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Helen Hughes – Santiago, Chile


Went to bed at about 3 a.m. after seeing off the last lingerers and cleaning up the party for some friends visiting from the States. One lived here long ago. The other is a new friend, who came along to experience Chile for the first time. 

I slept a few hours sleep, showered, fed the dog, watered the worms in the recycling hole out back, woke the guests and got ready for the little road trip we’d planned.

It was a late start through the Casablanca Valley, where we stopped to taste wine at the vineyards along the way to Valparaiso and the coast: Syrahs, Merlots, Pinot Noirs, Carmenères, Chardonnays, “Cabs” and “Sauvs.”  Not all these “varietals” were grown there, many were grown in other “terroires” by the same vineyards or supplied in the restaurants we also visited over the next couple days, sampling Chile’s finest catches of shellfish, fish, and seafood. We tasted one another’s dishes and most everything on the menus from appetizers to nuts.

I enjoy wine, but I personally have no palate to distinguish a trace of mushrooms or green peppers in wines, whether their fruit is bright or spicy, whether their undertone is citrus or raspberry-like, how terrific their acidity may be, how long or lovely their finish, how substantially “oaked,” or how threaded with “minerality” they may be.

The new friend on our little tour, however, had been participating in an informal wine tasting and cooking group since she had remarried only a couple years ago. She kept up a running commentary laced with new vocabulary (for me) on the delicacy, elegance, refinement or insipidness of every mouthful of solids or liquids she savoured, broadcasting a stream of consciousness on the discernment of her taste buds.

I was satiated, stuffed to bloated, after only two days into our little road trip and returned home early to fast until Christmas. What a way to spoil an appetite.


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