Wine Feature Archives
Top Sicilian Producers...
Three Red Aces of...
Excise Should Allow...
Behind the curtains...
Portuguese Wines Loo...
Tuscan Tasting 2011...
Champagne Masterclass...
Fascinating Chile Wine...
Monsieur Maharajah du...
Wine Warriors
Chile: Wineries of Cent...
Chile- Valley of...
Strange Case of Indon...
Be a Certified Wine...
Taming Tiger Nebbiolo...
Paradise in Puglia…
ROERO DOcG: The...
True Sustainability...
Record Entries for...
Less Travelled...
Maharashtra Ready for...
Italian at the border
Ante Prima Tasting...
Chianti with the...
Meet Faiek Saadani...
Should Goa be the...
Mario Sequeira...
Delhi May Don...
Ribeira Sacra for...
Historical Tasting of...
1 2 3

Posted: Thursday, 29 July 2010 12:26

Chile: Wineries of Central valley

Chile has a kaleidoscope of wineries, from the large traditional wineries making bulk wines and gradually shifting to higher quality wines to add to the reputation and revenues, several modern wineries many of them springing up during the last couple of decades, with increasing exports adding to the glamour, the very small-medium sized wineries focusing on quality rather than quality. Subhash Arora discovered several of them within this spectrum, travelling across various valleys, in the Central region.

Viñedos Puertas
Curico Valley

The winery started by José Puertas in 1950 was intended for making bulk wines with only one million liter capacity and 80 hAs of vineyards which have grown today to 650 hAs of vineyards. It is run by his son, also Jose Puertas, a very simple and unassuming person. The winery which looks like a modern refinery from outside,  has a capacity of 23 million liters, 90% of which is still bulk with the balance being used to make its own bottled wines some of which have been awarded frequently in international wine competitions. It uses modern equipment and technology, including a special French grape selection machine that is used by only two Chilean wineries according to the winemaker Carlos Silva Torres who has 30 years of winemaking experience, 20 of which have been with Concha y Toro.

About half of its total production is consumed in the domestic market including bulk. Balance is exported to countries like Germany, Russia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, UK, Japan, France, Slovenia etc.

The price of bulk wine which usually hoer between 60-90 cents a liter have skyrocketed to 90-120 cents for bulk wine due to less production this year and this winery has also benefitted with an increase of around 25% on their regular rates.

But of particular interest was El Milagro Syrah 2006 which has won several gold medals during the last couple of years including Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and Syrah du Monde- still quite reasonably priced to be an excellent buy for hotels/ restaurants.

Miguel Torres
Curico Valley, Curico

Chilean producers concur that the current modern phase of winemaking was spearheaded by Miguel Torres Sr. who descended from Spain in 1978-79. Torres was keen on expanding outside Spain. He had asked his Chilean colleague while studying enology in Bordeaux to help locate some vineyards in Chile, and that brought him to Curico. He was appalled with lack of technology and among other things introduced steel tanks with controlled fermentation which have become a de facto industry standard.

Talk of Miguel Torres in Curico and the people link it with their popular Santa Digna label. No one has heard if San Medin, the cheaper version exported to India and a couple of other export markets. Miguel Torres Jr. now lives in Chile and manages the winery. He prefers Curico to staying in Santiago.

Mas de Velasco is their iconic wine. But they have a delicious sparkling wine in the making, from the native Pais grape, though they already produce a Pinot Noir based Brut. Reluctant to share price details, Miguel explains why they decided not to market Cava though they are only 10 kms away from Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the Cava capital. ‘There are already too many players and we feel it won’t be a practical business due to an immense competition.’

‘We have been experimenting with this wine for a couple of years and plan to introduce it later this year here and Spain. We were concerned that the grape is dying and wanted to do something to keep it alive’, Miguel informs me during lunch, sitting next to me.

Torres was one of the several wineries that were affected substantially by the earthquake of 27th February this year, which caused damage estimated between $20b and $30b. ‘Many of our employees lost their homes and our first priority was to rebuild new homes for them in a hurry. We built 12 homes for them and getting further help from our friends and business associates we built 25 for the quake affected families which we selected and gave them completely free of charge,’ says Miguel.

A daughter was born to Miguel and his American wife Sarah in June-end. ‘She will be the first true Chilean in the family, who might control the winery one day,’ he says beaming with joy.

Prestige Wines in India imports San Medin, Santa Digna, Cordilla and Mas de Velasco. 

Via Wines
(‘Black Sheep’ of Chilean Wines)
Maule Valley
Winemaker: Rafaele Tirado

This winery is a typical example of how the new wineries with modern technology and big investments have been coming up in Chile during the last couple of decades. It planted 400 hAs of vineyards in 1998 in Maule Valley and now has 1039 hectares of its own vineyards in the Casablanca, Colchagua, Curicó, and Maule Valleys, along with 5 wineries  Casablanca Valley, Colchagua Valley, Curicó Valley and San Rafael in Maule Valley where we tasted their wines from different valleys.

It started exports in 2002 and in such a short time, it has become one of the top twenty exporters from Chile with presence in 35 countries. This year it will be exporting a million cases. The company emphasizes sustainable viticulture. In fact, it was one of the two wineries selected for the Sustainability Protocol Project started in 2008 and which is expected to be ready for implementation during the next 12-18 months.

It has three distinct ranges of labels- Chilcas, Chilensis and Oveja Negra.

Oveja Negra label means black sheep- and the winery would like to be known as the black sheep of the industry, by breaking rules and trying blends hitherto unknown grapes or come out with bold blends. As the winemaker Rafael Tirado explained, he even developed a white wine with 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Carmenere. ‘We harvest the Carmenere before it is fully ripe and has less of red colour and more of acidity. Fermenting as white wine, the blend is more expressive and has added some personality. Similarly the cabernet Franc and Carmenere which was incidentally a great match with the crab and corn dish at the dinner organised in the tasting room built on top of one of the 7 lagoons in the San Rafael property.

Chilca range might be slightly expensive for India though the quality justifies their price. Oveja Negra is an excellent value for money range and would be a good label for any price sensitive market looking for good quality as well. The Reserva Range also offers Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (both red and rosé), Chardonnay and Viognier blends. The Single Vineyards offer Syrah, Carmenere and Carignan- very good quality at excellent prices and these wines would be perfect for restaurants- Carignan being the unusual wine offering a very good value. Although he top end ‘Lost Barrel’ red was a nice, complex full bodied wine, it would not be an economically viable for at least, the Indian market.

Lantué, Curicó Valley
Contact: Mr. Christian Sotomayor

Although the company is known for excellent sparkling wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using Méthode Traditionelle, the basic range has been more popularized in India through import by Sovereign Impex  which also had a few of the more expensive labels like the Reserva range and Single Vineyard- the staple Chilean hierarchy of wine qualities. But, the high-ended Caballo Loco was quite popular at the Grand Catad’Or tasting in their Tasting room which saw a vertical tasting of some of their fine wines.

Christian has been expanding his capacity and has recently been growing grapes in Osorno, which is over 800 kms south of Santiago in a very cold area in order to try farming cold weather grapes.


Casa Silva
Colchagua Valley
Contact: Mario Pablo Silva

The family owned 5th generation winery is seemingly exhilarated as their Sauvignon Blanc has been selected for the business class of LAN Airways, the premier Latin American airline. Although the winery has belonged to the family for several generations since it was founded by the French man Emilio Bouchon in 1892, the current owner Mario Silva and his son Mario Pablo Silva truly converted it from primarily a bulk wine producer to a premium wine making company.

Casa Silva started to estate- bottle in 1997 and in a short span has made a mark internationally for quality wines. 

Each wine is tasted by a panel of five-3 family members and 2 technical professionals. Each blend is reviewed and unless there is unanimity, the sample is rejected and fresh one proposed. As with the other producers, it has a Reserva Range in Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir as also Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Viognier. It also produces a Sauvignon Gris, a rarity in Chile, made from the original vines planted in 1912. The Gran Reserva from different single vineyards in the varietal range of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Carmenere are very special wines- especially Carmenere. In fact, the winery takes pride in claiming that it has been responsible for the revival of the varietal and in getting the quality right. Petit Verdot is a very well made wine though its unique style would suit connoisseurs looking for an exciting change more. 

Silva family is also very proud of their special wine Quinta Generación, denoting the 5th generation being actively in the wine business. The QG red with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carménère, 25% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot and the QG white with 45% Viognier, 35% Sauvignon Gris, & 20% Chardonnay are both full bodied, complex wines.

The winery has an interesting history and unusual love for horses, Polo and Rodeo- which are an integral part of the lifestyle at Casa Silva. There is a polo pitch (in fact Mario Pablo’s teenage son was in the US when we visited the winery and enjoyed a few equestrian delights over a glass of Carmenere Gran Reserva 2006 and several snacks before heading for their restaurant which is actually a club house for the horse-riding school- the family reportedly owns 120 horses, reminiscent of the recent past when horses were used in the vineyard operations till recently.

 Viña Casablanca,
Casablanca Valley

Contact: Benjamin Naylor
Francesca Martin

Owned by the Santa Carolina Group this is one of the oldest wineries in the region, specialising in Sauvignon blanc and also making some Pinot Noir and Shiraz. In fact, they are currently working on a 13 hAs project for Shiraz.

The entry-level 'Cefiro' range and their premium 'Nimbus' range are named after the valley's wind and clouds respectively - the two elements that make the Casablanca Valley so suitable for fresh wine style in a valley where the climate is temperate.

De Martino

Isla del Maipo, Maipo Valley
Contact: Sebastian de Martino

Established in 1934, this is one of the older and well-respected wineries of Maipo Valley. Situated an hour away from Santiago, it is located on an island made by two arms of Maipo river, one of which has completely dried up. Several vineyards run through this  arm of which has a stony soil with no retention of water and is good for the vines going deep underneath, giving vineyards some of which are owned by the De Martino family, descendents of Italian immigrants. The terroir in this area has become very interesting because of the riverbed and the resultant soil.

Although in Chile, it is East- West and not North-South that makes a difference, areas which are very north or very south have also an impact. For instance on of their vineyards in Alqui Valley-uppermost area today is at an height of 2 kms and enjoys unique terroir.
UK is the biggest market for the medium size winery making 150,000 cases a year. De Martino wines are being exported to India through their UK office and one would see more of these quality wines in future, no doubt.

Here are a few of the wines I really enjoyed with interesting snacks.

Chardonnay Legado 2008- Wine made from grapes in the vineyards barely 10 km from sea in the Limarí Valley and barely 9-year old vines, it is mineral and very fresh. Though made in oak barrels most of whom are old, making it easy to drink and yet have complex flavour. Very expressive and really crisp wine defines the style of the winery.

Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley is a delicious crisp and fruity wine with a touch of oak that has made it interesting and also slightly expensive, making it  good only for restaurant sales.

Choapa Valley Shiraz and Altro de Piedra Carmenere were interesting wines from the relatively new wine valley where there are not too many wineries yet.

It has two labels of Carignan- both interesting wines, one from the cool climate near the sea and the other from the warmer part, which seemed to have better flavour. Like most Carignans, there is a presence of Cabernet, 8% and 2% in this case

We tasted over 12 wines in the Tasting Room the best being left for the last as usual- Familia 2005 is their top-of-the-range  wine made from 91 % Cabernet Sauvignon, a bit of Carmenere  and Malbec each and is aged in 100% new French oak, which has added spicy character and a touch of tobacco to the full body, age-worthy wines.

Apart from some of them being very interesting, Chilean wineries can be very far off to visit unless you are on a wine trail without really caring for special ones to visit. Chileans do not measure the distances, they calculate according to the time it takes. Unfortunately, they measure the time in traffic-less zone. In practice, the traffic can be really heavy-especially during peak hours and closer to Santiago driving through which can be an ordeal even for someone from Delhi except that one cannot help exclaiming that there are more civilised people in that city.

Subhash Arora

 The visit to these wineries as well as Errazuriz and dinners at some locations was planned courtesy the organisers of Grand Hyatt Catad’Or which had also organised  wine tastings of other wineries in the region at some of these wineries. Report on vists to more wineries to follow


Email to Friend



Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet
© All Rights Reserved 2002-2012