I recently had the opportunity to visit some of our producers out in Chile, and I have been desperate to write something for the blog to share my experience. Not only because I tried some fantastic wines whilst I was out there, but it made me question what I want from a wine.
I’ll start with a simple question: do you know where your wine comes from? I don’t mean which country or region, but the kind of vineyard where the grapes are grown. Does it even matter?
I never really put much thought into this question as for me it was always about the wine – simply whether it was a good bottle or not. However, during my trip I visited Emiliana’s Los Robles vineyard which gave me food for thought. It’s located in the Colchagua Valley some 200km south of Santiago, in between the coastal ranges and the Andes Mountains. The fruit from this estate is truly special. The vineyard is farmed using organic and biodynamic principles to create balanced, healthy and high quality grapes, expressing the natural terroir.
Winemaking legend and gentle giant Cesar Morales is the man in charge of the whole operation, from working the vines to transforming the grapes into wine. Mind you he couldn’t do all this on his own and has a great team around him, thus making it all possible. During my visit he explained some intricacies of the job he and his team have undertaken: ‘the idea is to work with the four pillars of life – the earth, vegetation, animals and us – this all sits under the umbrella of the cosmos’. Sure, it sounds a bit hippy but in seeing it firsthand it made perfect sense. They’re trying to reset the clock. Reverting to days gone by where we worked hand in hand with nature, rather than trying to control it with artificial means.
But whether you believe in the principles of biodynamics or not, it is hard not to admire the passion and lengths that people in the vineyards go to in order to ensure that the vineyards are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Chickens run around the vines (acting as organic pest control), alpacas provide manure for the fertiliser and graze on unwanted weeds, recycling bins are in all parts of the vineyard and winery, solar panels are used to heat water on the property, biofuel powers the tractors, and biological corridors encourage a natural biodiversity within the vineyards. These are just a few examples, and if you wish to find out more why not investigate the interactive vineyard on their website.
The vineyard at Los Robles is also certified as carbon neutral, fair trade and socially responsible. So not only do they believe in looking after the environment within their vineyard – but they want to minimize their impact on the planet and look after the workers and their community. Whilst walking around the estate I had the opportunity to see the organic garden, where employees are given plots of land, along with the tools and training to grow organic fruit and veg that they can take home to their families. A very simple way of giving back to the people who take the time and effort to tend the vines and work in the winery.
So when I visited Chile I thought that as a Wine Advisor I would be writing about my favourite wine upon my return, not my favourite vineyard. However, this is not style over substance – I wouldn’t be writing this now if I didn’t truly love the wines. It taught me that sometimes there’s more to a wine than meets the eye. Why not buy a bottle of wine that tastes great AND supports something that is both good for the environment and the people who work there?
And speaking of wines, of course there was also time to try the wines made in the Los Robles estate, and similar estates run by Emiliana which uphold the same principles. It’s difficult to pick just two wines that I love (as I could quite happily buy a case of each – if only I had the room!) but if push came to shove I would have to recommend the Novas Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and the Coyam. The Coyam is produced from the grapes on the Los Robles estate, and this big, broody red packs a punch and has bags of flavour! Black fruit and plum work in harmony with warm spices and woody notes – and it just keeps on giving and giving long after you’ve swallowed. The Novas Sauvignon Blanc is the best Sauvignon I have tasted in a long time. Delicate yet strong aromas of grapefruit and white peach, which are echoed on the palate. While I like French and Kiwi versions, for me, this wins hands down. This wine is truly elegant with a real freshness which was perfect with the summer sun.