Part 1: Carl Sherman tasting Tristan H
Tasting Chilean Wine:
It was fun to attend the launch of the new wines being offered by Casilero del Diablo, under the banner of ‘The Devil’s Collection’. It’s a very thoughtful positioning of these wines into the overcrowded but very vibrant UK market. I recall a producer in Haro, Rioja, saying “It is the most important market for us. British people drink wine from all over the world; the palate is very diverse and, so, we learn a lot.”
With over 30 million Brit’s drinking wine every month, and rising, there is obviously a supply, demand and quality control issue. Most consumers have traditionally not wanted to spend over £5 on a bottle, caring little for qualities an enthusiast might be seeking. A few years ago I was shocked by the statistic that we in the UK drink more Jacob’s Creek than we do wine from the whole of Bordeaux. The shock lies in the fact that Bordeaux produces more wine than the whole of Australia! The trouble with mass-produced wines is that they have tended score poorly on quality, simply concocted, manufactured wines whose taste reflects how they are made.
It is the opportunity step in and fix this that Casillero del Diablo have spotted. The amount we drink is increasing and the bottom end of the price bracket is also going up. This tells us that people are really “getting into” wine. The consumer will trade up for a better experience, with the hope of tasting something, not only well made but interesting.
As part of the tasting, hosted at the Channel Four headquarters in St James’s, we were led through to a small cinema where, after a few words by the winemaker, Marcelo Papa, we watched the Bondesque extended advert that is being released as part of the promotional campaign. Of course, this is more creative than many other mass market wine promotions, reflecting perfectly the ambition of the Casillero del Diablo brand. However, I couldn't help wondering if the hype and promotion of the wines might be selling us the packaging over substance. The obvious next step was to try it!
The wines in the ‘Devil’s Collection’ that we tasted were both blended from several varieties. The white was clean and fresh, leading with the bright nose of sauvignon blanc, the body of chardonnnay and the lively bombast nature of the gewurztraminer, giving a little “yum” factor to the tasting. Clean fruity freshness, with mouth watering acidity, followed by the beautiful desire to keep sipping. It’s more complex than many a single grape variety wine. Okay, I thought, that passes muster. It’s good, and I would happily open a bottle to share with friends, anytime.
Tasting the red, I was interested to see if Marcelo’s description of smoothness and balanced fruit character would ring true. The blend was cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and Carménère. My friend was particularly enthused by the whole idea of what Casillero del Diablo were trying to achieve. Having no particular wine knowledge, or tasting background, I was very intrigued to hear her response to the wine: “Wow, this is very good. I would buy this!”. I had to agree. The nose is not overly jammy like many other wines that line the supermarket shelves. There are desirable aromas of cherry and dark chocolate. The tannins are soft but definitely there with a little bite, making this a pleasant wine to sup on its own, or maybe pair with hamburgers and chips (as we were served as canapés).
I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised that the character of the winemaker was being carried through to the market-place. Given that The Devil's Collection is projected to be sold on a big scale, it made this an interesting and thought provoking tasting. In the final analysis, it feels like mass market wine drinkers are getting an upgrade!