It might be stretching things a bit to call it a “raging debate,” but the question of whether New World wines possess the same capacity to age as their Old World counterparts is one which occupies a certain amount of space in the oenosphere. To try and address this conundrum, Germán Lyon, the young winemaker from Chile’s Viña Perez Cruz visited Toronto (and a few other Canadian cities) to conduct a vertical tasting (a tasting of similar wines from different vintages – not a tasting of similar wines standing up) of four vintages of the company’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva.
Gathered with a few other vino journos at Toronto’s swank Harbour 60 steakhouse, Germán explained that the Maipo Andes region where Perez Cruz is located some 500 meters above sea level provides an ideal mixture of soil types, drainage and cooling breezes that allows him to, in his words “preserve the identity” of the fruit he harvests and, ultimately, the wines he makes. “I believe the most important factor [when making wine] is to respect the place where the grapes come from, without intervening too much, and leave the grapes to express themselves.”
The four Cabernets we tasted were indeed expressive. Representing the exceptional 2010 vintage, the warm, high-yielding 2009 vintage, the cooler 2006 and somewhat wet 2004 harvest, each managed to retain a certain “signature” or fingerprint that revealed itself as a collage of blueberry, mint and mineral with varying degrees of mocha while at the same time showing off the nuances the vintage and age of the wine brought to the table. The currently available 2010 edition, while still showing some youthful edge was nonetheless very ripe with forward blueberry, mint, earth, tarragon and hints of pepper and vanilla on both the nose and palate. Germán attributed the wine’s structure, depth and power to a cool spring, which, in turn, resulted in a natural lowering of yields.
Sure, by aged wine standards, those of the 2006 and 2004 vintage are hardly “old.” However, it should be pointed out that neither of these wines were showing any signs of tiring out or fading and will no doubt age gracefully for considerably longer. Which is quite impressive considering the current vintage of the Viña Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva sells for under $15.00 in most Canadian markets.
As dinner was served, Germán poured three more Perez Cruz reds while a slab of prime rib that must have easily weighed a full kilo, if not more, was lowered before my slightly disbelieving eyes. The wines included the chocolate-tinged, mildly spicy Viña Perez Cruz Cot Limited Edition 2010 (Cot being a synonym for Malbec), the Viña Perez Cruz Chaski Petit Verdot 2009 that offered up a complex mélange of mineral, pepper, tobacco, herbs and licorice and finally the Viña Perez Cruz Liguai 2009 – a rich, cassis, smoke and mineral-laden blend of Syrah, Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon.
All in all, a very pleasant evening which left me with a hankering to visit Chile and a sizable portion of meat in a carryout bag.
For more information of the prices and availability of the wines of Viña Perez Cruz, contact Charton-Hobbs Inc. (www.chartonhobbs.com)