists (listed in the boxout on page 50), Fongyee Walker, co-founder of China’s Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting, was the first to comment, saying: “It is riper than a ‘98 Bordeaux would be on the left bank, but it has a savouriness and structure to it that shows an Old World pedigree. It really shows how the two worlds can come together and create something with great ageability.”

For Andres Ballesteros, Asia director at the Almaviva winery, this remark was significant, prompting him to add, “This is what we want to show, we want to highlight that Almaviva is a great wine of both worlds: a wine with the elegance and finesse of a Bordeaux Grand Cru in the great terroir of Chile.”

Katsuyuki Tanaka, Japan’s leading wine writer and taster, then commented: “The wine has serenity, it has peace, it is quiet and tranquil. This is a character I like to see in all great wines of the world. It is not forward fruitiness, but if you pay attention, the flow of taste goes backward, like the wine is pulling your palate into a dark forest – and this is the first Chilean wine I found with this characteristic.

“The character of an ungrafted vine is evident in this wine. It has verticality. Feel the flow of taste in your throat, it is like roots going deep; you feel a lot of energy in your stomach. Grafted wines, no matter how beautiful they are, don’t have this very deep taste, this downward verticality.”

Yang Lu, corporate wine director at Shangri-La Hotels, said: “I am a sommelier working on the floor, it is a very practical job, so we can’t get too philosophical, and for the general consumer who doesn’t have much wine knowledge, the strong tie with the Old World is important. The Mouton name definitely helps the image. And this wine is not a copy of Bordeaux, it expresses the terroir of Chile, while this 1998 vintage would be great for guests to show the ageability of New World wines.”


3Picking up on this point, Andres Ballesteros said that Almaviva was proof that Chilean Cabernet-based blends can age brilliantly.

“This [Puente Alto] is one of the best terroirs in the world and we know how to produce fine and elegant wines: people says that Chile produces wines with low acidity and no ability to age wine but this 18-year-old wine clearly tells us that wines of Chile can evolve and age in the same way as the greatest wines in the world.”

Agreeing with Ballesteros, Ch’ng said: “There is no point ageing a wine if it doesn’t become more complex, and this wine has become more complex, it is fireworks on the palate, it is a 90-year-old man doing push-ups with one arm.”

Katsuyuki Tanaka then discussed the impact of Almaviva’s specific soils and climate on the wine. “The terroir of Puente Alto has a lot of gravels, but they are different to the gravels of Bordeaux.

“That’s because the original material of Puento Alto was volcanic rock, and that brings a more upward nose – for example, you can see a much more upfront nose in Soave grown on volcanic soils.

“Also, the soil is Chile is slightly alkaline because irrigation water has a lot of calcium… so you feel openness from the volcanic rock and a grippy kind of acidity, which is very present in almost all Chilean wine. One reason is diurnal temperature shift, but another reason is calcium content in the irrigation water. So that’s why this wine has the openness and roundness of left bank of Bordeaux with the tightness and fresh acidity of the limestone part of the Right Bank; openness and spice from volcanic gravelly soil and the elegance of limestone, even though it is not there. This kind of terroir is very rare, and it is complete.”

Once the 2003 vintage had been tasted, Nelson Chow, president of the Hong Kong sommelier association said that Chilean reds were associated with “power and alcohol” but “if you can show them a style like the Almaviva 2003, with Bordeaux style and a New World sense, a wine with round tannin, richness, and at same time elegance, then they will realise they are drinking a good quality wine.”

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