País is Chile’s most historic red grape, but it’s also something new and trendy in many ways. Until comparatively recently, País was blended away into basic reds – the original variety that dared not speak its name – but thanks to the dedication of winemakers in the Itata and Maule Valleys, País has become fashionable. This supple, aromatic, unoaked, red berry and rose petal-scented example was made for Waitrose by Eduardo Jordán of Miguel Torres Chile and its wonderfully fresh, bright and juicy. It’s the kind of red you can drink with fish as well as poultry.
Made with a combination of old vine Cinsault and País, grown in the southerly Itata Valley, this is one of the most exciting Chilean reds I’ve had in years. Perfumed, spicy and full of personality, it’s fresh and minerally with subtle raspberry and red cherry fruit, understated (non existent?) oak influence and vibrant, cool climate vivacity. Like a Pinot Noir crossed with a northern Rhône Syrah, but with an ancient Chilean personality that is all its own.
País (known as Mission in California and Criolla in Argentina) was the grape that the Spaniards brought first to South America. For all its antiquity, it tends to make pretty basic wines, largely because it’s mostly over-cropped and grown in the wrong places. This Chilean example shows another side to the variety, made with carbonic maceration for maximum fruit impact and soft, sweetly textured tannins. Bright and juicy, with notes of raspberry, red cherrry and just a hint of pepper spice, it’s the perfect summery red. Pass me the ice bucket.