The last couple of years have brought big changes in gastronomy and wine culture, with lots of innovation and reclaiming of the old ways, as well as some newcomers doing their part to put Chile on the map. These are some of the recent additions that are worth getting excited about in the Chilean food and wine scene.
Maule as an Emerging Wine Region
The wine region of Maule has been Chile’s sleeper surprise in recent years. Winemakers there, are reclaiming some old bush varieties of wine grapes, such as País (similar to the Mission grape), and Carignan, much of which has been growing untended, or being used to make table wine for the last 30 or more years. Uva País for years has been channeled into making a sweet cider-like drink called chicha. But all that is changing, as great single variety and blends are coming out of this once-forgotten area, which is actually Chile’s oldest wine-growing region. Look for quality blends and single-varietals on restaurant wine lists and at wine stores like the one listed below. Our three-night stay in a local winemaker’s home is the perfect way to experience the tradition of the region.
Vinomio, a Wine Store in Bellavista
This newcomer to the boutique wine shop, located in Barrio Bellavista is a welcome addition, and well stocked with hard-to-find wines with small production. They do occasional public tastings. At their first public event, Derek Mossman, a member of MOVI, a Chilean organization of independent wine growers, and co-founder of Garage Wine, Inc., presented several of his wines. At the shop, headed by Chilean sommelier Felipe Aldunate, employees are bilingual, and they are known for being friendly and providing superior customer service, including on-the-spot tastings of the wine of the day. Vinomio can also organize thematic tastings, such as those of a single varietal, or coast-to-cordillera. In that tasting, sommeliers pick a region of the country and taste wines starting at the coast, and ending up in the Andes.
Innovative Restaurants in Santiago
The last iteration of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America listed three that are pushing the envelope on small plates, tasting menus, and the use of foraged and other easily-forgotten ingredients. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán from Boragó, Chile’s top-rated restaurant has been known to base an entire recipe on the lifecycle of a single tree (the peumo, or Chilean acorn), for example. Dreadlocked and tattooed Chilean Carolina Bazán, the chef at Ambrosía, another one of the top restaurants, spent much of her life in France, but the dishes there are inspired by international food, including Chilean and Peruvian dishes, with market-to-table figuring prominently. And the newest of the new restaurants, 040 Spaniard Sergio Borroso serves up tasting menus of 8 salty and three sweet tapas-sized plates, with optional wine pairings. Meals are followed with an invitation to a not-so-secret speakeasy-style bar Room 9.
Viña Vik, Pushing the Envelope on Luxury and Wine in Chile
This independent project is headed by Alexander Vik, a Norwegian entrepreneur who makes a big splash in the luxury hotel market in South America, with three hotels in Punta del Este, Uruguay. He later turned his eye to making wine. After an exhaustive search all over South America, Vik ended up in the Cachapoal Valley in Chile. Here, after testing the soil no less than 6,000 times, they planted vines and later built an attention-grabbing hilltop luxury retreat above their vineyards. The roof is silver and glows amber with morning and afternoon sunlight, and each room has its own theme curated by famous Chilean artists. Food at the restaurant is internationally-inspired and prepared by chef Rodrigo Acuña Bravo, who lived in Canada for many years. But the main goal of the cutting-edge monument to wine is the wine itself. Their VIK blend, which uses five varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Carménère), which are grown in up to 12 different micro-valleys. Winemaker Patrick Vallet is aiming to make the VIK blend Chile’s first 100-point wine.