After J. Bouchon, we had a stressful three hour drive back to Santiago to rush to make our appointment for Errazuriz. Errazuriz was the last visit Max Morales was able to organise, and for some reason, it was very difficult to achieve. However, once in place, the hospitality was absolutely exceptional. On this occasion, a large car was sent to collect us from my apartment in Santiago so that we didn’t have to drive the hour and a half on a good run (it’s what’s known as a long hour and a half as it can take an hour to clear Santiago’s enormous sprawl), 100 km north east to Panquehue in the Aconcagua Valley.
Established in 1870 and on the site alongside the original buildings which have survived many earthquakes, Errazuriz built a new winery in 2009, the Don Maximiano Icon Winery to accommodate its premium, or high end, wines and opened in October 2010. It was designed with sustainability in mind and its eye-catching oval, spiral shape enables the use of gravity for moving wines and catching breezes for cooling as well as using both geothermal and solar energy. Those readers with the World Atlas of Wine 7th Edition by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson can see a full profile of its design and construction. It is beautifully set amongst the vineyards and surrounded by mountains, the higher reaches densely planted with “palta” or avocado trees, deep green against the dry surroundings.
In addition to the winery, Errazuriz has eight separate vineyards along the length of the Aconcagua Valley, from the costa vineyard 11km from the Pacific right up to the foothills of Mount Aconcagua in the Andes range. There are also two vineyards in Casablanca Valley. The costa vineyards are planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Viognier. The diurnal range here is high but it’s cool climate and the soils are very mineral. The Aconcagua Valley permits the cooling influence to reach most of the way up the valley, with only two vineyards not receiving the influence from the Pacific, but instead, vineyards Max II and Max VII are much warmer during the day and cooled by the flow of cold air down from the Andes at night, both enabling an extension of the growing season and maintaining natural acidity. The oldest vineyards are labelled Max I-VII in honour of the founder and are accompanied by Costa and Las Vertientes in Aconcagua and by Santo Tomas and La Escultura in Casablanca.
On arrival (by this time it was mid-afternoon and there had been nothing to eat since breakfast!) we were offered the most wonderful spread, which turned out to be the aperitif but would have been more than enough for lunch! And all beautifully presented. The wine which accompanied it was the extraordinary Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, 2016. It was exceptional, vibrant, full bodied, aromatic and concentrated, citrus, mandarin and lime, floral, elderflower and herbaceous grassy (and it wasn’t available at the airport; the standard Sauvignon Blanc has no comparison). This was followed directly by the most wonderful lunch, accompanied by Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2013 (which retails for about 50GBP in the UK). I had gone to heaven. And the visit and tasting still lay ahead, so we were not able to linger as would have been a true delight. We then had a quick look around the historic cellar and wine library, where the delights of Seña, Viñedo Chadwick and Kai (the expensive stuff!) lie sleeping, most under lock and key and went to the tasting in the cellars where one of the extensive and specialised team of winemakers, Wladimir Medel, was there to greet us and guide our tasting.
Seven wines were served. The Max Reserva Range is considered mid-priced. The use of American oak has been phased out, now there is less oak use, but more expensive French barrels are used so the cost to the company is similar.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Chardonnay 2016, 13%: grapes from the cooler western end of the valley (but not from the “Costa” vineyard). Fermentation with natural yeasts in oak barrels, 15% new, followed by 10 months ageing in the barrel with lees contact. The wine is clear and bright, medium lemon in colour, with a medium + nose of ripe tropical fruits, citrus lemon and mandarin and gentle vanilla spice. The palate is dry with medium + acidity, medium + body, medium + alcohol and flavours which reflect the nose with added spice from oak, nice long finish, lovely. £15.
Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2016, 13%: with grapes coming from the very cool “Costa” vineyard this is a less opulent wine, more austere, the palate is drier and longer, mineral with some citrus, grapefruit, walnuts and ripe stone fruit, peach and melon. Fermentation again in oak, 10 months ageing, 60% undergoing MLF to calm acidity. Lovely comparison between the two sources. £18 UK.
Errazuriz The Blend Collection White 2015, 13.5%: Rhone Varieties to contrast Chile’s usual offerings; 60% Marsanne, 26% Roussanne, 14% Viognier, target restaurants, sommeliers and niche shops. The vineyards are situated midway up the Aconcagua Valley, 50km from the Pacific. 35% fermented in oak barrels, 65% in Stainless steel vats at 12-15ºC and selected yeasts. The wine has a very floral nose, and was a little cold on serving, stone fruits, peach. The palate is dry with medium + acidity, medium + body, medium 6 alcohol, ripe fruits, bitter grapefruit pithiness on the long finish, melon, grapefruit, mandarin and spice, mineral hint. Lovely.
Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Pinot Noir 2016, 13%: these vines are irrigated and grafted; rainfall is low at only 7km from the sea the vines are 12 and 8 years old and are a mix of French clones selected for metamorphic rock performance. Very cool climate. Cold maceration 3-5 days, natural yeasts, aged for 11 months in French oak, 15% new, 75% second and third use, 10% in concrete eggs. Medium ruby in colour, the nose is floral, roses, with red berry and stone fruits, complex, smoky spicy notes. The palate is dry with medium + acidity, medium + alcohol, medium + very fine tannins. It’s elegant and complex with similar flavours to the nose, plus mushroom and toast, aromatic herbs, dill, fennel and raspberries; well balanced and long. The use of concrete eggs ensures that the fine lees remain in suspension creating a reductive environment and so protecting from oxidation, which also means less tannin polymerisation, which will happen later in bottle.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Carmenère 2015, 14%: grapes come from the interior of the valley to enable the Carmenère to ripen fully and even so it is always the last variety to be harvested. Cold maceration for 20 days in stainless steel followed by fermentation. Racked to new French oak barrels, 25% new, for 12 months ageing. Deep ruby colour, with a beautiful nose, black fruits, blackberries, black cherries, hint of green pepper, black pepper, the palate is dry with medium + acidity, quite high alcohol but actually well integrated, medium + body, medium + very soft silky tannins, black fruits, cream, chocolate, coffee, spices, complex and long finish. It smelled more and more like CS with time in the glass! Really lovely; I loved this! £15 UK.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, 14%: the grapes (85% CS, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) come from vineyards III and VI mid-valley, and undergo cold maceration for about 20 days prior to fermentation in SS. Racked to 25% new oak for MLF and 12 months ageing. Deep ruby colour, restrained nose, but complex and elegant. Slowly red fruits and blackcurrant comes through as the wine warms, spices, pepper and cloves, raspberry, blackberry, coffee, chocolate and cinnamon. Medium + acidity, alcohol and body, tannins quite firm but fine grained, medium + finish, very nice indeed. £15 UK.
Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2014, 14%: prior to 2004 Don Maximiano was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon but since then it has been a blend, this vintage 68% CS planted 1978, 18% Carmenère planted 1993, 9% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot planted1999. Lots of selection once harvested, selected yeast fermentation, stainless steel – small vats with pumping over, and followed by MLF and 20 months ageing in 70% new French oak, deep ruby colour. Beautiful nose, complex, lots of black fruits and spices. Palate seriously long, medium + intensity nose of blackberries, raspberries, cherries, pencil shavings, cigar box cedar, cocoa, complex and integrated palate, good acidity integrated alcohol, silky smooth tannins, absolutely beautiful. It was also lovely to be able to compare it mentally to the 2013 for lunch, which was overall smoother that the 2014 is yet, but will be. From £50 UK to $100US.
And that was the close at Errazuriz. Huge thanks to Raimundo Albarran, Marketing Manager, who not only journeyed with us out to Panquehue, but also back to Santiago and to Wladimir Medel. An absolutely splendid visit to one of Chile’s flagship companies. A massive thank you to all concerned.
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