WHEN the Chilean wine writer Eduardo Brethauer thinks of his home country, he conjures the soft tannins of the carmenere grape, the mineral flavours from vineyards planted by the Pacific Ocean and cabernet sauvignon grown high in the mountains.
"Imagine a skinny woman," he said. "Chile is a very long thin country … we have the influence of the sea from the one side and on the other we have the Andes.
"It's a very good balance between the very fruity flavours of the wines and also the freshness of the sea and the mountains."
Mr Brethauer is one of five wine experts who visited Australia last week to select the single best wine from each of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina for this year's Five Nations Wine Challenge.
Seated among thousands of bottles at the contest's temporary headquarters in Concord, he said: "I'm looking for wines that have balance and freshness of mouth [that are] also profound."
Mr Brethauer joined judges Michael Fridjhon from South Africa, Fabricio Portelli from Argentina and Bob Campbell from New Zealand, as well as the Herald's wine writer Huon Hooke, to gaze at, smell and sip the top drops from across 16 classes, including sparkling, chardonnay, rose and merlot.
The men - all renowned wine experts - had nominated their own country's very best wines to be judged by their peers.
On Friday afternoon, they announced the top five: Australia's best was Xanadu Margaret River reserve chardonnay 2010; New Zealand, Akarua pinot noir 2010; South Africa, Stark-Conde Wines Three Pines cabernet sauvignon 2009; Argentina, Trapiche Single Vineyard Miralles malbec 2009; Chile, Polkura Block G+I syrah 2009. They were selected from a shortlist of 540 wines.
The final winner will be announced on October 26.