Chile day 2 (continued): Seña

sena

Seña was conceived as a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick back in 1995. At the time it had no home, but instead was a barrel selection from Errazuriz’s best lots, and the wine was made jointly between Tim Mondavi and Ed Flaherty. Mondavi had experience of joint ventures, most famously with Opus One since 1978, and Eduardo was keen for Chile’s top wines to get greater recognition. At the time they weren’t even on the radar of American critics, and so having Mondavi involved in this project added a degree of legitimacy to it that made people sit up and notice that Chile was capable of making good wine.

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In 2000, Seña found a home: a 350 hectare estate in the Aconcagua Valley, of which just 42 ha are planted, with a uniquely Chilean Bordeaux blend: typically the wine is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere, and the remainder a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbac. Production is 5000 cases annually, and the remainder is used by Errazuriz for other projects (there’s no second wine, yet).

Since 2004 the property has been farmed biodynamically, and there’s a building for making the preparations on site. The vineyard runs up the east-facing side of the slope of a hill, and altitude ranges from 230-460 m. The bottom half of the vineyard is more alluvial, with free-draining loamy clay soils, while the top part is more colluvial, and is also free-draining. Organic material is 3-2.2% which is quite good. GDDs here are 1420, and the site is 40 km from the ocean, so the breezes still reach here in the afternoon, coming down the valley.

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The wines are made by Francisco Baettig at the Errazuriz icon winery. The latest release, the 2014, is exceptional, and shows the benefit of a steady, measured change in style here: the grapes are picked a bit earlier and handled more carefully, with less extraction and intrusive oak. They are all the better for it.

sena 1996

Seña 1996 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
This was the second vintage, and it weighs in at 12.5% alcohol. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Carmenere. Mature and quite spicy with some mint and attractive black fruits. Fresh with nice definition and notes of spice and earth. This has developed very well and is now in a mellow maturity, holding up very nicely. Real precision here. 94/100

Seña 2010 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot. 77% new oak. Creamy and intense with rich blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Ripe and alluring. Concentrated and rich on the palate with sweet blackcurrant fruit and creamy new oak. Very polished and rich showing sleek ripe black fruits. It has some freshness, but it’s a bit too ‘international’ for me. 91/100

Seña 2014 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Just released. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carmenere, 11% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. 67% new oak, and 5% in foudre (Stockinger). 14% alcohol. Lovely fresh, floral nose with blackcurrant and black cherries as well as some red fruits. Lovely floral purity. The palate shows lovely freshness and focus with black cherries and minerals. Very fine, pure and expressive with real finesse and potential for development. 95/100

Seña 2015 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
A sneak preview of the 2015, which is stunning. Really focused and fresh with lovely detail: some hints of olives and dried herbs alongside a thrilling core of structure and precise black cherries and blackcurrants. Lovely precision to this wine: great acidity and some raspberry freshness. Very detailed and with great concentration, and with the freshness and structure to suggest this will age beautifully over several decades. It’s a really lovely wine, taking site expression and balance to another level. 96/100

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