Promoting Argentina, Chile and Uruguay - Part 2
Part 2 - Chile
Rapid expansion over the last 20 years in Chile has seen the country become an export-oriented wine industry around 70% of production (making it the number one country for volume of wine exported from total production). Not unlike Argentina but for slightly different reasons it has an enviable position in terms of viticulture with near-perfect vine-growing conditions.
Not dissimilar to California the country is very long and thin (around 120km wide at best and over 1,000km long). Dominated by the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the country is divided into a series of valleys with rivers running from the Andes to the ocean. The climate is generally Mediterranean and there is a huge diurnal variation, assisting with the build up of flavours and retention of acidity.
It is worth mentioning that soils and climate actually vary more along an east-west direction than a north-south direction, with a more continental climate as you move closer to the Andes. Chiles is very much a red wine country with international French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Syrah and Pais, an everyday variety seen on the local market. Whites include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Moscatel of Alexandria.
There is a move to more Mediterranean varieties such as Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, and also some Tempranillo, as well as whites like Roussanne, possibly because the climate and soil is more similar to the Rhône, than Bordeaux. None of these were on tasting but the selection of wines reviewed was excellent.
Winery: Viña Aquitania
Location: 'Quebrada de Macul' - historically the heart of the Maipo Alto Valley vineyard - at the foot of the Andes Mountain, near Santiago, Chile
Contact: Eduardo De Solminihac - son of Felipe
In 1984, Bruno Prats and Paul Pontallier, two well-known agronomists and oenologists from Bordeaux, France, decided to look for high quality land in Chile to plant a totally new vineyard. Their third associate was their Chilean friend agronomist and oenologist Felipe de Solminihac, whose origins are actually French. They planted typical Bordeaux varieties, grown in Chile for many years already. The construction of the cellar was completed in 1993. In January 2003, Ghislain de Montgolfier, an agronomist and oenologist from the Champagne region in France, and an old friend of the founders, became the fourth associate, or the 'fourth musketeer' as he says, evoking the novel of Alexander Dumas.
The partners believe strongly in the concept of terroir. They consider the importance of combining the precise soil and micro climatic conditions in order to produce a great wine. The terroir of Viña Aquitania is characterised by a poor, well drained soil which allows roots to grow deep, and a micro climate which allows for very good exposure to sunlight, warm days, cool nights and no rainfall during ripening and harvesting.
- Aquitania SOLdeSOL Chardonnay 2009 (Malleco Valley) $ 79 rrp - This Chardonnay is 100% barrel fermented, which adds to its complexity. Aromas of stone fruit, melon and vanillin spice on the nose follow through on the palate which is creamy and textural. The finish is long and slightly warm.
- Aquitania SOLdeSOL Pinot Noir 2009 (Malleco Valley) $ 79 rrp - For a five year old Pinot Noir, this wine still shows great youthful characters. The nose is initially restrained but as it opens in the glass it displays dark fruit, bramble, mushroom and earthy notes. The palate is savoury with an addition of a meaty undertone. The wine is tightly wound with supportive tannin and acid to age well over the next five or so years. I really enjoyed this wine!
- Aquitania Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Rose 2012 (Maipo Valley) $ 27 rrp - A pretty rose with a floral bouquet and strawberries and cream. The palate is dry with some subtle spice and the wine is fresh and vibrant.
- Aquitania Reserva Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Maipo Valley) $ 29 rrp - Bell pepper, blackcurrants, vanillin spice and leafy notes on the nose. The palate is dry and savoury with a dark fruit profile. The balance of acid and tannin to fruit weight is spot on and the finish is persistent and delightful.
- Aquitania Reserva Syrah 2011 (Maipo Valley) $29 rrp - Deep plums, mulberry and spice with dried herbs and white pepper on the nose. The palate confirms the nose and the finish is long with a savoury tannic contribution on the back palate.
- Aquitania Lazuli Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Maipo Valley) $79 rrp - Cassis, leather and dry herbs on the nose, developing beautifully. The palate is dry with integrated tannins, softened with bottle age. A hint of primary fruit remains but the secondary characters dominate on the palate. This is an excellent example of aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.