A few months ago Stella and I did a tasting with Spanish wines; I’m sure you can imagine how much I hated that. It was a great success, particularly since food-matching with Spanish wines is such a joy. And so darned easy. Our next country choice was Chile and, knowing nothing about the food, I was quite excited at the prospect of discovering a whole new cuisine. But, alas, the internet was not very inspiring and, sans a deep-fat fryer, empañadas didn’t seem so appealing. So, bar one tiny recipe, I went completely off-piste and just cooked things that were said to go well with particular grapes and flavours.
We tried eight Chilean wines, with one sneaky Argentinian invader. The latter, the first that we tried, was Tapiz Torrontes Extra Brut which could easily pass for champagne at half the price. You can buy it online and also, if you’re in London, at my new favourite wine shop: Highbury Vintners.
Then we moved onto a sauvignon blanc, Matetic EQ Coastal, Sauvignon Blanc 2011. Stella asked me to make something tomatoey because sauv blanc apparently contains the same chemical as tomatoes and, oh my, once you’ve tasted the connection you will never be able to forget it. Run your hands along the vine of a bunch of tomatoes, or along the leaves of a tomato plant if you’re the green-fingered type, smell the scent, then try a sauvignon blanc: it’s either the perfect match, if you love the connection, or this grape will be dead to you since it will forever taste of tomato plants.
After this we had a Chilean chardonnay, Maycas del Limari, for which all I have written is ‘owned by Concha y Toro’, which tells you how much I (didn’t) love it. It says on Oddbins’ website that this is ‘a chardonnay to turn around any doubter’ so I am obviously not for turning. And then we were on to the reds, a pinot noir (I have written ‘fruity to dry’ by this), a carmenere (I noted the thoroughly unhelpful word ‘yum’ by this), a syrah from Leyda, a wine-making area that I love, which was port-like and rich and then, ah, my favourite, the De Martino Viejas Tinajas, Cinsault 2012 about which I wrote ‘what you want a red wine to taste like, soft, drinkable, unfruity (okay, I know that’s just me) and unfussy’. So a bit more helpful than ‘yum’. And it’s fermented in old Chilean terracotta amphorae! Finally, way out of my price range at £19.50, we had a bottle of Emiliana Coyam which was, well, ‘gorgeous’; truly worth an investment now and again. There was also a dessert wine which either I was too drunk to remember or made no impression on me, because I have made no notes whatsoever.
Then, of course, there was the food. A tomatoey salmorejo from Spain, for the sauvignon blanc, an Ottolenghi caramelised garlic tart for the reds, mini-tarts with spinach, feta and pine nuts and tomato and goat’s cheese and something called pebre, a Chilean dip/sauce made with coriander, parsley, oil and vinegar and, if you’re not careful, more of a kick than an unhappy horse. It always amazes me which recipe people ask for after a wine-tasting. This time it was the pebre: the last thing I decided to make, the quickest and simplest, and easily the most repeatable and repertoire-friendly. As long as you don’t follow the original Martha Stewart recipe, which stipulated 4 habañeros for this quantity. Trust me; one is plenty if you want to taste anything, let alone wine, ever again.
Enough for 8 as a dip (would go well as a salsa with fish and meat too)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
onion, 1 medium or 2 small
garlic, 6 cloves
olive oil, 270ml (ish)
red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons (ish)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, 50g
fresh coriander leaves, 50g
habañero chilli, 1
1) Peel, top and tail and roughly chop the onion(s) and garlic.
2) Destalk and roughly chop the parsley and coriander.
3) Destalk the chilli and, if you like, de-seed it.
4) Put the onions, herbs and chilli in a blender with about half the olive oil and half the red wine vinegar, a little salt and pepper and blitz to a purée.
5) Taste the pebre and if too thick/too spicy add all the rest of the oil and vinegar or add it little by little until you are happy. You want a thickish sauce, runnier than a pesto but not liquid. Season if necessary and serve with some good bread.