IT was the wine session that almost never happened. Had it not been for the serendipitous alignment of schedules, timing and the traffic situation, the opportunity would have been lost to meet a winemaker and taste examples of wines from what is touted to be Chile’s most exciting and innovative wine region. And so, with the late afternoon sun portending a warm, rainless evening, my encounter with the wines of Viña Maycas del Limari that day in November last year went off to a good start.
Except that the first wine we were to taste, the Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2013, needed a bit more time to chill—in the ice bucket, after its long ride from Makati to Ortigas. But that was time enough for Javier Villarroel, senior enologist and winemaker, to talk about Chile’s Limari Valley, where he had been living since the winery started operations there in 2005. The climate conditions in the valley make it ideal for the growing of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the varieties representative of the region, he explained.
The Limari Valley is one of the northernmost winegrowing areas of Chile. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the Andes mountains and the Atacama Desert influence the region’s growing environment. The region is famous for its mineral-rich soils, the purity of the air and the brightness of its skies (solar radiation here is 35 percent higher than in the Central Valley). These conditions allow for the slower ripening of the grapes, resulting in fresh, elegant wines characterized by intense minerality and high acidity.
Viñas Maycas del Limari makes wine in three tiers: Sumaq, “tasty” or “delicious” in Quechua, the Inca language—describing the youthful freshness of the wines; Quebrada Seca Reserva Especial—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, the first Maycas wines launched in 2007; and the icon wines from single vineyards—Quebrada Seca Chardonnay, San Julian Pinot Noir and Los Acacios Syrah. The sun and the months in a year are recurring themes in the Maycas labels. On the single vineyard labels, for example, the sun is represented by a green orb in turn surrounded by 24 golden dots that signify the 24 months necessary for the creation of wines—from budbreak on through harvesting, aging and bottling.
The Maycas range offers different expressions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Sumaq, as its name implies, is characterized by zesty, lip-smacking goodness. Quebrada Seca Reserva Especial has a firmer grip and a heartier style, while not giving up the bright fruitiness. The single vineyard wines, Quebrada Seca Chardonnay and the San Julian Pinot Noir, were richly textured and flavorful, in a more complex, elegant style.
I picked up subtle pear and citrus flavors in the Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2013. There was tart lemon curd, too, and was that chalk? I was picking up stony, chalky notes too in the wine. That first sip was impressive, I told the winemaker. Javier Villarroel gave a wide smile and explained that the Quebrada Seca vineyard did have chalky, stony and clay soils that contribute to the wine’s mineral character and bright acidity. It was those same qualities that made the Quebrada Seca Chardonnay an equally impressive food partner. The duck pancakes (juicy, gently-spiced, shredded duck in fresh tortilla pockets), fresh smoked fish spring rolls, tilapia fillets poached in coconut milk—Sentro 1771’s take on modern Filipino cuisine—partnered beautifully with the lush, bright flavors of the wine. But it was with dessert that the wine absolutely shone. The Quebrada Chardonnay and mango jubilee (vanilla ice cream doused with creamy, buttery mango compote) pairing was as stunning as it was unexpected.
Chardonnay with ice cream. How cool is that?
THE wines of Viña Maycas del Limari are imported and distributed by Grand Crü: Unit 108, World Trade Exchange Building, Juan Luna Street, Binondo, Manila. (632) 518-0131, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.