I’ve spent 3 days in Colchagua Valley of Chile in the very last days of 2017; seen breathtaking vineyards with modern wineries and tasted good wines. Here, I’ve made a small summary of all these.
As you can understand from the title, we only visited 2 wineries a day, because I wanted it to be relaxed. One winery in the morning, a nice lunch and another one in the afternoon… perfect plan for the day. If you are more ambitious, you can easily add one more winery to the afternoon.
One last thing before start: My camera coming together with Chilean wine and vineyards, I’ve ended up taking a lot of photos! That’s why I’ve decided to make a photo diary. Some photos are really expressive and they don’t need any explanations, but I’ve just added some information with my impressions. I hope you enjoy this type of an article with me.
DAY 1 WINERY 1: HACIENDA ARAUCANO
Hacienda Araucano is one of the wineries of François Lurton, together with the ones in France, Spain and Argentina.The property is just beautiful, surrounded by hills and olive trees. The entire vineyard is managed with biodynamic practices, with the official « biodynamic certificate » from Demeter.Here, we visited the small hut where they produce and keep their composts for the biodynamic applications.
Two very hot topics for the wineries in the whole valley is the energy and water consumption. Each winery has its own solution to these topics. Hacienda Araucano have chosen to invest on its own water collecting facility and solar energy production.The winery is named after Chile’s indigenous people. However, in Chile the winery is known as François Lurton because of the copyright of the name, since « araucano » is the name of a traditional liqueur.
The winery is situated close to a small village called Lolól. Since this name took my attention and made me smile (lol), I’ve searched the meaning of it. In Mapudungun, the language of Mapuche, “lo” is a prefix which means many, while “ló” means holes. Another explanation that I’ve found gives a similar meaning: « land of crabs and holes ».After the tour, we made a tasting of their wines. First of all, we tasted Sauvignon Blanc 2017. This wine had its own style, shows truly the climate that it comes from, for this reason I liked a lot this Sauvignon blanc. And then, we tasted Humo Blanco Pinot Noir from 2015 and finally Clos de Lolól which is a blend of the varieties that grow in Lolól Valley; Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.
Finally, I was checking the website of Hacienda Araucano and I ended up reading these lovely words of François Lurton: «If I were a vine, I would choose to be planted in Chile». This made me think… And how about you? Where would you want to be planted if you were a vine?
DAY 1 WINERY 2: VIÑA SANTA CRUZ
If you have only 1 chance to visit a winery in Colchagua Valley, that would be Viña Santa Cruz. A complete experience of enoturism awaits you there.The winery is situated on the hill, so that gives them the opportunity to design a gravitational winery. It means the grape reception is in the upper floor, than the grapes go into the vats in the ground floor and finally end up in the barrel room situated underground.The winery gives a lot of importance to their cultural roots as well as to the community and to the nature. It’s certified as sustainable winery since 2011.We’ve made a tasting to try 4 of their wines. We’ve started with 2 wines from their Chamán series, Carmenere and Malbec both from vintage 2016. Carmenere was well made and showed all the expected characteristics, while Malbec had something special; it was courageous enough to show the left side of Andes. The third wine we’ve tasted was Tu Pu, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot from vintage 2015. The wine took its name from Tu Pu which is silver medallion symbolize union and made by Mapuches, but its roots reach back to Incas.
The last wine we’ve tasted was my favorite. I was thinking why it’s not growing more Spanish varieties in the valley and this wine was the answer to this question. Firstly I’ve read the name of this wine as “make make” with an English pronunciation and couldn’t understand why it was called that way. But then, I was told the correct pronunciation was “maké-maké”, which is the name of the creator of humanity in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) mythology. He’s also designed on the label. The wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha from vintage 2016, if you find it, I fully recommend you to try.After the tasting, we took the famous cable car that took us to Cerro Chaman, the view during climbing is just amazing!
In Cerro Chaman, apart from the breathtaking view of the valley, there are also replicas of the indigenous villages in the Aymara, Mapuche and Rapa Nui cultures, which are also inspirations for the names of wines that I’ve mentioned.
We ended this lovely day with a final look to vineyard.
DAY 2 WINERY 1: CLOS APALTA
The visit to Clos Apalta started with an attention sign, since the llamas in the vineyard can go around freely and drivers should be careful about it.Firstly, we went up to the terrace to see the view of Apalta Valley. The following photo will speak for itself. Apalta is a sub-valley of Colchagua Valley, where is home for many famous Chilean wineries. Clos Apalta is a winery from Lapostolle group.In this winery, they are producing wine only from hand harvested grapes and as the grapes arrive to the winery, they are welcomed by a big team of women, who will separate each grain of grape from their stem, one by one.
After this important process, the grapes go directly to the oak vats in this modern French style winery. Here, I have to add my personal view as a winemaker, this is my favorite winery design; gravitational and the tanks are situated round leaving a huge space in the middle which make it easy to work and very efficient.
After these oak vats, the wine flows directly to the first barrel room, and after aging for a determined period, to the second barrel room which is one floor down, where we made the wine tasting.
It was a pleasure to make a tasting in this atmosphere. We’ve tasted Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc from 2016, Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Merlot 2013 and Clos Apalta 2013. Clos Apalta 2013 is a blend based on Carmenere and the other varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It’s a wine with a lot of potential; to open up during a red meat base dinner now or you can age it in your cellar for years.
Under the barrel room, as you can see in the photo, there are stairs to reach to underground cellar where they store bottled wines.As well as the design of the winery, the building itself impressed me with its architecture. These rocks were discovered during the construction and they kept them as it is to show the characteristics of the place.
DAY 2 WINERY 2: NEYEN
In Mapudungun, Neyen means spirit, spirit of Apalta. Neyen winery produces only 1 wine, and only Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere blend, and they respect their soil and the spirit by making it very well.
The walls of this house were built in 1890, it is still standing thanks to the renovations done and nowadays it is used as a barrel room, visitor center and tasting room.
The vines of Carmenere during the autumn are painted on the walls. Unfortunately the building is partially damaged during the earthquake of 2010, and you can still see its marks.
We visited the winery and the barrel room before heading to the vineyards.
In the vineyard, they are keeping things very traditional. You can still see the pergolas as the training system in some of their plots.Another traditional part is how they are irrigating the vines; they are using a surface irrigation system where you have natural watering channels, as can be seen in the photo, called furrow irrigation.
As I’ve mentioned, Neyen produces only 1 wine and it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. But the percentages of them in the blend changes every year depending on the characteristics of the fruit in that vintage, always aiming the best quality out of it. We’ve made a vertical tasting with their 3 vintages, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I really appreciate this philosophy of making wines which represents the millesime, that’s why I’ve appreciated so much this tasting which made it possible to feel the expression of the terroir depending on the conditions of the vintage.
DAY 3 WINERY 1: VIÑA VIK
The last day started with driving, since Viña Vik is in Millahue, a town which is located almost 70 kilometers far from Santa Cruz. I was curious about this winery since I’ve tasted their wines last year in Vinexpo, so I was very excited to arrive.
When we arrived, we made a small mistake. Instead of turning left to arrive to “bodega” we focused on the shiny building on the top of the hill so we drove there. And we ended up in the ultra luxurious hotel, Vik Chile.
Anyway, after a quick tour of this amazing hotel, we found the winery, which looks as luxurious as the hotel, to be honest!We visited the winery, which has a very special architecture where the sustainability was the main concern. Thanks to the special roof design, there is no need to use any artificial light system, and thanks to the water running in the entrance, coming from the river, the temperature is maintained constant in the barrel room below.
We passed from the barrel room, had a look in the artwork on the walls and arrived to the tasting room.
I love the design of the tasting room, especially the tables with the map of the property, with the plated vineyards, varieties and rootstocks indicated with different colors; it’s unique.
We’ve started the tasting with the samples directly from the barrels, three varieties that go to the blend of their wines; Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah. And then, we tasted two of their wines, La Piu Belle and Vik from 2012 vintage, they are both blend of the varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in different percentages. La Piu Belle takes its unique and distinctive bottle design from the suite designed by Chilean designer Gonzalo Cienfuegos. The name La Piu Belle is a mix of languages and means the most beautiful, simply because the owner Alexandre Vik chose this bottle as the most beautiful one in the suite.
Finally, we finished the visit with a quick look to the vineyard which were planted in high density and met some grapes of the vintage 2018.
DAY 3 WINERY 2: MONTES
I couldn’t leave Colchagua Valley without visiting Montes. Unlike the other winery visits which were more technical and accompanied with winemakers, in Montes we took a touristic tour. So, “Angels tour” started with a lovely trip on this “safari truck” to the vineyards.Open air, breathtaking view of Apalta Valley and the history of Montes were the highlights of this trip on the truck.
As we finished the vineyard visit, we arrived to the entrance door of the winery. The entrance way of the winery is accompanied by ancient vines of Cabernet Sauvignon.
One of the reasons why the design of Montes winery is special is because it’s incorporated with the principles of Feng Shui. To create a positive atmosphere thanks to this philosophy, they used all the prime elements; water, metal and wood around the winery.
The tour in the winery continued with a glass of Chardonnay of vintage 2016 from Central Valley to have a taste of the wine before anything else. After visiting the barrel room, we passed to the tasting room. We’ve tried 2 wines from Outer Limits, which is a line of Montes with a different style than the classic Montes style. We’ve tasted Wild Slopes which is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mouvedre from Colchagua Valley and then Old Roots which is 100% Cinsault from Itata Valley. (I will be talking a lot about this valley soon!) And we finished this tasting and the visit with their Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 which is a classic.
The end. With all the tastes, information and memories, my visit to Colchagua Valley is finished. I hope to go back again to visit more wineries and taste more!
All images © 2018 by Nedret Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.