10 winemakers to watch in Chile

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 16.19.43For The Drinks Business, September 2014 edition
Read the full feature: Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

CHILE IS well-known for the concentration of its wine production, allowing the country to make consistent wine at competitive prices. But emerging is a new wave of boutique projects and new styles from the full length and breath of the country, resulting in original blends from little- known places.

The source of such novelty is a broad range of personalities, all of whom are driven by a desire to celebrate Chile’s vinous diversity. Over the following pages is a selection of 10 winemakers to watch, each chosen for their creative and critically-acclaimed approach.

 

 

Marcelo RetamalMARCELO RETAMAL

Retamal is not new, but even after 20 years filling bottles he is still at the forefront of Chile’s wine innovations. Retamal became head winemaker of De Martino winery straight after university in 1996 and since then has made wines in over 350 vineyards in Chile, executed a 12 year terroir hunt across the span of the country, and made a huge U-turn in winemaking techniques that sparked a new trend in Chile.

“My problem started in 2007, because the owner and I didn’t like our wines”, he explains, commenting on how flying winemakers and international buyers had swayed Chile into a ripe and oaky style from the early noughties. “They were correct, with softness, high alcohol and lots of oak. But we wanted to create a wine with more drinkability, more fruit and not much oak or alcohol… so we started to work very strongly in this direction. More than new things, it is rediscovering the old ways.”

His return to “old ways” include using only native yeast, no added enzymes or tartaric acid, earlier harvests, aging in old Chilean earthenware jars, and zero new oak. It is not just his winemaking that sets him apart. His commitment to finding new viticulture areas and rediscovering others keeps him on the cusp…

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

 

Andrea LeonANDREA LEON

When a young winemaker is given their own personal line at a Michel Rolland winery, you know that they are doing something right. Andrea León has worked for Lapostolle (the family behind Grand Marnier) since 2004, winemaking with their high profile consultant Rolland in the biodynamic Apalta winery. However when her own personal style began to diverge from Rolland’s, Lapostolle gave León the freedom to develop her own range, which is now one of the most interesting collections in Chile. León produces an adventurous terroir series of seven Syrahs from around Chile, three Carmenères, and a few less common varieties including Muscat, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Carignan and Grenache.

Her exploration in Syrah is on trend with what is becoming one of Chile’s most promising varieties, and León shows the potential of this versatile variety from coastal and mountainous regions of Elqui, Casablanca, San Antonio, Cachapoal and Colchagua…

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

Photo by Matt Wilson

f massoc closeFRANÇOIS MASSOC

François Massoc came back to Chile to make a wine that showed Chile was more than just “good value”. After years studying in France and, curiously, winemaking in an Israeli monastery, Massoc returned home to make wine with his best friends: terroir expert Pedro Parra and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair of Vosne- Romanée fame. “We are not making money with Aristos. It is very expensive to produce, but we want to prove that in Chile you can make a world class wine,” he says. The fact that their top wine is a Chardonnay, the solitary white in Chile’s over £40 club, also proves that Chile is not just a one-trick Cabernet pony, although they do also make an acclaimed Cabernet and are also working on a Pinot Noir.

 

While the small Aristos project is redefining Chile’s premium category, other Massoc projects reinforce his game- changing status. At Calyptra, he makes one of the few high-end Sauvignon Blancs that doesn’t come from the coast, but instead from the Andes and aged in custom-made barrels (Massoc was a cooper before a winemaker). His other project with Parra, Clos des Fous – madmen’s vineyard – is another venture to show that Chile doesn’t need to play by the same old rules…

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

 

David MarcelDAVID MARCEL

Sometimes it takes a Frenchman to show a country what they’ve got. And when it comes to Chile’s pipeño, it is actually two French men that are leading the movement. One of them is David Marcel who, with his Chilean wife and fellow winemaker Loreto Garau, is bringing pipeño back into fashion.

Traditionally a light red made cheaply from generic grapes, pipeño was typically drunk by the bucket-load at parties and shipped all over Chile as popular table wine. As corks and corporations took over, pipeño all but disappeared. When Marcel and his wife Loreto left France and moved back to Chile to broker wine, they decided to make their own again. And Marcel wanted to make a wine that, in his mind, was defined by being drinkable…”

 

 

B0196P 0171FELIPE GARCIA AND CONSTANZA SCHWADERER

When husband and wife winemakers Felipe Garcia and Constanza Schwaderer started making their own hobby wine together, they never thought it would end up in both of them losing their jobs, nor that their actions would lead to Chile’s biggest independent vintner movement. This unassuming couple have become big names in the indie wine movement since their first harvest in 2009, when they joined with other independent vintners to create Chile’s first autonomous vigneron movement, MOVI.

“We created this group to show to the world we can make wine with character,” says Garcia. The faces of this energetic couple have become a pin up for the new generation of Chilean winemakers. Their production focuses on the trendy regions of cool climate Casablanca and old vine Maule (where they are also key players in VIGNO)…

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

 

LEONARDO ERAZUScreen Shot 2014-09-09 at 20.52.48

When young Chilean winemaker Leonardo Erazu went to the Swartland of South Africa and saw the revolution of bush vine wines there, it intrigued him to return home and make something of Chile’s wealth of old bush vines in Itata. Since 2008 Erazu has been experimenting in this southern region making field blends from the varieties that had been all but forgotten until recent years.

“I was curious about the potential,” he says. “There was a good combination of old vines, granitic soils and dry farming.” What he discovered were vines often over a century old and small producers who were on the brink of tearing out vineyards in favour of more lucrative crops. Enamoured with the vines and the inherited wisdom of the small producers, he began making white and red field blends, putting him among a growing legion of believers in Itata being the new “old region” of Chile. “Itata is pure and honest, it has a very old viticulture with little intervention and it is incredible…”

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

Morande JnrPABLO MORANDÉ DESBORDES

The Morandés have never been an orthodox winemaking family in Chile. Pablo Morandé Snr made the first cool climate wines in the Americas when he pioneered the Casablanca region, and now his son Pablo Morandé Jnr is creating a stir with his unorthodox winemaking methods and blends in their small family winery, Bodegas RE.

“The concept of RE is of recreating, remaking and reviving ancient practices of winemaking, and our goal is to make this renaissance of wines and try to use current knowledge with the ancient ways,” Morandé says. The project began in 2007 when their first wine Velado, a Pinot Noir rosé, accidentally developed flor after an earthquake partially emptied the barrels. They liked the result so much that is now RE’s emblematic wine.

The hark back to age-old practices is best demonstrated by their specially commissioned 13,000 litre clay fermentation tanks with no temperature controls and designed for a maximum of one daily pump-over. The winery also makes many unorthodox co-fermentations…

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

 

JUAN ALEJANDRO JOFRÉScreen Shot 2014-09-10 at 08.30.14

Ten years ago when Colchagua was becoming famous for its high alcohol, rich and concentrated reds, Juan Alejandro Jofré was beavering away at a very different style of wines in Viña Maquis — so different in fact that most blind tastings failed to pin it as Colchagua.

During that decade he changed around the viticulture of the vineyards according to his terroir hero, French consultant Xavier Choné, to be able to make lean wines with high acidity and low alcohol, picking up to a month earlier than his neighbours. Jofré’s wines bucked the trend back then, and gained him critical acclaim as journalists and drinkers began to tire of overripe reds.

While at first he was ridiculed by his neighbours, he soon became recognised as one of Chile’s most promising young winemakers. When he began to feel limited by not being able to push his style more, Jofré left Maquis in 2013 to start working on his own projects. “I wanted to make these cool climate wines from Curicó because it is the heart of Chile, but a very mistreated region… It has a bad reputation but I think it can be extraordinary for making wine…”

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

Julio BastiasJULIO BASTIAS

Julio Bastias is one of the biggest biodynamics disciples in Chile. He started at Matetic in 2002 and worked under the late consultant Alan York until he was appointed head winemaker two years ago. His wines in coastal Casablanca and San Antonio have garnered numerous awards, as well as forging the way for cool climate coastal red varieties including Syrah and Pinot Noir.

“The truth is that we have made these wines with just viticulture work,” he says. “We use minimal intervention in the winemaking… We think that the quality of fruit is so spectacular by itself that we don’t need to change much. For us, biodynamics is the best way to reach a true connection between the wines and the origin of the grapes…”

Read more Chilea Winemakers to Watch DB Sep 14

Cristian, TorresCRISTIAN CARRASCO BEGHELLI

This young Chilean winemaker is rising through the ranks in Miguel Torres’ Chilean winery. He was first hired for a research post and is now master of blends for the winery’s top wines after just six years. What makes Beghelli stand out though is his work on Chile’s oldest and long-forgotten variety, País. When Miguel Torres received a government grant to look into what can be done with the 15,000 hectares of the variety in Chile, he recruited Beghelli to get out and collect samples from different vineyards in Maule, make a sellable wine from it and rescue the variety from oblivion.

“País has a risk of disappearing and if you see these vineyards there is nothing like it in the world,” says Beghelli, talking about the vines that are often over 100 years old. “I don’t know how the industry can ignore it; they don’t see any desire to work with it. In 2006 it was one of the most planted varieties with 15,000 hectares, but in 2012 there were 5,000…”

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Chile’s wine industry is diversifying and changing thanks to many hands in the winery and vineyards. Here are some further honourable mentions to note:

Alvaro Espinoza, Juan Ledesma, Louis- Antoine Luyt, Felipe Müller, Viviana Navarrete, Grant Phelps, Enrique Tirado, Rafael Tirado, Felipe Uribe and Rafael Urrejola.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s