CHILE: Chilean wine

Here in Canada, Chile is most famous for its wines – every wine shop has a selection on Chilean wines, mainly reds. While I do like wine, I’m not particularly a wine connoisseur, so I’ve pulled in someone who is – my dad! I’m in Vancouver right now, staying with my parents, so my dad went to JAK’s to pick some Chilean wines that we’ve never tried before.

Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère – Tarapacá is one of Chile’s oldest still-producing wineries, with over 145 years active. They’re located in the Maipo valley, the heartland of Chile’s wine country. As for the taste, I found it’s big red, lots of berry notes and a bit of spice, but not chewy. My dad’s take: “Horrible bouquet but excellent taste, lots of tannins without being too heavy”.

Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva – I genuinely wasn’t aware that Chile made white wines, I’m so used to seeing rows and rows of red. I really like this one, since it tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a chardonnay, with a tart green grape fruitiness. Dad was on the same page too: “good non-oak chard, has the nose of a New Zealand sauv blanc, grassy taste.” It’s from the Casablanca valley, near Valparaiso.

Undurraga Sibaris Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – Also from Maipo. Fruity red with a lot of tannin in the aftertaste. Dad’s take: “very light for a cab sauv”.

CHILE: Completo with jote

I’m in Vancouver right now, so I stopped by a new Chilean restaurant downtown – Puro Chile on Denman. They’ve got all kinds of Chilean fast food, including big meat sandwiches, hot dogs, and mixed drinks. It’s a great spot – the staff was really lovely and friendly. They’ve also got South American football going on a screen (Colombia vs Argentina, with many yellow cards!)

I ordered a completo – a big hot dog topped with sauerkraut, fresh tomato, and mayo. It was delightfully messy and hit the spot. Sauerkraut is a common topping in Chile, coming with the waves of German immigration in the 19th century.

I washed my completo down with a big glass of jote (“black vulture”) – a mixed drink that’s half red wine, half Coke. And it….was actually pretty good! The wine tones down the sweetness of the Coke, and it turns into it’s own unique brew, like a spicy sweet wine. It’s popular with students in different parts of the world – it’s called kalimotxo in Spain and motorină (“diesel fuel”) in Romania.

CHILE: Podcasts

Valparaiso – Source

I’ve found an interesting variety of podcasts about Chile so far – unfortunately, they’re almost all from non-Chileans or expats. I can’t seem to find podcasts by Chileans in English (it’s not that widely spoken there), but this selection of podcasts does give a lot of interesting colour and context!

Wine 101: Chile – A brief look at the history of Chile’s wine industry, and a discussion of the huge variety of, well, varietals that are grown there today.

The Chile Today Podcast – This is the closest I got to a Chilean podcast in English – a pair of American expats living in Santiago sharing both news and tidbits about life in Chile. I listened to a recent episode that covered both elections, and several things in Chile that ex-pats may find challenging – mail, making new friends, Chilean Spanish, etc. An interesting linguistic point is that “carne” usually means “red meat”, so vegetarians may still be served shrimp or chicken!

BBC Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze – The Coup in Chile – Part of BBC’s extensive history podcast on the Cold War, an overview of the CIA-backed coup that brought Pinochet the power, including testimony from witnesses and from Americans involved.

Summer In The Mix 2017 – For a music break, enjoy these dance mixes from Chilean DJ Danilo Perkelman for Flash FM, a techno/EDM radio station.

AQ Podcast: Chile’s Uncertain Future – A discussion with a Chilean political scientist over the recent elections and the decision to introduce a new constitution. It’s a conservative and market-focused discussion, but it raises interesting comparisons to constitutional change and issues of economic stability in other Latin American countries.

BBC Discovery: Megadrought in Chile – BBC investigating the serious drought conditions that have persisted in parts of Chile for now about a decade – natural cycles sent into overdrive by climate change. They also speak with Chilean experts and scientists about how people are attempting to adapt to the drought and the water restrictions (or lack thereof) in place.

CHILE: Chilean (not Peruvian) Pisco Sour

As I mentioned in my intro, I know that Chile is famous for its wine, but it also is the home of other types of alcohol – in this case, pisco, a light-coloured brandy. I’ve also clearly just walked right into an international tussle – both Chile and Peru lay claim to the origins of pisco and both have strong opinions about how one is to make a pisco sour!

I was lucky that I live across the street from the one government liquor store that carries a huge variety of imported drinks, so I was able to snag a bottle of El Gobernador pisco. I don’t think I’ve ever had pisco before, or at least not on its own, so I’m going to give it a taste test before I make the sour.

It’s made with moscato grapes, so it has a lightly floral scent. It has a bit of a taste of green wood with a bit of something fruity, like a juicy apple. It’s also incredibly smooth, it doesn’t sip like it’s 40%! Wow, this is really good just on it’s own, and I can think of a lot of things this could go with, especially fruit-based drinks.

Okay, let’s make a sour! Both Peru and Chile lay claim to the pisco sour, and while everyone’s recipe has some variation, there is a real difference between the two countries. Chile tends to make theirs as a very simple cocktail of lime juice, sugar, and pisco, while Peru adds bitters and egg white. I’m going off the recipe from the Ginger Spoon, which includes both Chilean and Peruvian variations, and some additional history on the drink. (I’ll try the Peruvian version when Peru rolls around!)

Oh dang that’s good. I used a light hand with the simple syrup, because I love sour more than sweet – the recipe suggested it should taste like lemonade, and I personally would love to have a more sour lemonade! I think I got the ice to a perfect level of small shreds but not a full slush – hit the “crush ice” on your blender for a second but no longer. This is very simple but wow, this is good …. and strong!

NAURU: Demangi

I’ve found a few references to demangi, or coconut toddy, as a traditional alcoholic drink in Nauru – I would assume it’s been particularly central as this 1981 Nauruan dictionary not only lists it but also gives “demangimangi” as the word for drunkenness. But how do you actually make demangi? I found a photographer’s reference to naturally fermented coconut sap, which means it’s palm wine, which is drunk all around the coconut-growing world.

Sadly, palm wine doesn’t ship well, and there’s not a lot of coconut trees to tap here in Canada, so I’m going to try with a variation that uses coconut water instead of the sap. It may not be exactly the same, but I figure I’m definitely in the right ballpark of “homemade coconut wine” at least.

I’m going to use this recipe from Life ippo – it’s very straightforward, get a bit of yeast going into fresh coconut water and let it ferment for 24 hours. I made sure to get 100% pure, not from concentrate coconut water, since green coconuts are scarce around here.

I put it all together, covered with a clean cloth and a rubber band, and made sure my kitchen was nice and warm. After just a few hours, I could hear it fizzing from the fermentation. At around the five hour mark I took a sample – it was fizzy, the coconut flavour had taken a back seat, and it reminded me a bit flavour-wise of makgeolli or even sake, though I don’t think the alcohol content is particularly high yet.

After around 16 hours, most of the coconut flavour and the sweetness was gone, and it’s starting to take on that “carb-iness” that beer or rice wine has.

After 24 hours, the fizzing has stopped. I strained it off, and I’m left with about a litre of an opaque off-white drink. I can smell there’s a fair bit of alcohol in it, and it almost has a hint of white wine in the smell – not coconut, though. There’s also only the slightest hint of coconut in the taste, though it has an almost creamy mouthfeel. It’s a bit tangy, not very sweet at all, and almost a suggestion of an unfiltered wheat beer – though it’s not carbonated. I’d guess it’s stronger than beer and needs to be drunk almost immediately – it doesn’t keep.

Not bad, though I kind of liked the five hour mark sample more than the finished product. After my taste test, I added a few chunks of frozen pineapple into my glass of it – it goes really well. I wonder if I could make a similar drink with maple water?

FINLAND: Crispbread with herring, mustard, and vodka

I found several Finnish ingredients that I’m going to put together into a nice little dinner – crispbread with toppings! I know you can have a lot of leeway with toppings, but I’m going to aim for Scandinavian flavours incorporating foods imported from Finland. Here’s the Finnish foods I’ll be using:

Linkosuo Nettle Crispy Rye Bread – Two interesting things – it’s flavoured with nettle, which gives it a very subtle vegetal taste. The other is the size and shape – I’m used to getting crispbread that’s in flat rectangles, not a huge round circle. The circle with a hole is a Finnish tradition – it’s meant so you can store your bread up on rafters.

Valio Viola Cheese Spread – A light, almost white processed cheese spread, I’d say it tastes a lot like Laughing Cow.

Viking Pickled Herring Tidbits – I like pickled herring, and these come in small little pieces – perfect for a topping. They also have a bit of flavouring to them – I’m thinking a little bit of allspice or nutmeg? Neither would be surprising, those are both used a lot with meat in Scandinavian cooking.

Turun Sinappia Strong Mustard – A Finnish mustard that comes in several strengths – mild, strong, and fiery. I got the strong version, and it’s got the same kind of “use the cap to puncture it open” seal that I normally don’t see on foodstuffs. It’s got a good honey mustard taste; I have a feeling it’ll go great with the herring.

Finlandia Vodka – Crucially, you gotta wash your meal down with ice cold Finnish vodka.

I’m going to rustle up some other ingredients – I’m thinking hardboiled egg, cucumber, maybe tomato as well and see where my creativity takes me.

The perfect thing about the big round crispbread is that you can make sections with different topping combinations. I’m going for a few combos – I put Viola on 3/5 of it and some kajmak on the rest. On the kajmak I put tomatoes and cucumber (my fav combo on crispbread – goat cheese works well too). I put some of the same on the Viola cheese, as well as a section of cucumber, hardboiled egg, mustard, and pickled herring. I kept one section of Viola and lingonberry jam as a bit of a dessert and, of course – a shot of ice cold vodka to wash it all down! While I couldn’t find a shot glass, this thin glass fit perfectly in the hole.

Now the question is – how to eat it? I assume snapping it into sections will be the least messy way to go, but I don’t think there’s a way to eat it without at least some mess. Great flavour combinations all, though, a full meal deal!