This blog is being written by Fliss, Tim’s wife who has joined the second group visiting wineries in Chile. Because of some wifi issues in Santiago, I’m afraid I am posting it a week late!
Our group assembled at Le Reve hotel on Sunday evening. Le Reve is in the Providencia district of Santiago, in a street of handsome older houses. Its staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, the rooms are comfortable and it has a beautiful inner courtyard in which to enjoy the warm evening and is an oasis of calm after Andean transfers – the bus journey from Mendoza to Santiago takes about five hours driving, but those who did it learnt to factor in a five hour wait getting through border control!
We had dinner at the Baco restaurant, a few blocks’ walk from the hotel. The food was fabulous, and the wine list was of course comprehensive. Most of us had steak, and we tried a few wines to get into the mood….
Monday’s visits were to Haras de Prique and Perez Cruz in the Maipo Alto, both of which Tour 1 visited. Architecture was a feature for both.
Haras de Pirque’s horseshoe shaped, gravity fed winery was absolutely stunning. Its sweeping pathways bordered by beautiful planting took us up to the highest point where grapes are received and sorted at harvest, and we descended through the fermentation vats to the barrel store in the centre of which was a tasting room, lit by the base of the fountain in the central courtyard (I hope the photos do a better job of explaining this than my description!). They are converting some offices (sadly for the people who work in them) into a restaurant (sadly for us not yet open) with fabulous views out onto the vineyards and mountains.
Gail and Salome gave us a fantastic explanation of the winery and its history (closely linked to the horse breeding fortunes of its founder), and the wines we tasted were fabulous – elegant, quite restrained but with lovely structure. I particularly enjoyed the Haras Character Sauvignon Blanc, and the Albis Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere Blend – the 2006 vintage which had an ‘old world’ vegetal nose but was fresh and vibrant on the palate.
After lunch at a local steak restaurant, we visited Perez Cruz’s pine clad winery – another stunning building, with its barrel-like curved walls. We were met by Victor, the assistant winemaker and Maria Jose from the marketing team, and started in the vineyards. With the backdrop of the Andes (a bit obscured by cloud), Victor showed us the large round stones that are scattered through the vineyard. Typical of alluvial soils in the region these ensure better drainage and encourage the vines to work harder to put roots down, and therefore gain more mineral qualities.
Victor also explained how important the micro climate of the vineyards was to Perez Cruz wines. The Maipo Alto is one of the most easterly wine areas in Chile, and is therefore impacted by Mountain breezes rather than Maritime breezes. While the overall climate is described as Mediterranean, this could be very hot and arid, if it weren’t for the cooling effect of the air moving over the Andes which brings freshness to the wines and allows for the very long growing season that varieties like Carmenere and Malbec require. We really tasted this when we moved into the cellar to sample a range of their very impressive wines, from the entry level Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon through the limited edition Cot (Malbec), Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon to the Liguai, a glorious blend of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Victor’s passion for his craft, and his charming apologies for his English (significantly better than most of our Spanish) made this a very special visit and we felt we had begun to explore Carmenere – a variety we would return to in Aconcagua the following day.