My first introduction to Chilean wine (rather the one that I remember) was in Aruba when we bought Chilean wines at a grocery store. Why? It was when we chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort when we did not quite understand what an all-inclusive resort really meant – how often has something like that happened when you purchase something in a rush? I learned that “all-inclusive” means that all food (and drinks) is inclusive (duh!). It might have been alright, if the food was palatable. It was so bad, that we chose to eat all our meals outside the “resort” and made multiple trips to the grocery store. Some of those trips to the grocery store also resulted in our buying cheese and crackers to accompany bottles of Chilean wine. The most memorable part of that Aruba trip was the pre-dinner (Chilean) wine and cheese pairings that we made for ourselves on our balcony, while listening to the sound of the waves lapping the shore on the beach of the “low-rise” resort that we were staying at. Aah, bliss!! That was the time when I fell in love with Carmenere, the signature grape of Chile.
In case you were wondering, I did not make up that story about my Aruba trip and Chilean wine. Since that trip to Aruba, I am always looking for good Chilean wine in NYC and anywhere that I travel. I have had reasonable success in finding a good range of Chilean wine to choose from in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, in the Caribbean, and in grocery stores in London too, but not as much in NYC, and I wonder why. May be I have not looked at the right place!
Sometime over the December (2012) holidays, I came across a Loving Social deal for Wine Basics at Puro Wine in Chinatown, NYC. I bought it almost instantly – 30$ seemed like a deal when I would learn about Chilean wine and get to eat Chilean appetizers, when they are so tough to find in NYC. I got around to using the deal on the last day that it was valid. Abstinence in January (or sort of), travel and other commitments in February and earlier in March, are all valid reasons, I hope.
The class was at the same location as the retail store of Puro Wine (although the entrances to the class and the retail store are different due to some NY legal requirements). I thought that the class would be for a small group, so, imagine my surprise when I walk in a few minutes after the class started and found one seat in the last row that was not taken! I was one of 42 people who took the class that day.
The wine educator, Jake Pippin, was extremely well-organized for the class. It was a regular class, with a projector, slides, handouts, a sheet of paper with spots for 6 glasses of wine for each participant, and about 2 – 3 ounces of wine poured into each glass. There were crackers and cheese, a couple of bottles of jams / spreads, a few fruits etc. all laid out neatly along with water. Although I was in the last row of the class, I was closest (physically) to the food – made it easy for me to help myself to the cheese and crackers without being conscious of others looking at how many helpings I took.
Through the 1.5 hours of the class, we tasted 7 different wines, including a Sparkling Rose, 2 white wines and 4 red wines along with 2 appetizers, and a dessert.
Some favorites of the evening were:
- The Sparkling Rose served first – it was Santa Digna Estelado Sparkling Pais, 2011 made from Mission (or Pais) grape, grown in Maule valley, aged in Stainless Steel barrels by Miguel Torres and priced at $25 a bottle. I loved because it felt light and crisp to me. More about this Fair Trade wine here. Perfect for a spring / summer day that we are yet to enjoy this year, but will soon be here.
- Calcu Carmenere, 2009 from the Colchagua valley at $16 a bottle. This was a medium bodied, slightly spicy wine with soft tannins. When I read this description of Carmenere, I realized why I love it so much – it goes very well with spicy food, and I love spicy food.
- The class favorite wine for that evening was the Tacora Reserva Pinot Noir 2011, which was 100% Pinot Noir from the Limari Valley and priced at $19.00 a bottle. This wine is apparently very representative of Pinot Noir in Chile. I liked this wine, but can’t say that it won me over completely.
The food served that evening was:
- A salmon appetizer: This was a delicious appetizer with the salmon tasting very fresh along with the dill and the cream
- Pastel de choclo: This was a meat dish similar to Shepherd’s Pie but was made with corn instead of potatoes. The dish tasted sweet and slightly salty too. I was curious to know how it is made and came across this recipe. For a history of this dish, see this post
- Chocolate cake with chocolate chips on top: Or was this supposed to be a brownie? Unclear, but not that it matters any more.
- Onion Jam in Merlot Wine: This was a sweet onion jam that complemented the brie cheese perfectly. I wish I had bought a bottle for myself from Puro Wine.
- A smokey chili jam: I did not taste this, but I wish I had, because, I like the way it sounds.
Here is what I loved about the wine class – i.e., why would you go to a Wine Basics class at Puro Wine NYC?
- The instructor Jake Pippin made the class interactive despite the large class size
- It was certainly a wine basics class along with an Introduction to Chilean wine – Jake explained basic concepts about wine i.e., acidity, tannins, body, terroir etc.
- The class offered a good history of wine growing in Chile – may or may not interest everyone, although I found it valuable
- We learned what is different about wine growing in Chile vs. its neighbor, Argentina, despite both having classic wines / grapes that are distinct to each country. Chile has more varieties of grapes and wine, due to a higher range in altitude and different micro-climates associated with the varying altitudes.
- Jake offered excellent perspectives on wines from California, Oregon, Argentina, France etc. (wines that many of us in the class were familiar with) while talking about the Chilean wines that were on our table – e.g., how does a Californian Pinot Noir compare with a Chilean Pinot Noir, the differences between a Bordeaux red blend and a Chilean red blend and so on.
- We could buy wine that we tasted, at a discount of 10% (I think)
- The best part about the class – all the wines that Jake has selected for the tasting, were all very reasonably priced in the range of $16 – $25 a bottle.
What could have been better about this class?
I would have preferred it if the class had fewer people (say 10 – 12 people) i.e., more of a wine tasting experience while learning about Chilean wine.
The verdict: At the end of this class, I felt glad that my $30 was well spent and you will feel the same if you take a class at Puro Wine NYC. More importantly, I now know where to find good quality Chilean wine at a reasonable price in NYC.
Note: I used my Living social voucher for $30 when the normal price for the class is $80.
Details about Puro Wine NYC:
161 Grand Street (between Centre St. and Lafayette St.), New York, NY 10013
Phone: +1 212 925 0900