Chile’s wine regions, Concha Y Toro

Date: January 23, 2011
About Wines from Chile
Best wine supplier in Philippines discusses wine related topics

We visited Concha y Toro’s historical Pirque winery and vineyard on a Sunday morning, which probably wasn’t a good idea. Although we had an appointment, there wasn’t really anyone available to show us around so they gave us the standard tourist tour. The guy who showed us around was called Ronnie, and he did a great job, but while this tour was pitched perfectly for the average tourist, it was a bit embarrassing for a group like ours. At one stage he began to tell us about the special irrigation system used in the vineyard, and when Margaret Rand asked for more details his response was, ‘it’s a secret’. We also got the cellar tour, with the devil in the cellar, and were poured one of the wines from the tasting station outside the winery (a 2005 Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc that had seen better days).

However, we were rescued by winemaker Max Weinlaub (below), who gave us a superb tasting. I really liked Max, and even more so because he had a copy of my book with him (Wine Science). What a dude.

Concha y Toro is an important winery globally. By far the largest outfit in Chile, it is one of the world’s leading wine brands. Indeed, Chile is lucky that its largest producer makes such good wines across the board.

The winery was founded in 1883 here in Pirque by the liberal politician Don Melchor de Concha y Toro, and now has 6000 hectares of vineyards spread throughout Chile’s wine regions. Export is important: 12 million cases are sent annually to 151 countries, as opposed to 8 million cases sold domestically.

In 1961 Eduardo Guilisasti purchased 51% of the company, and expanded it considerably. It was floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994, and currently the Guilisasti are still the majority shareholder with 27% of the company.

My notes below are from three separate tastings: at Concha itself in Chile, then a month later with Marcelo Papa (chief winemaker) at a London dinner, and then with Marcelo again at the London trade fair in May.

The Devil’s Cellar

Casillero del Diablo is an important brand for Concha: it sells 3 million cases worldwide. The UK takes a third of these, and 60% of sales are at full price, which for a brand in the UK is pretty good.

Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Sweet and ripe with lovely dense blackcurrant fruit. Lovely density and balance here. 86/100 (02/08)

Casillero del Diablo Shiraz 2007
Fresh, bright, sweet dark fruits nose with some tarry richness. The palate has lovely sweet dense fruit with nice spiciness. A delicious modern-styled wine. 87/100 (02/08)

Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir 2007
Lovely vivid cherryish nose showing sweet berry fruit with some minty sappiness. The palate has attractive midweight fruit. Quite berryish. 85/100 (02/08)

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère 2007
Lovely sweet dark blackberry and blackcurrant fruit nose with some brambly depth. The palate is smoothly textured and dense with a bit of minerality. A really attractive wine. 88/100 (02/08)

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2007
Dark intense nose is spicy and full with sweet morello cherry character. The palate is vivid with a savoury, spicy edge and some nice tannin. This is from a single vineyard with 35 year old vines, so it is limited. 88/100 (02/08)

Maycas del Limari
A a new, exciting project. The northerly region is actually quite cool-climate (because of coastal airmass movements) and there’s big competition for water between pisco grapes, olives, avocados and the newly arrived wine grapes, as well as bell peppers and artichokes. Concha started planting here five years ago, and a big emphasis is Syrah, which is 80% of their plantings. Marcelo Papa claims that bits of Limari are the best places in Chile for growing Chardonnay.

Maycas del Limari Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Distinctive methoxypyrazine nose is fresh and a bit green. The palate is vibrant and assertive with nice weight. Quite dense and green. 88/100 (02/08)

Maycas del Limari Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Very pale colour. Fresh, bright aromatic nose is grassy and precise. The palate has grapefruit and citrus notes with minerally acidity. A lovely, extreme style. 90/100 (01/08)

Maycas del Limari Chardonnay 2006
Toasty and bright on the nose. Very fresh. The palate has lovely freshness and intensity with tight figgy fruit and some toastiness. Finishes lemony. 92/100 (02/08)

Maycas del Limari Chardonnay 2006
Fresh, toasty, lemony nose with some nuttiness and subtle tropical fruits. The palate is fresh and assertive with toasty notes. Stylish and intense. 91/100 (01/08)

Maycas del Limari Syrah 2005
Lovely meaty black fruits here: full and rich, and quite complex. Soft, dense and meaty on the palate with great purity of fruit. 91/100 (01/08)

Maycas del Limari Syrah 2006
Sweet dark fruits nose is ripe but smooth. Really fresh with nice purity. The palate has lovely freshness and a hint of pepper alongside the sweet lush fruit. Delicious. 91/100 (02/08)

Maycas del Limari Syrah 2007
Very rich, ripe and sweet, with pure, intense rich-textured red and black fruits. It’s verging on jammy but still has some definition, and overall it’s a very seductive wine. 90/100 (05/08)

Maycas del Limari Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Very pure, attractive blackcurrant fruit nose is quite sweet but still well defined. The palate shows focused sweet blackcurrant fruit with nice balance and good acidity. Modern styled. 91/100 (01/08)

Maycas del Limari Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Dense coloured. Lovely dense ripe fruit is sweet and fresh with nice blackcurrant character backed up by fresh acidity. Tasty, ripe and pure. 90/100 (02/08)

This brand retails in the UK for £9.99

Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Casablanca
Refined. Grassy and fresh with restrained fruit and good acidity. Nice concentration. 89/100 (01/08)

Terrunyo Syrah 2005 Rapel
Black fruits nose. Savoury, spicy twist to the dense, ripe fruit which has some nice tannic structure. 85/100

Terrunyo Carmènere 2005 Rapel
Lovely focus here: blackcurrant fruit with lovely soft texture. Smooth and intense with some gravelly, minerally notes, too. Lovely. 89/100

Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Maipo
Smooth ripe blackcurrant fruit here. Very attractive in a very ripe style. 86/100

A brand based around the idea of blends of three different varieties. Retail £6.49.

Trio Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Casablanca
Distinctive green pepper methoxypyrazine nose. Crisp and savoury. Full grassy palate with bright fruit and some tropical notes. Nice breadth. 87/100 (01/08)

Trio Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio/Pinot Blanc 2007 Casablanca
Rich nose is nutty and a bit toasty, with ripe buttery tropical fruit. The palate has fresh herby notes and rich bold fruit. 88/100 (01/08)

Trio Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Cabernet Franc 2007 Maipo/Rapel
Ripe, juicy jammy nose of sweet blackcurrant fruit. There’s a sappy greenness to the ripe, forward fruit on the palate. 82/100 (01/08)

Trio Merlot/Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Rapel/Maipo
Lovely nose: dark, spicy blackcurrant fruit and brilliant focus, as well as a spicy, mineral edge. The palate shows focused blackcurrant fruit. Approachable and balanced. 89/100 (01/08)

Trio Pinot Noir 2006 Casablanca
Sweet and sour cherry coke nose with a sappy edge. The palate is berryish with a sweet/sappy character. It tastes like Pinot. 85/100 (01/08)

Marqués de Casa Concha
A brand retailing in the UK at £7.99

Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2006 Maipo
Broad, toasty, buttery, creamy nose has real appeal. The palate is quite soft and rich with nutty, oaky, smoothly textured fruit. A rich sophisticated style. 87/100 (01/08)

Marqués de Casa Concha Merlot 2006 Rapel
Focused dark fruits nose. Palate is sweetly fruited and lush with some soft elegance. Sweet. 87/100 (01/08)

Marqués de Casa Concha Syrah 2006 Rapel
Creamy blackcurrant nose with some vanilla and coconut oak. Palate shows sweet ripe red/black fruits with a bit of a lack of focus. 83/100

Marqués de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Maipo
Blackcurrant nose with a leafy edge. Sweet blackcurrant fruit palate with nice texture and structure. 86/100

Finally a loner: Concha’s top Carmenère:

Concha y Toro Carmin de Puemo Carmenère 2005
This is the second vintage of this icon Carmenère. It’s smooth, dark and intense with a lovely chalky, mineralic edge to the super-ripe, sweet dark fruits. The palate has a lovely rich texture with soft, smooth lush fruit and a mineralic edge. A lovely rich, but balanced wine. 94/100 (05/08)


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