Picking up the Pais

on 18 January, 2017

It’s always exciting when a new movement comes along, be it social, political or cultural. So it is with wine. When a movement arrives, it signifies a new direction and a potentially important future trend. It’s in the interests of everyone who works with wine to keep abreast of the latest developments – and besides, unearthing the newest trends is an exciting part of the job.

Recently there has been an emerging movement towards lighter, more refreshing red wines. This is partly a reaction against the heavyweight, fruit-driven and often over- alcoholic styles that became so popular over the past two decades. But it’s also a result of winemakers rediscovering the potential of varieties and regions that had been considered unfashionable.

Beaujolais has been making a steady comeback since it turned heads with the gorgeous 2009 vintage, reminding the wine world just how good this quintessential light red could be.

Recently, even much-maligned Beaujolais Nouveau seems to be enjoying a revival, being championed by trendsetters such as Noble Rot.

Cabernet Franc from the Loire has had a similar upsurge in popularity, and Pinot Noir has, of course, been a huge success story over the past 10 years (though it’s worth adding that not all of these examples are necessarily always a light and refreshing style of red).

But one of the latest and most exciting examples of the lighter red wine movement comes from an unexpected source: Chile.

Since exploding on to export markets in the 1990s, Chilean red has primarily been known as reliable, affordable, fruity, full-bodied and produced in heroic quantities. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, has an annual production of a staggering 2.2 million cases.

Today, however, some producers are making an entirely different style of red.

The Itata region in the southern part of the country is especially significant. This region was, for centuries, the heartland of Chilean vine-growing, and it still has huge stocks of ancient bush-vine Cinsault and País.

This latter variety is particularly brilliant at making the kind of reds that are energising the wine trade right now.

Almost never above 12.5% abv, they are translucent and refreshing with a crunchy, savoury red fruit that is seriously appetising.

It’s exactly the sort of wine that enthuses the trade - and it offers something new, original and engaging for our customers.

Right now, País from Itata is a small movement, but it has the potential to become a large one – and it certainly deserves to. We are the ones who can make it happen. Here are some producers of País available in the UK: Miguel Torres (Fells), Huasco de Sauzal (Enotria); Bouchon (Bancroft); Garage Wine Co (Bibendum).

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