Chile: winery visits, biodynamics and another helicopter ride
Last night's dinner was the launch of Vina San Pedro's 1865 brand, held at the wonderful new Mestizo restaurant we'd been to earlier in the week. It was an enjoyable evening, with good food and some nice wines. I particularly liked their Carmenere. But it ended up being another late night.
This morning we set off at 0830 for the Casablanca Valley, and a few really special appointments. Having come on this trip sceptical about Chile's performance at the top end, today I found some wines that you could pitch against the best of the new world, sure that they'd hold their own. I'm not saying that Chile now has an abundance of world class wines like this, but that they now have some is a certain sign of progress.
First stop was Loma Larga (translates as 'Long Hill'), an enormous property (700 hectares) of which around 150 hectares are under vine. Owned by the Diaz family, most of the vineyard area grows grapes for selling to leading wine companies (which is highly profitable), but 50 or so hectares are used to make the Loma Larga wines. Reds are the speciality here, which is unusual for Casablanca. We tried some great Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, as well as a lovely Syrah. Deeply impressive. The winery (seen from above, above) is beautiful, with vines growing on the first third or so of the roof, which blends elegantly into the ground.
Three of us were lucky enough to be given a helicopter ride (this winery has its own chopper!) to our next visit, which gave us great views of the Casablanca Valley. (Top picture.)
Matetic was the next stop. It's another large, family-owned venture. This time the property is really huge, at 16 000 hectares, but just 120 of these are planted to vines. The estate, established in 1999, is run biodynamically, although it hasn't yet achieved certification. The wines are thrillingly good, with the Syrah and Malbec/Merlot being the stand-outs for me. The winery building is stunning, too. I was excited by this visit.
Finally, we visited Casas del Bosque. Once again, it's a big property (1000 hectares), owned by an Italian family, with 250 hectares under vine. We tried a range of tank and barrel samples, including an experimental Pinot Noir that was decidedly European in flavour profile, and four different clones of Syrah.
Syrah and Pinot Noir are getting a lot of attention in Chile at the moment, it seems, and I think it's a good thing.