The Rompel Report from Peru

Our regular geological gourmet, Andy Rompel, now lives in Lima, Peru.  Which has not slowed down his wine consumption any.  His latest words on wine:

LAN, the Chilean air carrier, and QANTAS of Australia now offer a direct link between Santiago and Sydney.  No more lengthy stop-over’s in Auckland, New Zealand!  Having been on this flight recently allows me to report back on both sides, the South American and Australian end and give you an update on the latest wine recommendations.

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Paullett wine farm have just won a big Riesling award for their 2005 Polish Hill River Riesling

Perú undisputedly has the best cuisine on the South American continent.  The variety of the food, ranging from Cerviche, raw fish cured in lime juice, to the best cuts of steaks, and flavours so prominent, it is a pure joy to the palate.  In Lima, the capital, you could go to a vast number of fantastic restaurants, eating excitingly exotic food resourcefully prepared and charmingly decorated on the plate.  A huge effort goes into food preparation, and the restaurants take advantage of the mild climate in Lima by offering seating on terraces all year round.  One particular favourite is the Huaca Pucllana, which is next to an ancient Inca pyramid by the same name.  Sitting on its veranda at night, looking at the illuminated bookshelf-style architecture of the pyramid, pleasantly sets you back into a pre-Columbian era.

If you wish to order steak, you might have a problem with the names of the various cuts, which differ quite often significantly from the known ones in the English speaking world.  Some help from the waiter will, however, get you the finest they have to offer.  But what do you drink to accompany the steak?  Since I haven’t endeavoured into the Peruvian wines, I have so far found it safe to go with Chilean or Argentinean.  A Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec always does the trick with steak.  Chilean wines are principally cheaper, and no worse in quality compared to their neighbour East of the Andes.  Also be careful with Malbec.  Only the good ones are drinkable and they do come at a price.  Going cheap is often penalized with rubbery flavours, awfully undesirable in good wine.

The Escorihuela Gascon’s Pequeñas Producciones Malbec 2007, the Pulenta Estate I Malbec 2008, and the Bodega Septima 2009 Gran Reserva from the Mendoza area come highly recommended from “Tango land”, whereas a Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or the Gran Reserva and the Terrunya range of Concha Y Toro are benchmarks of high quality from Chilé.

Crossing the Pacific into Sydney, I was immediately welcomed by the efficiency of the QANTAS staff when my suitcase went missing.  They kept me well informed about the whereabouts of my suitcase and allowed me to purchase some necessary items immediately.  However, the meals I encountered in Australia were at best middle of the road and acceptable, none however outstanding or simply wow.  The braised duck for instance I ordered on the long-haul QANTAS flight was more of a shredded duck which had been sucked through a jet engine at least once.  A steak I had in an Adelaide hotel came perfectly prepared medium-rare as ordered, but was totally taste-neutral – no flavour whatsoever.  Sitting isolated on the island continent seems to have made restaurateurs and clientele equally complacent in accepting mediocrity.  This poor experience was countered nonetheless when my colleague and I went to an Argentine Steak-house called Gaucho in Adelaide.  Here both cuts of steak ordered were sublime.  Must have been the South American influence.

None of this negativity applies to their wines coming from different regions and having certain characteristics such as the peppery flavours of the blockbuster shirazes from South Australian or the eucalyptus scents of Margaret River.  The St. Hugo Barossa Shiraz 2008 is a stunning example of how rich and rewarding these wines can be.

Having reported on Shiraz and Pinot Noirs in the past, I ventured to take a closer look at the Cabernet Sauvignons.  Here the slightly overpriced wines from Margaret River kick in with brands such as Voyager and Cullen, which have more than one good wine in their lineup.

The Thompson Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Margaret also impressed with dense dark fruit and hints of eucalyptus, the trade mark in Western Australian wines.  Another classic example was the Geoff Merrill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 I had in a steak house in Adelaide, but couldn’t find it even in up market wine shops.  Somebody like QANTAS must have bought the entire production.

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On the white wine side it is always a treat to sip an Aussie Riesling.  I like them full-bodied and fruity, and the Knappstein Riesling and the Radford Eden Valley Quartz Garden 2010 were right down my alley.  A quick pit stop in the Clare Valley revealed the laid back beauty of the Riesling making wine farms such as Paulett, a recent trophy winner for best Riesling, and Skillogalee, making a dry-style floral, but not too over-powering Gewürztraminer.

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If in Oz, pay them a visit.  It comes highly recommended.  Save the best for last was the order of the day when my colleague ordered a Petaluma Clare Valley Riesling 2001 in the ChaChaChar restaurant along the river in Brisbane.  This fantastically matured and rich in colour and mouthfeel wine could well compete against the finest Rieslings from along the Rhine River in the old world.