Leaving Santa Ana, our next call was on Enrique Villalobos and his wife Rita Encina in the “Valle de los Artistas”, in Lolol, Colchagua, who make wine along with their sons Martín and Rolando. The whole family have their own careers but unite around the winemaking from their wild growing vines. Enrique is a well-known sculptor (one of his huge works graces La Plaza de las Armas” in central Santiago (PHOTO), Rita a ceramics artist and the Martín and Ronaldo are civil engineers. The “Valle de los Artistas” was established for artists of all shapes and sizes as somewhere to work and at the time of my visit was still reeling from the effects of the fires earlier in the year. Enrique lost his workshop and basically his life’s work in it; at about 30 metres from the house was thankfully untouched, but next door’s house was burned to the ground. It is devastating to see the damage and amazing at what survived, including the small winery.
The winemaking started in 2007. There are 100 hectares of land of which only 4 hectares has vines which were planted in about 1940 and then forgotten for over 40 years. It is a long drive along unpaved road and forest track to reach them but the hire car managed it! Note to self; next time save up for a 4×4! These Carignan vines are basically growing wild, up trees and are unpruned except for what the horses do during the winter, as well as leaving some manure and clearing the undergrowth; so sustainable, dry farmed, organic agriculture! The animals leave enough canes and buds for about 8000kgs of grapes, 7000 bottles (Les Caves de Pyrene, UK). No treatments are made; the vines are left to their own devices. The aim is for the wines to reflect seasonal and vintage variation and their terroir. Martin Rousseau, their consultant winemaker and friend was tragically killed soon after the project got underway, but the family continued. At first the wine was just for family and friends but the first commercial harvest was in 2009, and from when the wine began to be sold, although it doesn’t actually make any money. The 2009 was awarded best Carignan in Chile by “Descorchados”. The vineyard is surrounded by native forest and a massive cherry plantation.
Villalobos Carignan 2015, 12%: pale ruby in colour, a nose of pure red berry fruits, earthy, spicy and balsamic notes. The palate is dry, balanced, medium + acidity, medium satiny smooth body, medium alcohol and medium level of very smooth, rounded tannins. It has lots of fruit and real character, medium + length, honest, with hints of leather, cherries and black pepper developing in the glass along with aromatic herbs, lots of complexity. The wine was made in polyethylene eco tanks and then spent 15 months in5-6 year old oak barrels. It really was very lovely. (The bottle I was given to bring home – my money was refused – was noticeably different, much more rustic, more animal and less fruity, but with the same soft, balanced palate.) It went very well with the peppered salami which Rita had prepared!
Villalobos Zorita Salvaje 2016, 13% Cinsault and País from Maule and Itata, a limited edition wine made from vines of over 100 years old and some trained “en parra”. The wine is pale ruby in colour with a beautiful fuchsia rim. The nose shows lots of crunchy red fruit, cherries, strawberries and plums with a balsamic, mineral note. The palate is dry with medium + acidity and alcohol, medium body and medium level of soft, smooth tannins, very juicy, fruity, cherries and spice. Another really lovely wine.
Villalobos Lobo Carmenère 2014, 13.5%: mid ruby in colour, different fruit profile, some red berry and stone fruit, loganberries, plums and blackberries, damsons and black cherries with smoky, spicy notes. The palate is dry with medium + acidity, alcohol and body with medium + fine, rounded tannins, blackberries, spices, chocolate and it is fresh, well balanced and medium + length. The vines are now 20 years old.
Enrique designs the beautiful, colourful labels!
These were lovely wines, very honest and direct and I really enjoyed them and the pleasure of seeing the vines. But dismayed at the damage from the fires. A huge thank you to Enrique and Rita for a fascinating visit.
Please look out these very special wines!
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