Chile's wine regions
Matetic, San Antonio Valley
is one of Chile's most remarkable wine estates. It's a huge, hilly
16 000 hectare property, mostly consisting of eucalyptus and pine
woods, but with three main agricultural products: sheep, blueberries
and wine. It’s the wine that was the focus of our visit.
Matetic family are of Croatian origin, and came to Chile 100 years
ago. They began in Patagonia, at the southern tip of the country,
where they have 100 000 hectares of land used for sheep and dairy
farming. They also made a lot of money through ironwork, where they
had a near monopoly. They bought the Matetic Estate in the San
Antonio Valley some 20 years ago. The wine business was started in
1999, but it is only in 2008 that they made a profit for the first
well as making some of Chile’s best wines, Matetic is gaining
recognition because it is one of the few Chilean estates to have
adopted biodynamics, a supercharged form of organics that is gaining
ground in winegrowing. 120 hectares of vineyards have been planted
to date, and the whole estate (not just the vineyards) is worked
organically. The grapes are certified organic by BCS since 2004, and
for the last couple of years the vineyards have been managed
bodynamically. The goal is to become certified in due course.
met with winemaker Paula
Cárdenas (above), who has been heading up the winemaking
here since 2006 for a tour, tasting and lunch.
is in San Antonio, the cool part of Casablanca, and just 20 km from
the sea, so it benefits from sea breezes in the afternoon. There's a
high diurnal temperature fluctuation – in the summer it can range
from 27 C during the afternoon to 7 C at night. The low vigour soils
are ideal for viticulture. They are well drained and the roots of
the vines go down 2–4 m looking for nutrients. The soils are
decomposed granite with 40–60 cm of friable clay on the surface.
asked Paula how the transition to working biodynamically has gone.
'The main challenge is to understand the concept, to see
everything,' she replied. 'In school everyone teaches you how the
plant works and gives you the scientific view of viticulture, which
is to decompose everything into small parts. You have to integrate
and be able to see that everything is connected – to see
holistically. Everytime I try to see more and understand more, it is
more interesting’, she adds. ‘You never finish learning.’
A short film of my visit
is practiced here: cow manure, grass, grape skins and stems are
used. Humid places are chosen for burying the cow horns, one of the
more esoteric aspects of biodynamic farming. In the winter, the
vineyards are weeded by alpacas, which is a nice Chilean touch.
reveals that there are plans to use horses to work the land, but to
do this they need to get special equipment that’s very old. What
about the biodynamic calendar? ‘At first we didn’t workwith it, but we’re now trying to implement this’, says
Paula. She adds that, ‘If the owner says you have to be
biodynamic, it is your job, but I actually believe in it. There are
some things that are difficult to believe, but it is up to you: the
main idea is to see everything as a whole.’
Matetic winery was built in 2004 and currently processes 300 000
litres. Currently some 14 000 cases are released annually. Pauls
reckons that the maximum capacity, which will be reached in 4 years,
is likely to be 35 000 cases. All the grapes are hand harvested into
bins, and there’s a selection table. The grapes are crushed and
then taken to the fermenters by gravity. Open fermenters are used
for the reds, with punching down and pumping over both employed. All
the wines except for the Sauvignon Blanc go into barrel.
are two ranges: Coralillo is a sort of second label, with the top
wines labelled as EQ. UK availability: Genesis, Majestic, Oddbins
and Wine Society.
EQ Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Made with the
242 clone which gives tropical and citrus notes, given a short skin
maceration before pressing, and fermented in stainless steel. Some
small stainless steel barrels (300 litres) are also used for work
with the lees. Brightly fruited with sweet, rounded nose. The palate
is bright with rounded fruit and high acidity. Really fresh, showing
a nice juicy character. 89/100 (UK retail £9)
EQ Chardonnay 2006 14.5% alcohol.
From two different sites: one is richer, the other more mineral.
Fermented in barrels, 30% of which are new. Just 20% malolactic was
used from 2007. Three different commercial yeasts with some wild
yeast ferments, which Paula reckons add spice and onion notes. 1000
cases made. Rich toasty nose is smooth and oaty with some fig and
tropical fruit notes. The palate is complex and broad with rich
figgy, toasty, spicy, bready characters. Powerful and complex.
91/100 (UK retail £12)
EQ Pinot Noir 2006 14.5% alcohol.
Massale selection, spending 10 months in oak, 30% of which is new.
1500 cases made. Delicious pure dark cherry fruit nose with a bit of
tinned strawberry, too. Smooth, elegant palate shows lovely focus
with deliciously elegant berry and cherry fruit. Nicely perfumed
with a bit of spicy structure. 92/100 (UK retail £15)
Merlot Malbec Reserve 2005 1800 cases made.
Meaty dark fruits nose is brooding, with an attractive, leathery,
spicy undercurrent. The palate shows lovely sweet dark fruit over
the top of dense, earthy structure. Fantastically intense and well
structured, in a brilliant savoury style. 93/100 (UK retail £12)
EQ Syrah 2006 1500 cases made.
Brilliant Syrah: cool-climate pepperiness on the nose which is dark
and fresh. Wonderful perfumed lush fruits combine with a lovely
spicy, peppery edge. The palate is lush and richly textured with
bright, fresh fruit and some meaty, chocolatey complexity. Nice
tannins give grippy structure, too. 94/100 (UK retail £15)