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carmenere

Details from our Trip to Chile

As the grapes begin to harvest we reflect back on the amazing trip that we had in Chile. Check out our Chilean itinerary below. Anyone up for a trip to Chile? Because we can’t wait to go back and visit!

Day 1: Colchagua

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As we drove through the Colchagua Valley I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in Napa driving down the Silverado Trail or HWY 29. Lush vineyards surrounded us on either side of the highway. Each winery we passed was just as majestic as or more than the next. A blissful start to our trip.

We stopped at few wineries that day before we visited our vineyards for research purposes ;). The first winery we stopped at was Lapostelle’s Clos Apalta winery. This winery calls itself “French in essence, Chilean by birth”. A striking winery that is 100% gravity fed. They have over six levels in the winery. Each with a specific fermentation or aging purpose. The tasting room is on the second to last floor and is so cold they offer blankets for patrons when tasting wine in their cave like room. Directly below the tasting room is the proprietor’s personal cellar, with over 1000 bottles of wine. Quite the collection.  This was one of the more interesting tasting experiences we’ve had.

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For the rest of the day we visited our Colchagua Vineyards and they were incredible! The Colchagua Valley is known for growing bold red wines, such as Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. It has a mediterranean climate and is located along the southern end of the Rapel Valley. This topography creates a climate that receives around 23.3 inches of rainfall per year and little to no rainfall during their summer months. This helps keep the grapes safe close to harvest and ensures that the grapes are fighting for water therefore creating a more intense fruit.  The soil is made up of sand, decomposed granite, and clay. Another great indicator of quality viticulture. These soil components soak up acidity and help create a more balanced wine grape to work with.

Days 2-3: Curico Valley

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The hospitality in Chile was something we have never experienced before. The people were so kind and accommodating. First, we rode on horseback around the Chardonnay vineyard. Not being very good at horseback riding this was a little nerve wrecking, but we were able to make it around the vineyard (barely). Besides the stress of being on a horse the views were gorgeous and it was quite the way to take in the vineyard views.

Curico is place where many wineries and growers work with large producers. They have high-end equipment with state of the art technology; but at the same time there are family wineries and growers who create incredible boutique wines using a combination of old world tradition and a few new world winemaking practices. You can see the combination of new and old just by driving down the street. You not only pass fancy cars, but every once in a while you’ll pass a horse and buggy. Yes that is correct. Many people ride horseback throughout the area rather than drive cars.  Curico has been a wine grape growing region since the 1800s and you can see the incredible history of the wine region as you drive down the street.

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The wines from our grower’s personal winery were delicious! Sebastian and Manuela make a great father/daughter team when it comes to winemaking. Their wine label is called “Correa Albano” and the Sauvignon Blanc was so fruit forward and bright. I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially on such a hot summer day, it was the perfectly refreshing and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The Carmenere was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It had a “dusty” almost “napa-like” nose to it. It was full of delicious dark fruits with soft and rich tannins. This wine has inspired me to try to make Carmenere again. I am hoping the new CSM yeast will get me close to this flavor profile. One of things Manuela touched on was the importance of temperature during fermentation for both white and red wines. She said she is meticulous about monitoring temperature during her primary fermentations and it is one of the keys to her winemaking success.

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After tasting some our grower’s wines we sat down for a true Chilean lunch and the food was delicious! Our growers were incredibly kind and prepared a few authentic Chilean dishes for us to enjoy (keep an eye out for some recipes to hit the blog soon). It was a feast of delicious Chilean produce, spices, and flavors, which was followed by a barrel tasting where Sebastian and Manuela let us try some of their aged red wines. They used multiple yeasts and are starting to think about blending the different oaks.

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As our 5 hour lunch and tasting came to an end we went to see more of the vineyards, and let me tell you, this car ride was epic. It was to a point where we didn’t think our rental car would make it over the rocks and through the brush. I felt like I was on a jungle safari in a car that was about to crumble underneath us with each bump we hit. We went from a beautiful roadside vineyard of Malbec and Merlot, up a large hill rocky hill to Cabernet Sauvignon, through a jungle forest that opened up to a gorgeous Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. It felt like we discovered a vineyard oasis. It was Sebastian’s father’s favorite vineyard. You could tell it held a special place in his heart.

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Day 4: Viña Alpatagua

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The next winery we visited was Viña Alpatagua. The winemaker gave us an insider’s tour of the tank area, barrel room, and bottling line. It is a winery that is full of creativity and passion. The level of precision that is taken with each wine was very apparent, as was how creative the winemaker was. The winemaker, Pablo Barros, infused their sparkling wine with pomegranate juice from their estate pomegranate trees. It was a delicious addition to an already delicious sparkling wine.

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Most of their wines were appellation focused. We tried wines specifically from Curico and Colchagua. Most of the vines that they worked were very old, some up to 70 years old! My favorite wines were the Pomegranate infused sparkling, the Carmenere, their Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling.  This winery creates wines of great distinction. A must see if you are in Chile.

Day 5:  Santiago

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On the last day of our trip we enjoyed some delicious Pisco with some of our hosts, Alfredo and Suzanne. Alfredo and Suzanne are kind enough to take video, photos, and give us up to date harvest information. We are very lucky that they are so willing to give us information so quickly and efficiently. Alfredo and his family are a big part of why we are able to bring in such high end grapes from Chile.

Since it was our first time trying Pisco, they took us to a Pisco bar in downtown Santiago. This bar had some delicious ways to try it. They had over 30 different cocktails centered on the authentic, grape-based liquor. What a way to leave Chile! The next morning we reluctantly headed back to the US. An incredible trip with so many great memories, new knowledge, and media to share with our winemakers back home.

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As the plane took off and I settled in for the long flight home I couldn’t help but reflect back on the incredible people we met. They are kind and caring families who truly love what they do. You can see the passion they have for the wine industry, their families, and the people they work with. They said, “Wine is made in the details… If people work in a good way it takes a direct effect on the wines.” I couldn’t agree more. It was an incredible trip and we feel so very fortunate that we are able to work with such amazing growers and their families.

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Winemaker Spotlight Interview with Manuela Astaburuaga

Christina, Sebastian, Patrick, Manuella in vineyard

Winemaker Spotlight Interview with Manuela Astaburuaga

How did you get started winemaking? 

I’m the 5th generation viticulturist in my family so I was born between tanks and vineyards. When we were kids we played hide and seek in the tanks of the winery and we rode a bicycle among the vineyards.

When I finished the school, I decided to study Agriculture because I love the nature and live in the countryside, then in my last year of university I went to Australia to do my first vintage and I loved it. After I started to work with my family and I decided to go to France to do a Master in viticulture and Oenology.

What I love the most about Oenology is that most of the time there is a family tradition behind it. In my case my father founded the company Viña Correa Albano in 1991 but my grandfather, great grandfather, … also had their own winery Viña Astaburuaga.

Who were your wine mentors? 

My mentors where my father and grandfather. My grandfather was one of the first to broker of wine in Chile and one of the first to export wines. We also have photos of the first exportation where you can see the boats with tanks full of wines.

I really don’t pay attention to the winemakers. I love to taste different wines from different wineries, valleys and countries, but I never pay attention who was the winemaker, for me is a team job.

What do you look for when you make wine? What is your general winemaking philosophy?

The most important thing is have good quality grapes. A healthy grape, free of disease, means we can start making a good wine.

In white wines the expression of aromas and acidity is really important, so we try to have long fermentations at low temperature.

In reds, the wine aging is the most important for me. It is necessary to have the micro oxygenation to soften the tannins and it is very important to limit the oxidation to preserve the fruity aromas that come from the grape.

What is the most difficult aspect of making wine? What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

The first thing is to have good quality grapes, for that we have to work all year.

In viticulture/oenology we say that we never have two equal years so for me the biggest challenge is to know how to react quickly in different situations as a rain or excessive heat for example can cause challenges.

What bottles of wine in your cellar are you most excited about? 

A few weeks ago, we were sorting out and we found samples of our first exportation of wine. We opened a bottle and it was really good so now that we found the bottles we take care of them the most. Also, I have a box of 12 bottles of my grandfather’s wine from my year of birth that he gave to my parents at my baptism and I’m waiting for a special occasion to open it.

I don’t have any favorite wines but for me the history behind the wine is very important, we cannot compare a big Chateau of Bordeaux with unlimited means with a small producer with all the adversities of nature.

In general, I enjoy more a wine from a small producer with a tradition behind them, than a wine from a big winery.

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What’s your philosophy on Oak and Wine?

For me the most important is oxygen in aging the wine, the barrels have porosity so they give a micro-oxygenation to the wine which is very important to the complexity and the maturation of tannins.

I use barrels, but I always try to not exaggerate because I prefer to preserve the fruity aromas over those gave from the oak.

Are you filtering your wines?

Yes and no. We have a tangential filter which is very good in preserving the quality. For our premium line, which has a minimum of 8 months in the barrel we will not filter.

Are there any new winemaking techniques or tools you’d like to experiment with?

We are thinking about implementing the pulsair system in our winery, so we don’t have to us the remontage method and limit the oxidation.

What’s been your greatest challenge as a winemaker?

The generational change.

Any advice for a new home winemaker? 

Have patience. We cannot rush the aging and to have complexity, sucrosity and soft tannins are important and take time.

Also, you have to have in mind that the oxygen can be the best friend or the worst enemy in the aging. Is important to have micro-oxygenation to help the maturity of wine but if it is not controlled, he can oxidize some components and be harmful to the final quality.

If you had to pick one wine to drink for the rest of your life what would it be?

I cannot pick only one wine, for me the wine depends the occasion and is important to change and try different wines.

What’s your favorite wine region?

I don’t have a favorite region but I loved the whites of Alsace and the Cabernet Franc of Saumur Champigny.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am shy and I have a very bad memory, that’s why I can never remember the names of the winemakers and wineries I have tasted (that’s why I always write my tasting notes).

If you weren’t making wine what would you be doing?

I really have no idea!

 

Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec Numbers

Hello Winemakers!

We hope everything is fermenting along well! Below are some numbers were able to take on the grapes yesterday. Cheers and Happy Fermenting! :)

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pH= 3.55, TA= 4.27, Brix 21.5

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pH= 3.85, TA= 3.31, Brix =23.5

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pH= 3.95, TA = 4.25, Brix = 23.2

Video from Chile!

As the Chilean grapes start arriving….Here is a video from our grower – Correo Albano Vineyards – talking about the history of his vineyard, the region of Curico, and the 2017 Harvest. Cheers to 5 generations of growing the best wine grapes of Chile!

2017 Chilean Wine Harvest Update

 

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2017 Chilean Harvest:

2017 was a fantastic growing season up until the other day. As many of you might have heard on the news massive fires broke out in Chile. The fires have been a devastating blow to the Chilean people. However, The Curico Valley and the Southern regions of Colchagua Valleys were thankfully not affected. Unfortunately other Chilean wine growing regions such as the Maipo Valley were greatly affected by the fires and might not be able to produce vintages this year. We encourage everyone to donate to the Red Cross to aid in the relief of these fires.

The growing season for the Curico and Colchagua Valley’s was a hot and dry one. Expect wines with great character, intense flavors, complexity, and distinction. We should be receiving grapes around the same time as last year, maybe a little earlier for the whites. The first white grapes will be picked at the end of February. Carmenere will be in shorter supply this year as the demand has gone up for this grape, so put your orders in early!

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The wines of Chile – along with the winemakers and vineyards that produce them – have had some profound transformations in the past 30 years. Grape growers have successfully determined which varietals thrive in their vineyards, have experimented with unique trellising systems, and explored interesting new areas for planting. The wines now have a head start because of the wonderful grape quality.

Musto Wine Grape Company, LLC. has been importing quality Chilean wine grapes for over 10 years. We have developed long lasting relationships in Chile and are constantly growing and developing the program. The vineyards are located between the Andes Mountains and Pacific Ocean. Therefore, the vines have excellent growing conditions for perfect ripeness and complexity thanks to the ocean breeze and Mediterranean climate.

The Curico Valley has been a wine grape growing region since the 1800’s and is located about 115 miles south of Santiago in the Central Zone of Chile. It is known as the “Heart of the Chilean wine industry”. Curico has the perfect fertile soil and is best known for its micro climates and the ability to grow over 30 different wine grape varieties. Situated along the Guaiquillo River and nestled between mountains on its east and west sides, Curico’s Mediterranean climate and unique topographical features helps to create some of the finest wine grapes in South America.

The climate in the valley is characterized by morning fog and wide day-night temperature fluctuations. Climatic conditions in some parts of the valley favor wines with higher acidity, such as white varieties including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vert and Gris. High quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Carménère grapes are sourced from warmer areas of the valley, such as Lontué, particularly when produced from ancient vines.
Terroir: Sandy, clay, decomposed granite, volcanic-alluvial

Grape Varieties Available: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier

Juice Varieties Available: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Merlot Blend, Carmenere, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat

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Yeast Pairings for Chilean Wine Grapes

Yeast Pairings for Chilean Wine Grapes

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Cabernet Sauvignon: BM45, BM4X4, D80, RC212, D254

Cabernet Franc: BM45, RP15, D254, D80, BDX

Carmenere: BDX, D254, RP15

Malbec: BDX, D254, RP15

Merlot: BDX, D80, RP15, D254

Petite Verdot: BM4X4, D80, D254

Pinot Noir: RC212, BM45

Syrah: BDX, D80, D254

Chardonnay: QA23, VIN13, D47, COTE DES BLANCS

Pinot Grigio: 71B, VIN13, QA23, R2

Sauvignon Blanc: VIN13, QA23, R2, D47, V1116

Viognier: VIN13, R2, D47

 

Which yeast will you use? :)

Also, don’t forget to watch our Youtube Video on “Yeast & Stuck Fermentation”

Cheers! And Happy Winemaking!