Sunday October 1st:
We all arrived in Santiago early in the morning and drove to Vina del Mar which is a fashionable and very beautiful coastal resort. We were staying at one of the most picturesque hotels, the Sheraton Miramar Hotel. Hugging the coast line, it is situated right in the heart of town and had the most beautiful sea views.
We were met by the charismatic Eduardo Chadwick, one of the leading figures in Chilean wines and owner of the stable of Vina Errazuriz wines and a man passionate about Chilean wines and putting them firmly on the map. Not only has he built a leading Chilean wine brand from scratch, but he’s also led the way in trying to prove to the world that Chile isn’t just about value for money, and can compete with the world’s best. To this end, Eduardo has been responsible for three of Chile’s small band of ‘icon wines’: Seña, Don Maximiano and Viñedo Chadwick.
Lunch followed at the hotels Travesia Restaurant, Edwardo went over our itinerary for the next few days and introduced some of his wines and the philosophy behind them. His approach is very ‘old world’ in that each of his wineries under the umbrella of, Vina Errazuriz, is committed to the concept of ‘terroir’, ensuring that each vineyard imparts its own distinct characteristic to the grapes grown there, through the right balance of soils, climate and by planting the most suitable clones for the area. These are all managed by his team who are committed to environmentally friendly vinicultural practices, which is headed by the brilliant Francisco Baettig.
We also enjoyed a number of the local brews after lunch… Pisco Sours!
Early afternoon, we departed to the first and newest winery – the Aconcagua Costa vineyards, situated in a valley just 12km from the sea. At the property, we were met by Carlos Carrasco, the Vineyard Manager, who along with Edwardo gave us a guided tour.
Eduardo and his team have turned this site from scrub, to what you see today; 230 hectares have been planted with varieties best suited to the soil, slope and aspect the land offers. The whole site benefits from schist soils, a cool climate and the creation of a reservoir on the land makes sure the vines have access, if needed, to irrigation. The vines roots go deep into the mineral rich stoney soils, ensuring they bring up as much complexity into the grapes as possible. The brilliance of having the reservoir on site protects the vines from drought; irrigation preventing stress and the shutdown of the vines. This is a careful balance between mother nature and man’s intervention. Carlos is committed to working in tune with the land.
We then walked to the top of the mountain, overlooking the vineyards to the most picturesque setting for a tutored tasting led by Eduardo.
Aconcagua Costa – Sauvignon Blanc 2016 | Chardonnay 2016 | Pinot Noir 2016 | Syrah 2015
A very well-crafted set of entry level wines. They display clean and fresh characteristics of each varietal, with cool fruit, which makes them incredibly approachable and enjoyable.
Las Pizarras – Pinot Noir 2016 | Chardonnay 2016
Las Pizarras debut vintage was 2014. These wines were a total step up and beautiful. The cool climate shows through, with elegance, purity and tension. The fruit was aromatic, with hints of mineral complexity. The integration of oak was very well balanced, resulting in wines that are fine silky and just generally extremely delicious! The 2016 Pinot Noir – was outstanding; the Chardonnay was not far behind.
The 2015 vintage of these wines has already hit the heights with James Suckling, the 2015 Pinot Noir scoring 99 points and the Chardonnay – 98 points. This really is a vineyard to watch; what an exciting introduction!!
We left and headed back to Vina del Mar where we had a quick turnaround for supper. Chile is renowned for its seafood and we all took full advantage of the delicious bounty it had to offer.
Monday 2nd October
Sena Vineyards; something I was extremely excited to be visiting, as it is one of my favourite wines from the stable and an iconic Chilean wine. An early start with a few hours on the road, was rewarded with some of the most incredible scenery, 41 km inland from the coast, in the heart of the Aconcagua valley, we arrived at this iconic vineyard. It was quiet something to be at the bottom of a valley looking up at the vines of Chiles equivalent of a ‘First Growth’. A dream that was born out of a collaborative vision in 1995 from two of the wine industry’s most iconic figures, Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. Eduardo has now fully taken back the reins and is in full control of the estate.
We were met by winemaker Francisco Baettig for a vineyard walk; this was incredible. To think all the vineyards had some 20 years ago been scrub land covered in enormous rocks, now looking up at the estate from the start of the vines it was something to behold; a small slice of paradise. Majestic mountains soared above us and clinging on were small rows of vines. The valley is perfect for grape growing and the soils and mountains give the perfect terroir to make great wines on. Only a mere 5000 cases are made in any year.
We went on to have a tour of the biodynamic centre, showing how they use the local herbs and flowers in harmony with the Biodynamic calendar. They also create all their own organic fertilizer, the marriage of the soils, climate and its surrounding landscape could not be in better balance, allowing the grapes to fully express their ‘terroir’.
We then travelled up to the winery’s centre for an unprecedented tasting of Sena conducted by winemaker Francisco and Eduardo. Tasting the following vintages: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015. You could really see the wines progression and 20-year vision all coming together. Their goal was to create a beautiful Bordeaux blend with ripe tannins and a wonderful balance of purity, freshness and intensity of fruit. A wine which, while remaining true to its Chilean origins, was not overtly new world in style. The stand-out wines for me; 1997, 2000, 2008 and 2014. But the 2015 was outstanding, a culmination of a 20-year endeavour. The fresh red and dark fruit aromas that leap from the glass are quite simply stunning. Seña 2015 has a sumptuous depth of fruit, structure and intensity that is beautifully elegant and seamlessly integrated. Bravo Sena!
It will be the best tasting room experience I have ever had, as you will see the view was breath-taking with the Aconcagua mountains in the background.
We then had the most delicious lunch prepared for us by Chef Josefina Turner.
It is worth noting this wine’s rise to fame, looking at the competition it has faced and beaten, in some of the world’s most prestigious blind tastings.
Next up after a trip through more of Chile’s stunning countryside was to the Don Maximiano Estate and Winery. Again, another totally jaw-dropping location with vineyards surrounding the property which dates back to 1870. How it has come of age, with the old and new sitting so well together. Eduardo is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the estate and has overseen the seamless modernisation, making sure none of the heritage is lost.
Its location in the valley, with its cool, rainy winters, hot, dry summers and moist Pacific Ocean breezes, is ideal for growing grapes.
After a tour of the estate we enjoyed a vertical tasting of Dom Maximiano Founders Reserve; from the historic 1983, 1993, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2014 through to the newest vintage, 2015.
Again you could clearly see the epic journey this wine has been on; From the 1983, where they used large open ‘Rauli vats’ as they really had limited wine making equipment back then compared to Europe, through to how they have varied the blend, use of oak, all a journey that culminated in some epic wines. 2004 and 2015 being stand out.
We stayed at the winery that evening for another epic supper – a lamb and king crab barbeque
Tuesday 3rd Oct.
Off we went on an early start to Vinedo Chadwick in Puente Alto in Maipo Valley. Eduardo Chadwicks family home. It is situated right next to Almaviva – which used to be part of the Chadwick’s estate until the Chilean government took it away from them in 1960. We had the most interesting tour, learning how Eduardo’s father used the estate, which back then was mainly for Polo, not wine! After Eduardo’s father’s death, he, with his father’s blessing, turned the polo field into a vineyard planting it in 1992 with the best clones of Cabernet Sauvignon (12ha) and Merlot (2ha); property now encompasses 25 hectares.
In 2004, Eduardo decided it was time to show to a wider audience what he’d achieved with his top wines. Thus was born the famous Berlin Tasting. He selected 16 wines from the 2000 and 2001 vintages, pitting his icons against top Bordeaux and super-Tuscans in a blind setting. 40 European wine writers and trade people were gathered to attend a seminar and then a blind tasting.
This video link sums up how Eduardos dream of producing a Chilean wine that rivalled the world’s best came to fruition.
It is worth a watch as you will be totally surprised at the results. Steven Spurrier explains why.
Following on from this we went out into the vineyards and once again Francisco show use what makes the soils of Vinedo Chadwick so special; the lack of water and stony soils make the roots go deep into the ground pulling out all the minerals and flavours, giving a wine very true to its terroir. They do irrigate, when needed, to stop the vines getting drought stress and this is monitored very carefully each season.
The total 15 ha planted is on soils of clay loam over a stone filled riverbed, which was filled in with glacial alluvial sediment. The vines are spaced at 2 metres by 1.2 metres between vines, with 4,166 vines per ha. The vines are trained vertically and spur pruned.
Then followed one of the most incredibly tastings of Vinedo Chadwick in Eduardo’s family’s home. We tasted 1999, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015. The journey of each wine was talked through by both Eduardo and Francisco.
We then had a break with delicious canapes in the gardens, wondering just how marvellous it would be to live here in this idyllic setting.
Another epic lunch followed, the food was so delicious and all locally sourced – it really was mouth-watering, as the menu suggests.
We drank the 2000 Vinedo Chadwick, which was sensational and the wine that had put this family and estate on the map by beating the following wines, in the Berlin tasting in 2004.
- Viñedo Chadwick 2000
- 2- Seña 2001
- 3- Château Lafite-Rothschild 2000
- 4- Château Margaux 2001
- 5- Seña 2000
- 6- Viñedo Chadwick 2001
- 7- Château Margaux 2000
- 8- Château Latour 2000
- 9- Don Maximiano 2001
- 10- Château Latour 2001
- 10- Solaia 2000
Eduardo oozes passion, energy and enthusiasm for his wines and putting Chile on the global fine wine map. But combined with this is he has a razor commercial brain, pure skill and an epic team and you have a world beating formula. He is the powerhouse that has built this leading Chilean wine brand from scratch and has proved Chile can compete with the world’s best.