IT IS unclear what Brexit will mean for wine prices. Those of English and Welsh wines should not suffer, but they cannot satisfy the rising demand for wine in this market. We are, indeed, fortunate that, in Britain, the 2018 vintage was particularly generous. One English vineyard owner told me that he had had to throw away 20 per cent of his grapes because he did not have enough vat space for all the juice.
Globally, however, there is one ray of sunshine: a trade agreement with Chile. This one country is capable of producing large quantities of wine with a broad range of styles and prices. It is difficult to appreciate how quickly the market for Chilean wines has grown here. In 1964, we imported just 150 cases of their wines; the forecasters now predict that, by 2021, the imports will be more than 60 million cases in the year, and that Chile will be this country’s second largest supplier after Australia.
The main source is the fertile Central Valley, from where there are wines on the market at less than £5 the bottle. I would suggest the Valle Antigua range of varietal wines from Majestic at £4.99 the bottle (if you buy six assorted); and Waitrose Soft and Juicy red and Vibrant and Grassy dry white at £4.99.
The individuality of the wines can best be exemplified by the separate regions. In the north, until recently, the Limarí Valley was mainly a source of grapes for distillation into Pisco. Now, its limestone soils are giving some of the most flavoursome white wines such as Tabalí Encantado Reserva Viognier 2016 (Waitrose, £9.99); and De Martino Legado Chardonnay 2016 (Waitrose, £10.99). The Aconcagua Valley, Argentina, is the fiefdom of the Errazuriz winery, historically noted for its meaty red wines. Now, they have planted vineyards down the valley, the cooler climate creating the elegant Coastal Series Pinot Noir 2016 (Waitrose, £7.99).
Between Santiago and the Pacific Ocean lies the Casablanca Valley. This has suffered a water shortage, but still produces fine wines. Such a one is the De Martino Parcela 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Waitrose, £16.99). Vineyards close to Santiago are in the Maipo Valley, the home of many of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignons, many of which have a hint of eucalyptus. I would recommend Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas 2014 (Tanners Wines, £13.50), and Santa Rita Medalla Real 2015 (Majestic, £10.79, mix six assorted).
More recently planted vineyards produce my favourite Chilean Pinot Noirs, such as Viña Leyda Single Vineyard las Brisas 2016 (Great Western Wines, £14.95). For full-bodied red wines such as De Gras Carmenère Reserva 2017 (Great Western Wines, £9.25), go south to the Colchagua Valley.
There are other regions in Chile which also reward the seeker after fine wines, but, whatever the Brexit outcome, life need not be totally dry.