(Re)Discovering Chile -
Posted January 14 2009
By Daenna Van
Hilltop at Vina Maipo with local traditional folkloric
The Maipo valley, although nowhere
near the largest DO in Chile is certainly the most densely packed with wine
producers. The region is anchored by the capital city of Santiago, which depending on what day and
whom you ask, is home to between six and seven million people. So, in a country
with a population of roughly sixteen million, you have a pretty good idea where everybody lives…
Reserva de Familia at Santa Caroline - the
same name at the wine that wowed France in 1889
Santa Carolina is a name with historical ties. And, like many of the well
established producers in Chile it has multiple layers of wines, labels and vineyard
Santa Carolina was established in 1875 by Luis Pereira with vines he had brought
directly from France and he named it after his wife, Carolina. In 1889 one of the
wines called “Reserva de Familia” took first place at the world’s fair in France
– the same year the Tour Eiffel was inaugurated – impressive to say the least.
And it begs the question, could that “Reserva de Familia” actually be the fist
Chilean icon wine?
The Carolina Brands has four winemaking facilities in - Maipo Valley,
Curico, Colchagua and in Argentina in Mendoza. The brands are Santa Carolina,
Viña Casablanca, Antares, Ochagavia in Chile and Finca el Origin in Argentina.
The historic estate, a winery and the original house of Luis Pereira are still
within the city limits of Santiago.
winemakers Alejandro Wedeles & Magdalena Sosa
Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Rapel Valley, 2008 classic bright
Chilean style of Sauvignon with ripe tropical fruits, peaches, snap peas and
sweet grass. It has a creamy edge on the palate with loads of juicy citrus and
sweet herbs. The vineyard the Sauvignon grapes are harvested from is a cooler
region (Rapel in generally warmer) and 15% comes from Casablanca fruit.
This wine is about $13 in Canada
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Chardonnay,
Casablanca Valley, 2007 named from the original line of wines in the 1800s
this Chardonnay is nothing but fresh, Ripe tropical fruit aromas,
cream, pineapple and exotic floral notes.
flavours echo the aromas and the finish lingers with hints of
Santa Carolina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, 2007
is a very easy drinking Cabernet with aromas of summer berries and cassis. The
palate is soft with gentle power and balanced acidity showing flavours of cocoa,
roasted coffee and red fruit with fine tannins on the finish. This wine is about
$13 in Western Canada.
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere, Rapel Valley, 2007.
Carmenere excites me, its hints of ‘green’ or vegetal is not only intrinsic in
the varietal but I think quite appealing.
It’s the balance
that counts and if there is absolutely no ‘green’
to a Carmenere isn’t not
typical. This wine has violet tones to the colour and the aromas are spicy black
fruits – black berry and black cherry – licorice root, savoury herbs and roasted
red peppers. The savoury flavours follow through onto the palate, this is a
young wine (getting ready to be bottled when I tasted it) with fruit that is
still a bit tart and loads of spice and tobacco flavours.
This wine is about $20 in BC and will be arriving Spring 2009.
Santa Carolina VSC, Maipo Valley, 2006 – The VSC is a
commemorative wine to celebrate 130 years since
the founding of Santa Carolina.
2005 was the first vintage
of this icon wine
which blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Petit Verdot.
The colour is a dead giveaway – dense. The aromas follow suit with red berries
and dried fruits, spice, crushed dark flowers and blueberry. Superbly fresh and
complex with very good balance and structure and a long finish with ripe, grippy
tannins that will soften in time – pairs well with spicy cheeses.
This wine is $30 in LCBO Vintages
Casablanca Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, 2008 this
single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc has a lovely balance between ripe, tropical
fruit and minerality that is rounded out with, pretty floral, soft citrus and
herbal notes. On the palate the
and citrus return bringing snappy pink grapefruit and peach flavours that pop on
the finish. Delicious.
This wine will be $20+ in BC/AB private wine stores
Casablanca Nimbus Syrah, Casablanca Valley, 2007 is unfortunately
only 500 cases because it’s a winner. The addition of 3% late harvest Riesling
may seem odd except that that’s the amount (generally) that winemakers add of
Viognier to Syrah. Smoky aromas a bit of bacon fat, fresh blackberries, pretty
violets and some interesting minerality. On the palate it’s smooth, ripe and
peppery with more of the smoky aromas appearing on the
– bright and elegant.
This wine is a steal for $25 at BC Liquor stores
Casablanca El Bosque Carmenere, Rapel Valley, 2007 is a very tasty Carmenere
showing sweet berry fruits, licorice and spices, smoke and tobacco and hint of
char grilled peppers. Well integrated flavours, rounded and plush on the palate
with perceptible tannins. $17-$20 in BC private wine stores and in Manitoba.
Cousiño-Macul - the lush Buin vineyard and winery in Maipo
Cousiño-Macul is one of the most impressive producers I visited in Chile. The wines are
consistent, elegant and extremely well-made - classic Cousiño-Macul style rather
History tells that grapes have been cultivated in the Macul region around
Hacienda Macul since 1564. But t wasn’t until 1856 that the Matias Cousiño
family, specifically to grow wine grapes, purchased it. In 1860 his son Luis
Cousiño went to Europe (like those of Errazuriz, Concha Y Toro, Carmen and others)
bringing back pre-phylloxera rootstock from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rheingau that
was inevitably, and perhaps ironically, saved by its reposition to Chile. Those
initial varieties have remained the only ones planted in the Cousiño-Macul and
Cousiño Buin vineyards until Syrah was planted three years ago. The company has
remained in the Cousiño family ever since. But the historic Macul site, which had
been outside of Santiago, is now in the middle of a subdivision, and with
nowhere to grow,
made the decision to move
the winery to
the new vineyards near Buin in the south of Maipo.
The sun was high in the sky,
sizzling, as Arturo guided us through the vineyards at Buin showing us the
traditional irrigation ditches running through the vineyards.
Cousiño-Macul Sauvignon Gris, Maipo
Valley, 2008 – The uncommon Sauvignon Gris is planted in both of the Cousiño
vineyards. Its an utterly alluring combo of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc-ish
aromas featuring peaches, floral tones, loads of exotic citrus and grass
clippings woven together with fresh minerality. The texture is lovely – almost
oily – rounded and soft with snappy acidity and flavours of peach, grapefruit
and pomelo, sweet herbs and minerals with a zesty finish. Delicious! Limited -
about $18 in BC
above: raditional irrigation ditches
Cousiño-Macul Riesling, Maipo Valley,
2008 has always been a favorite of mine, although it is ahrd to find as
quantities are quite limited in BC. If you felt the heat in the Buin vineyardsas I did you would wonder how something like Riesling could survive. Survive it
does – vibrant aromas of stone fruits, lime oil, lemons and minerals. The aromas
return on the palate – creamy stone fruit and citrus flavours. Excellent fruit
expression, its dry with mouth-watering acidity leading to a zesty, lip-smacking
Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas
Merlot, Maipo Valley, 2007 is a gorgeous Merlot, perfumed with dark floral
juicy plums and blackberries with undertones of pepper,
mocha. The palate is sophisticated – smooth and fresh with excellent structure,
black fruits, savoury undertones and toasted spice flavours on the palate. Fine
tannins linger on the palate.
About $20+ private wine stores in BC
Cousiño-Macul Finis Terrae, Maipo
Valley, 2006 is 60% Cabernet with Merlot and has loads of savoury
characteristics – mixed spices, fleur de sel, pepper and bright red fruits. It
is complex on the palate – with layers of fresh, smooth fruit, spices and
Approx $35 in BC
I also tasted the Finis Terrae 2003 which has the same characteristics as
the 2006 – seasoned with spices, menthol, chocolate and meaty hints. Fresh, and
the tannins are still powerful on the palate, the fruit is more mature showing a
bit of age.
The 1999 Finis Terrae showed juicy fruit, savoury herbal tones, fleur de
sel, minerality and mixed spices and finally the Finis Terrae 1995 is less
savoury than the previous tasted – the aromas were dried cherries and dried
berries and spice. Excellent structure on the palate – the flavours echo the
aromas with some mineral, cedar box and saline hints
and still powerful tannins
on the finish. New world fruit and old world elegance.
Cousiño-Macul Lota, Maipo Valley,
2005 is the Cousiño-Macul icon wine – which blends 75% Cabernet and 25% Merlot
from the Buin vineyard. It is intense but not overwhelming with appealing aromas
of dark berries, savoury herbs and chocolate, licorice and allspice. It’s silky
on the palate with great acidity – smooth and elegant with ripe tannins which
longer on the palate. The grapes from this wine come from vines which are 15-40
Limited in Canada approx. $70+
For more information on Cousiño-Macul
Vineyards and Andes Mountains from Santa Alicia in
I had never heard of Santa Alicia before this visit to Chile but they are
actively seeking agents to bring in their wines so you may see them soon. Santa
Alicia is an interesting winery like a mini-village of artisans making furniture
from old oak barrels, wrought-iron workers and tile painters, woodcarvers and an
in-house graphic design and print shop. I was so entranced by what I was seeing
– including, as always the adorable dogs that roam freely around Chile – that I
forgot I was there to taste wine. When we finally did wander into the tasting
room I was impressed not only by the more premium wines of Santa Alicia but the
people that are part of and work for Santa Alicia.
Located just south of Santiago, Santa Alicia was founded by Maximo
Valdes, a businessman in 1954 under the name Casas del Pirque. The Valdes family
is still partners in the winery. The grapes are all from
the Maipo Valley
including the winery vineyard Pirque,
which at 687meters above sea level sits so
close to the Andes it takes your breath away. In the Pirque vineyard Chardonnay,
Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc is planted. The second vineyard Melpilla
sits in the valley - suited to the Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere
that grows there. The third vineyard – closer to Casablanca is named Maria Pinto
and at 188 m above sea level is where they grow Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and
Carved wine barrels outside and in - a small
The wines that impressed me.
Santa Alicia Anke 1, Maipo Valley,
2006 is a blend of Cabernet Franc 64%
and Petit Verdot. It has very appealing blueberry and black berry fruit aromas,
pretty floral and chocolate, coffee and spice undertones. The palate is supple
and ripe with sweet fruit, spiced chocolate and espresso liqueur. The tannins
are powerful but ripe, the finish long. Very impressive.
Santa Alicia Gran Reserva Merlot,
Maipo Valley 2005 showed plummy and
earthy aromas with chocolate undertones. The nose was a bit closed when I tasted
it but the palate had a very silky texture with spice and tobacco lingering on
Santa Alicia Gran Reserva
Carmenere, Maipo Valley, 2005 has
appealing dried cherries, kirsch and blueberry jam aromas with earthy and
balsamic undertones. On the palate its smooth, with fantastic layers of spice,
fruit, chocolate, cedar box and berry fruit. Elegance and power with fine drying
tannins on the finish. Delicious!
Santa Alicia Millantú, Maipo
Valley, 2005 is a blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon (60%), Carmenere (30%) and Cabernet Franc. Millantú means “golden sun”
and I can assure you it is golden. Opulent aromas – sweet, smoked dark
chocolate, blackberries and spice, vanilla and café au lait. Layered and dense. Spice and fruit on the palate – savoury and succulent
with a plush texture, great acidity with unending fruit, spice and sweet tannin
on the finish. Wonderful!
The LCBO does sell some of the Reserva wines (entry level) including the
fresh, bright Carmenere rose.
For more information on Santa Alicia
Concha Y Toro
Gardens at Concha Y Toro in Pirque
Just past the city limits, south of Santiago is the Concha Y Toro Estate
In 1883, Don Melchor de Concha Y Toro, the Marques de Casa Concha started
a vineyard planted - like all of that era – with classic French varietals
brought from Bordeaux. The estate in Pirque is 57 acres of beautiful lawns and
gardens, a winery and restaurant and the Casona or country house (which was
built as the family home in 1875). Don Melchor’s wife Doña Emiliana Subercaseaux
oversaw the building of the gardens and the lovely Casona. Of course since that
original planting, Concha Y Toro has grown to encompass over 7000 hectares
around Chile and Argentina in the Maipo, Maule, Rapel, Colchagua, Limari, Curico
and Casablanca Valleys. And with their 1988 partnership with Banfi Vintners have
become a powerful force in the world of wine
Tours are big at the Pirque Estate, wine lovers come to see the grounds,
take pictures at the Casona and
course visit the Casillero del Diablo – the
“Devil’s Wine Cellar”.
It is said that Don Melchior himself started that rumour
to keep others from siphoning off his best wines - which he would place there.
above right - the Casona, right the
"Devil's Wine Cellar"
Concha Y Toro Trio Sauvignon Blanc,
Casablanca Valley, 2008 as wonderfully ripe aromas – pineapple and sweet floral
notes. It’s quite full on the palate yet zippy and fresh with cut grass and
citrus zest, minerality and a bright finish.
Concha Y Toro Marches de Casa Concha Chardonnay, Rapel Valley, 2007 is a butterscotch
lovers dream – caramel and
sweet spices with warm pineapple aromas. Rounded and full on the palate with
oak spice and toasted nutty flavours and of course more butterscotch but
brightened up with a good dose of fresh acidity. Very tasty – about $23 in BC
Concha Y Toro Maycas de Limari
Reserva Especial Chardonnay, Limari Valley, 2007. The Maycas de Limari label
wines come from vineyards bought by Concha Y Toro in the quite northerly valley
region of Limari in 2005.
The first release for this wine was this 2007 vintage.
A unique terroir driven wine with loads of smoky minerality rounded out with 2nd
and 3rd use barrel ‘spiced oak’ aromas. The palate shows pear, apple and citrus,
more minerality and a bright clean finish. These wines fall into the category of
ongoing search for unique terroir and wines with a sense of place that is
happening in Chile and around the world.
Concha Y Toro Maycas de Limari
Reserva Especial Syrah, Limari Valley, 2005 is a perfect example of uniqueness
from a specific terroir. Its an elegant wine with aromas of chocolate
purple flowers, some herbal tones but all in all a gorgeous bouquet. Lush,
almost creamy on the palate with impressive intensity, great acidity and gobs of
berry and spice flavours. The tannins are integrated and the finish just keeps
Concha Y Toro Casillero del Diablo
Shiraz, Rapel Valley, 2007 has upfront blueberry jam and bright mixed red berry
aromas, lush chocolate and pepper. Juicy yet smooth on the palate with loads of
berry fruit, chocolate and spice. The tannins are ripe and powerful – the finish
impressively long. About $14 in BC
Concha Y Toro Winemaker’s Lot
Carmenere, Rapel Valley, 2007 shows sweet red berries, coffee, roasted red
peppers and balsamico and peppercorns. The balsamico, roasted pepper , summer
berries and spice
returns on the palate with chocolate, menthol and smoke – the finish lingers
with sweet fruit flavours in tow and the acidity pops.
Read winescores.ca review
here $19.99 BC
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Alto Maipo Valley, 2005
Don Melchor is
Concha Y Toro’s icon wine (read more link here) which comes from the Alto Maipo
appellation within Maipo. The Alto Maipo is closest to the Andes Mountain Range
with its rough, colluvial soils and natural irrigation resulting from the
melting mountain snowcaps that drag rich minerals into the vineyards below. The
still youthful 2005 vintage has mixed red berry aromas with a creamy element to
the nose, graphite, spices, bittersweet chocolate and espresso tones. It has
layered, fresh flavours and some herbal hints with amazing acidity, powerful
tannins and a finish that won’t quit.
Read winescores.ca article on Don Melchor icon wine
The Cocha Y Toro wines are widely available across Canada
For more information on Concha Y Toro
Santa Rita is the mother company of Carmen – in fact they reside right
next to each other.
Of course, Santa Rita is a historic estate,
founded in 1880, by Domingo Fernández
It’s a stunning estate
with gardens, a restaurant, the Casa Real Hotel (estate home refurbished in
1996) and a neo-gothic chapel built in 1885 specifically for the wedding of
Domingo Fernández Concha’s daughter.
This exquisite chapel was recently restored
and the workmanship is striking.
After Domingo Fernández Concha’s time, up to the mid 1970s, Santa Rita
was under ownership of Vicente García Huidobro until1980 when Grupo Claro
purchased the Santa Rita property and invested in its modernization. Located in
Alto Jahuel just south of Santiago, both the Carmen and the Santa Rita estates
are worth a visit – their diversity is obvious.
Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon
Blanc, Casablanca Valley, 2008 is a typically fresh Sauvignon Blanc with
interesting complexity – minerality with a leesy character, loads of citrus
fruits, grass clippings and
snap peas. The palate has a lovely creamy charm,
the vibrancy wines out in the end and finishes with a zesty snap.
Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2006 has
delectable aromas – sweet and juicy, blueberry and cherry cola, eucalyptus and
allspice with chocolate. Supple and velvety on the tongue – fruit forward and
super easy drinking with licorice and mint flavours and fine tannins on the
Santa Rita ‘Triple C’, Maipo Valley, 2005 Suitably named, this
blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and
Carmenere is a fruit bomb in a
tux. Dense berry fruit aromas, balsamico, chocolate, dill and fragrant purple
floral notes. The palate is silky, the entry is spiced and warm. Its laden with
fruit, pepper, licorice and molten chocolate flavours. Excellent structure and
acidity, this is a wine to impress people with.
The Santa Rita Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2005 has
intense mixed berry aromas – blackberries and currents spiked by sweet warm
spices, woodsy, forest floor and earthy notes. It’s plush on the palate with
flavours of ripe berry fruit, mint chocolate and licorice. Excellent structure
and power, a wine that makes you say wow!
For more information about Santa Rita
the Carmen tree house
Carmen is said to be Chile’s oldest wine house.
It sits next door, (in Chilean distance) somewhat overshadowed by its
parent winery Santa Rita. And although Carmen is a fully modern winery, the
tasting room I visited resembles a tree house out of Swiss Family Robinson.
Surrounded by vegetation, organic vineyards, grumpy geese and curious Alpacas,
it’s a complete contradiction to the grace of Santa Rita - but not in a bad way.
Its uniqueness suits Carmen.
I’m a big supporter of the Carmen wines – I think they over-deliver. I
like their value and their flavour profiles and their consistency is very
Christian Lanz who named it in honour of his wife, Carmen, founded Carmen in
1850. Purchased by Grupo Claro several years after they acquired Santa Rita,
Camen now has vineyards in the Maipo, Curico,
Rapel and Casablanca Valleys in
total, more than 650 hectares.
Carmen also owns a bottle production plant and in an effort to reduce their
carbon footprint are moving from 490 gram bottles to a new 420 gram bottles
under screw-cap. And, if you are familiar with the Carmen Nativa Organic wines,
they will now be a separate brand with its own vineyards and winemaking team
Carmen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2005 presents bright red
berries, cassis and eucalypt aromas, hints of chocolate, chalky minerality and
tobacco. Mouth-filling with creamy fruit and spice flavours lingering on the
Carmen Reserve Petit Sirah, Maipo Valley, 2005
has jammy blueberry and
chocolate aromas minerals and sweet espresso. The berry fruit –
blackberry/blueberry – reappears on the palate with warm spice, coffee liqueur,
leather and licorice. Weighty and dense with super ripe tannins.
Carmen Winemaker’s Reserve Red, Maipo Valley, 2005 blends 45% Cabernet
Sauvignon with, Carmenere (25%), Merlot, Syrah and Petit Sirah. Aromas are ripe
dark fruit, espresso, dark chocolate, and licorice notes. The texture is
superbly silky with dense flavours of coffee, chocolate and sun-ripened berries.
A powerful but balanced wine with ripe youthful tannins on the finish. Release
is January 2009 – its about $52
Carmen Gold Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2005 this
single vineyard, ultra premium Cabernet is brimming with ripe berries, espresso,
chocolate syrup and cassis with sweet, exotic spice aromas. Velvety on the
palate with dense berry and mocha flavours, the tannins are powerful but ripe
and the linger is substantial.
Gold Reserve 1999 – the Gold Reserve is only made in the best vintages
(although Chile has very consistent vintages) 1999 is considered one of the best
vintages in 20 years.
It presents sweet red berries, spice and tobacco notes with caramel,
dried fruits, spice and cedar box flavours. The finish lingers with hints of
coffee, the acidity is balanced, the tannins smooth.
For more information on Carmen click here
The Tarapaca Estate
Viña Tarapacá is part of the Southern
Sun Wine Group. They own six properties in Chile and Argentina, but in
2008 a partnership between Tarapacá and another Chilean group named Viña San
Pedro (who also has six wineries in Chile and Argentina) made them the second
largest wine company in Chile – the completion of which took place a week prior
to my visit in November.
But you won't see the enormity of Southern Sun when you visit the beautiful Tarapacá ex
Zavala estate. Founded in 1874 under the name of Viña de Rojas, makes Tarapacá
one of the most historic wineries in Chile. The name Zavala came into place many
years later under the ownership of Antonio Zavala. Tarapacá ex Zavala came about
soon after, named in honor of Mrs. Zavala’s lawyer who won her the Zavala
in the divorce settlement. The estate house -
renovated several years ago –
boasts raked drives, rolling lawns, palm trees and fountains, a pool,
guesthouse, golf field and an obligatory airstrip. There is also a museum, a winery
built in the mid-90s and extensive cellars – much of which has been updated.
California ex-pat (and previously of Errazuriz) Ed Flaherty
(right), head winemaker for Tarapacá,
Vina Mar and Casa Rivas – showed up for dinner in one of his signature
flamboyant shirts – to taste some of the Tarapacá wines and lead the tour.
Tarapacá ‘Terroir La Isla’ Sauvignon
Blanc, Leyda Valley, 2008 is the first time Leyda grapes have been used and
bottled under this Tarapacá label. This costal region (within the San Antonio
Valley DO) is getting to be well known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Pinot
Noir. It’s a snappy Sauvignon Blanc smelling of grass clippings, jalapeno,
tropical fruits and citrus with a very interesting smoky/flinty minerality. The
palate shows appealing minerality,
peaches and fresh herbs with loads of zest on the finish.
Tarapacá ‘Terroir Piritas’
Chardonnay, Maipo Valley, 2007 like the La Isla Sauvignon Blanc, the Piritas
Chardonnay is part of Tarapacá’s ‘Terroir’ series made to showcase individual
character and quality from different regions around the Maipo. This wine has
lovely pure fruit aromas and flavours – pear, tropical citrus and hints of young
golden pineapple with undertones of butter and caramels. I love the combination
of fresh flavours housed in a round, creamy texture.
‘Terroir La Cuesta Cabernet~Syrah’, Maipo Valley, 2007 is a 50/50 blend. Sweet
Cabernet berry aromas drift out of the glass followed by the Syrah’s blackberry
and pepper and finally some smoky/meaty undertones. The palate has mixed berry
fruit flavours, savoury herbs, minerality – a slight salinity and loads of
spice. Nice acidity, integrated tannins and a lingering smoky/char finish.
Tarapacá Late Harvest Sauvignon
Blanc~Gewurztraminer, Maipo Valley, 2007 is such a unique flavour amalgamation
of Sauvignon - grassy and lemony superimposed on
Gewurztraminer - honey, lychee,
rose oil and warm spice.
The palate is juicy and lemony with loads of citrus
peel and chamomile tea with honey flavours. Sweet and tart with a fabulous zesty
finish. Pairs well with dulce de leche cake.
Tarapacá Gran Reserva Etiqueta Negra, Maipo
Valley, 2007 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. It
presents ripe fruit aromas – plums, blackberries, cherries, spice and saddle
leather. Plush on the palate with very good structure and smooth tannins showing
dark fruits, bittersweet chocolate and earthy flavours.
Should be available in Canada soon.
Tarapacá Zavala, Maipo Valley, 2007 is
considered a Premium Plus wine. The Zavala was also one of my Top 50 picks of
2008 in the $20-$50 category. A blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot this wine is
juicy! Purple fruit aromas - forest berries first, followed by cassis, oak
spice, eucalyptus and chocolate sprinkled with allspice. Velvety but fresh on
the palate – time in the bottle will be very beneficial – giving it time to meld
and smooth out. Very good
For more information on Tarapacá click here
TerraMater vineyards in Maipo
TerraMater, in many ways seems like a young winery but, it is the culmination of
a family split, then rebuilt. In 1996, three sisters - Antonieta, Edda and Gilda
Canepa - combined their family vineyards and history of winemaking into
TerraMater - Mother Earth. TerraMater has three main vineyards in Curico, Maipo
and Maule, in total 700 hectares of vines and olive trees. I visited the winery
in Isla de Maipo on a another hot, sunny day tasting wine and enjoying a
gracious alfresco asado (Chilean barbecue) luncheon in a grove of trees in the
500 hectare Maipo vineyard. You will never starve in Chile...
Like most producers in Chile TerraMater levels of quality and price - starting
with the entry level Paso del Sol then Vineyards Reserve, TerraMater Limited
Reserve, the Altum Single Vineyard wines, Unusual and their first vintage called
Mater (mother) was introduced in 2006. From here, one wonders why so many tiers
- but the answer is not so simple. Often different tiers are sold to different
countries, depending on that country's consumer needs.
Entry level Paso del Sol may appeal to some and not others - the label often
makes a difference to what sells where also. I found this in many wineries in
Chile - multiple tiers of which I may only be able to purchase one or two of in
Right top - vineyard management with wings
Right -preparing for a Chilean asado
Right bottom - asado (barbecue)
TerraMater Cabernet Sangiovese, Maipo Valley, 2006
BC private wine stores about $15
link to review
TerraMater Altum Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley,
2007 is a toasty, buttery Chardonnay with pear compote and pineapple aromas.
It encompasses your palate with ripe creamy fruit, loads of tropical citrus and
spice and it lingers impressively.
TerraMater Altum Shiraz, Isla de Maipo, 2006 has
sweet ripe fruit that levitates out of the glass - Black cherry, blackberry,
blueberry, savoury undertones, earth and pepper. The palate is spiced, it has
coffee and chocolate, layers of black and blue fruit flavours. Its plush and
powerful with grippy tannins that linger extensively, while holding tight to
spice and dark earthy flavours.
TerraMater Unusual Carmenere-Shiraz, Maipo
Valley, 2006 has a gorgeous colour with aromas of dried fruits, balsamico
and espresso. I
t is dense and rich on the palate with dark berry fruits, spiced dark chocolate
and coffee beans. The texture is velvety and supple with massive structure and
powerful lingering tannins.
TerraMater Unusual 'Mighty Zin', Maipo Valley, 2006 has sweet, ripe
berries on the nose - raspberry, blueberry, and 'cola' spice (cinnamon, clove,
sweet allspice) with an mouth-feel and silky finish spiked with spice and
TerraMater Unusual Cabernet-Zinfandel-Shiraz, Maipo Valley, 2005
BC private wine stores about $45
link to review
For more information on TerraMater
Hilltop at Viña Maipo looking down into the valley
and the Maipo River
Viña Maipo was purchased by Concha Y Toro,
twenty years after it was first established in 1948.
In 1985 Viña Maipo started exporting to Europe, they were very small then, and
by 2003 they were the 3rd largest exporter to the EU. Only now, for the first
time, are the arriving on our own shelves. In 2007, in order to compete on
multiple levels and provide consumers with more options, Viña Maipo launched
their ultra-premium line and their sparkling wine series. They have 700 hectares
spread around the Central Valley some of which we gazed upon during our visit to
Maipo Town - on a hilltop looking over the Maipo River and valley. Viña Maipo's
connection to Maipo Town is obvious by the label depicting the towns church
tower and story of how for centuries, locals gather there to pray, which is why
their vineyards have always, miraculously, been protected . Local folkloric
singers joined us to dance and to sing - introducing us to traditional Chilean
right-folkloric dancers, below right -local snacks
Viña Maipo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca
Valley, 2008 is an easy drinking Sauvignon Blanc with nice acidity, peachy
citric tones and a pleasantly rounded mouth-feel.
The Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc is available in LCBO stores for $17.95
Viña Maipo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2007 shows cassis
liqueur, jalapeno and vanilla aromas. Its velvety, with bright fruit, the finish
is smooth but the mid-palate is a bit shallow.
Maipo Reserva Carmenere, Rapel Valley, 2007 has jammy, ripe fruit, pepper,
pretty floral notes, cocoa, vanilla and pearl onion undertones. It is smooth and
supple on the palate with sweet fruit and savoury flavours that echo the aromas.
The finish is quite savoury, the acidity bright and the tannins polished - good
Viña Maipo Gran Devocion Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, 2008 is a
very attractive Sauvignon with aromas of creamy peaches and crisp apple with
tropical citrus and minerals. the palate is fresh, rounded and lively with
nice complexity and sweet fruit lingering on the finish. Lovely.
Viña Maipo Gran Devocion Cabernet~Syrah, Maule Valley, 2007 Has
mouth-watering berry aromas - blueberry, cassis and raspberry - creamy chocolate
and espresso with vanilla. Supple and smooth on the palate with balanced acidity
and flavours of mixed berries, chocolate, white pepper and coffee. Peppery
spices linger on the finish, the tannins are silky.
Maipo Limited Edition Syrah, Maipo Valley, 2006 has 3% Cabernet added in to
make this tasty Syrah. Aromas of dried, almost sun-baked fruits, espresso,
menthol and some juicy berry undertones. The palate shows spiced fruits, silky
chocolate and coffee flavours with finely ground pepper. Sweet and smooth. Only
500 cases produced.
For more information on Viña Maipo
Pinot Noir at Undurraga
Undurraga is quickly
becoming a bubble-house. Their range of sparkling wines is growing and the
price/quality ratio is something to be aware of. Unfortunately not much of that
bubbly is available here - yet. But Undurraga is also a premium wine house. Yes,
they do have multiple tiers of wines starting at the most basic, entry level –
inexpensive wines - but I want to look past those to the mid-tier and premium
wines. I think this is where wine drinkers need to see Chile’s shine. Chile’s
entry level wines are good – all solid - but the mid-tier wines, the next step
up for a few dollars more are well worth the investment.
Undurraga is a lovely estate in Maipo
at Santa Ana de Talagante, not far from Santiago. I visited there on my last day
of wine touring on the way to finally (after 2 weeks) see the ocean at the port
city of Valparaiso.
was also the only cool day I witnessed in Chile –
after day it was blue skies and gorgeous temperatures.
The visit to Undurraga,
like all visits in Chile was unique. It’s an old estate (1885) but the more
recent developments have been massive. Purchased in 2006, a new winemaking team
(including the well-know Alvaro Espinoza and Hernan Amenabar) and new management
were quickly put in place. New vineyard land was purchased; old brands were
polished while new brands (labels) were developed. Those were just the obvious
changes. The estate grounds went under some artistic upgrades with a strong nod
to the indigenous Mapuche peoples, their ancestors and their beliefs and, the
new winery is currently under construction. But the long established underground
cellars are quite fantastic.
Traditional Mapuche carvings facing the sunrise.
Undurraga Brut, Maipo Valley, NV like
most sparkling wines in Chile is not a traditional method – rather a charmat or
bulk method of production which is less expensive and less time consuming. The
secondary fermentation does not take place in the bottle but rather in a tank,
it is then bottled under pressure with the bubbles remaining. Made from 40%
Pinot Noir and 60% Chardonnay and has aromas of candied fruits, peaches, honey
and fruit blossoms. The flavours are apple and peach – its crisp and fresh with
a kiss of sweetness. It’s a simple, easy drinking sparkler and perfect patio
Undurraga also makes a Brut Royal
with 60% Pinot Noir, a Brut Royal Rose. There are two new sparkling wines coming
soon – the Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs. The only traditional method
sparkler they make is called Brut Supreme. Lets hope we see some of these in the
winemaker Hernan Amenabar pouring a fruit sparkling wine that is
popular in Chile
Sibaris Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda
Valley, 2008 is a gorgeous example of refreshing Sauvignon Banc from Leyda (a
sub-apellation of San Antonio). It presents creamy peach aromas, grass
clippings, snappy citrus and a hint of smoky minerality. It is fresh,
mouth-watering and zesty with a long, clean finish.
The Aliwen Chardonnay, Curico Valley, 2007 is butterscotch in a glass.
The aromas are creamy vanilla caramels, pineapple and melon with undertones of
toast, a hint of espresso and sweet, nutty praline. Smooth and surprisingly
fresh and clean on the palate nicely balanced between buttery and crisp with
of pineapple, citrus, and warm spice. Yum!
Sibaris Pinot Noir, Maipo Valley,
2007 is always a great bargain. Last year, under its old label (simply Undurraga)
it was in my Top 100 of 2008 under $20. Well deserved at under $16.
Sweet aromas – almost candied – cherry, allspice, vanilla and toasted,
charred hints with herbal undertones. Fresh blueberry flavours, coffee, toast
and earthy tones – fresh and smooth with surprising weight and a spiced tobacco
The current vintage 2006 is $15.99 in BC Liquor Stores
Now this is exciting stuff. As good as the readily available wines are
from Chile we wine geeks love a little treasure hunting…
T.H. stands for Terroir Hunter which
is an interesting experiment to find the best terroirs for a grape variety and
letting the expression in those terroirs speak through the wine. In this case,
winemaker Rafael Urrejola has trekked through Chile looking for the best places
to make Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. He has made Sauvignon Blancs from Lo Barca
(in SanAntonio only 6km from the ocean), in Leyda (also in SanAntonio) and in
Casablanca. His Syrah grapes have come from Maipo and Limari. We tasted the
Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda and the
T.H. Syrah, Limari Valley, 2007-
Syrah is extremely impressive.
The aromas are sweet and smoky, succulent wild
berries and bacon fat aromas, chocolate shavings and spice. Plush but fresh –
vibrant acidity - on the palate with layers of red fruit, spice, chocolate and
peppercorns followed by fine tannins on the finish.
Sibaris Carmenere, Colchagua Valley,
2007 shows juicy berry, balsamico and loads of pretty floral aromas with
undertones of chocolate, spice and typical ‘green’ hints. The aromas are echoed
on the palate – its fresh (almost delicate) with great acidity with excellent
fruit expression and a plush texture. Delicious.
Undurraga Founder’s Collection
Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2006 has upfront red berry aromas, ripe and
plush, cherries and chocolate and savoury smoked/meaty tones. Its direct,
succulent and intense on the palate with cassis liqueur flavours, fine tannins
and a long sweet finish. Stunning.
Altezor, Maipo Valley, 2006 is a blend
of Cabernet (55%), Syrah (18%), Carmenere (15%) and Merlot with aromas of spiced
plums and ripe berries, pepper and earth. The lush fruit follows through on the
palate, its layered and elegant with cedar, espresso and spice. An impressive
wine with power that I would like to revisit in a couple of years.
Stay Tuned - Coming Soon
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