Chile’s wine regions, Eduardo Chadwick – Seña, Errazuriz and Viñedo Chadwick

Date: December 11, 2010

About Wines from Chile
Best wine supplier in Philippines discusses wine related topics

Eduardo Chadwick is one of the leading figures in Chilean wine. Since 1993 he’s been president of Viña Errázuriz, a family owned winery. Founded in 1870 by Don Maximiano Errázuriz, it has been passed on through the family ever since, except for a brief interlude in the 1970s and 80s when it was owned by a bank.

In his late 40s, Eduardo (below) is trim, articulate and has a polite reserve – he could be a member of the English aristocracy. Not only has he built a leading Chilean wine brand from scratch, but he’s also led the way in trying to prove to the world that Chile isn’t just about value for money, and can compete with the world’s best. To this end, Eduardo has been responsible for three of Chile’s small band of ‘icon wines’: Seña, Don Maximiano and Viñedo Chadwick.

It was at this latter estate, nestled in what is now the southern suburbs of Santiago, that I visited him, along with several colleagues who had also been judging the wines of Chile annual awards. Originally, the current Viñedo Chadwick this was a 400 hectare property surrounded by open countryside. However, in 1960 the Chilean government instituted a drastic, redistributive land reform policy. Land owners were to be allowed a maximum of 80 ‘basic’ hectares. So, if you had unirrigated land you might be allowed to keep 200 hectares. The Chadwicks in Maipo were only allowed to keep 40 hectares, and were forced to sell the rest. However, Eduardo’s father Alfonso had seen this move coming and so sold some to Concha y Toro (this is now the Almaviva property) and some to Cousino Macul, and so on.

At the same time, Errazuriz itself had grown to 500 hectares, and this was summarily divided into 35 different pieces, leaving only 15 hectares and the winery in the hands of the Viña Errazuriz company. Times were tough economically and the Errazuriz winery closed down in 1970. In 1973 it was bought by banks, relaunched, and then closed down again. Eduardo’s father bought it back in 1983 and invited Eduardo, then aged 23, to come on board and manage it.

So, from 1983 until 1992 Eduardo’s energies were concentrated on the tough task of rebuilding a once-successful brand. All he had was the name, an old winery in Aconcagua, and 15 adjoining hectares of pergola vineyards. A big part of the challenge that faced him was to develop new vineyard sites in Casablanca and in the coastal part of Aconcagua.

One of his main achievements was that in the early 1990s Eduardo introduced Syrah to Chile. Before this, Chile had just been looking towards Bordeaux for its varietal mix. He grafted it onto old vine Cabernet in Aconcagua in 1994, and now there are 2500 hectares of Syrah in Chile, an area that is growing fast.

In 1990 celebrated Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi came to Chile and fell in love with the country. A Mondavi/Chadwick joint venture was born in 1995. Seña, Chile’s first ‘icon’ wine, was first released in 1997. It was initially produced from other vineyard sources while a new specific self-contained property in Aconcagua was identified (in 1999) and then developed. Also part of this joint venture was Caliterra in Colchagua, and the Arboleda range of boutique wines from specific terroirs. All of these were separate entities that coexisted alongside Errazuriz. In 2003 when Constellation bought Mondavi, Eduardo had first refusal on all the joint ventures and bought them back. This partly explains the rather crowded portfolio he is currently in charge of.

Seña is now sourced solely from 350 hectare hillside property, which is managed under biodynamic lines with Alan York as a consultant. It is undergoing certification as an organic vineyard, and the intention is that it should convert fully to biodynamics in time. Six wineries, including Seña, have formed a biodynamic association in Chile. ‘Chile has the best potential in the world for organic and biodynamic viticulture’, says Eduardo. When asked about the difference that biodynamics has made, he replies that, ‘It’s too early to see this in the wines’

Viñedo Chadwick is in the Alto Maipo, and was used as a family home. Eduardo’s father, Alfonso Chadwick Errázuriz, was a keen polo player and most of the property was given over to this purpose. Eduardo came to live here in 1992, the year before his father died, and made the tough decision to develop the polo field into a vineyard. 30 hectares were planted, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Eduardo did his own massale selection of the best-looking Merlot, only to find out that it was actually Carmenère. ‘Carmenère doesn’t work here’, he says ruefully, and after five years of declassifying it, he took it out. So far, Viñedo Chadwick has just been a straight Cabernet, although newly planted Merlot and Cabernet Franc is expected to be part of the blend in the future.

The vineyard is on a plateau at 700 metres elevation. Frost can be a risk, and harvest is at the end of April or early in May. ’10 years ago we were keen to plant more Merlot’, says Eduardo. ‘We imported clones 101 and 181, and as is the tradition in Chile we planted them on their own roots. It was a total disaster because they had poor root systems’. Of course, in Europe all vines are grafted, so the clonal selection would have ignored the root growth. Eduardo has planted grafted Merlot, but says that it’s a very difficult variety to farm and get good quality with. The 1999 was the first release of Viñedo Chadwick, from 8 year old vines. 700 cases are released each year on average.

The Berlin Tasting
In 2004, Eduardo decided it was time to show to a wider audience what he’d achieved with his top wines. Thus was born the famous Berlin Tasting. He selected 16 wines from the 2000 and 2001 vintages, pitting his icons against top Bordeaux and super-Tuscans in a blind setting. 40 European wine writers and trade people were gathered to attend a seminar and then a blind tasting, in which they were asked to rank their first, second and third choice wines. The tasting was held on 23 January 2004, and was held in Berlin (there’s a website dedicated to it: ‘The UK was my first choice’, reveals Eduardo, ‘but there has been such a reaction against the “icon” wine concept there. The only place we have had criticism of Seña was in London, where there is a reluctance to accept that Chile can compete at the highest level.’

So what was the aim of the tasting? ‘On a world perspective we are trying to prove that we are in the company of the best wines of the world’, he says. The results were amazing, in that the Chilean wines did extremely well against perhaps the stiffest competition imaginable. In full:

2000 Viñedo Chadwick Viña Errázuriz, Maipo Valley 1

2001 Seña Viña Errázuriz & Robert Mondavi
Aconcagua Valley 2

2000 Château Lafite Premier Grand Cru Classé
Pauillac 3

2001 Château Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé
Margaux 4

2000 Seña Viña Errázuriz & Robert
MondaviAconcagua Valley 4

2000 Château Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé
Margaux 6

2000 Château Latour Premier Grand Cru Classé
Pauillac 6

2001 Viñedo Chadwick Viña Errázuriz
Maipo Valley 6

2001 Don Maximiano Viña Errázuriz
Founder’sReserve Aconcagua Valley 9

2001 Château Latour Premier Grand Cru Classé
Pauillac 10

2000 Solaia Marchesi Antinori
Toscana IGT

‘It was a milestone for use by demonstrating the quality of the wines,’ says Eduardo. ‘We never expected this. It became world news’.

The tasting was repeated in Sao Paolo, Brazil on Nov 7 2005 (Chadwick 2nd, Seña 3rd); Tokyo 14 June 2006 (Seña 2nd, Chadwick 3rd) and Toronto 5 October 2006 (Don Maximiano 3rd, Seña 5th and Chadwick 6th). More recently, tastings have been held in Copenhagen and Beijing.

What do these sorts of tastings prove? I find them fascinating on a number of levels, but think that there’s a danger in making too much of them. Perhaps one thing we can say for sure is that without the sight of the label, experienced wine professionals consider the top Chilean wines to be the qualitative equals of what the wine industry regards to be the benchmark examples of their type, when tasted young. Did the tasters get it ‘wrong’ in these settings, in terms of assessing wine quality? I think, to a degree, they did. Knowing the identity of a wine can lead to a more accurate assessment of it; of course, it can also lead to people seeing complexity where there is none and allowing their perceptual judgements to be influenced by reputation. It’s a complex matter.

The wines
The notes below are taken from two separate tastings – the dates are given in brackets as month and year. Some real highlights, including the fantastic KAI and the debut Chadwick vintage.

Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Leyda, Chile
Bright, fresh and grassy. Nice weight here with some green pepper notes. Stylish, fresh and quite savoury. Lovely weight. 89/100 (01/08)

Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Leyda, Chile
Lovely assertive grassy, fresh nose with some green pepper and herbs. Quite savoury. The palate is crisp and zippy with good acidity. A striking, full-on Sauvignon. 89/100 (10/07)

Arboleda Chardonnay 2006 Casablanca Valley
Fresh, bright and focused. A bit spicy with some nutty richness. Stylish, fresh and bright. 88/100 (10/07)

Arboleda Chardonnay 2005 Casablanca Valley
Nutty, full, rounded and exotic with some lemony freshness as well as rich toastiness. The palate shows rounded fruity character with nice richness. Stylish. 89/100 (10/07)

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2006 Casablanca, Chile
’I think it’s difficult to make world class Chardonnay in Chile’, says Eduardo Chadwick. ‘With wild ferment we are trying to make a wine with complexity and balance’. Rich, quite complex and bold: an intense style of Chardonnay that is toasty, nutty and quite rich, but with nice freshness, too. 90/100 (01/08)

Arboleda Shiraz 2005 Aconcagua
A big wine with a rich, ripe nose that’s dark, sweet, spicy and tarry. The palate is sweet and dense with rich, forward dark lush fruit. Unashamed new world style. 90/100 (10/07)

Arboleda Carmenere 2005 Colchagua
Very interesting gravelly, minerally edge to the sweet dark fruits nose. The palate is soft with dense sweet, dark fruits with a subtle herbiness alongside the chocolatey richness. 88/100 (10/07)

Arboleda Merlot 2005 Aconcagua
Intense blackcurrant fruit nose is vivid and rich. The palate is sweetly fruited with lush fruit. A big style of red. 87/100 (10/07)

Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Acongcagua
Subtle rubbery edge to the ripe black fruits nose. The palate is sweet and dense with lots of black fruit. Concentrated with some spicy tannin on the finish. Intense style. 88/100 (10/07)

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2006 Casablanca, Chile
This is mostly clone 777 plus some massale selection from Cono Sur. Served chilled, this is bright with lovely fresh dark cherry fruit. There’s some spicy grip, and attractive berry fruit character on the palate. Very stylish and it reminds me a bit of the Marlborough (New Zealand) style. 90/100 (01/08)

Errazuriz ‘The Blend’ 2005
Sweet, ripe blackcurrant fruit nose with some spiciness. Quite deep and modern, with a bit of chocolate. The palate is dense and quite tannic with good richness. Good balance here: a rich, modern style with some nice structure. 91/100 (01/08)

Errazuriz Shiraz ‘Le Cumbre’ 2005
Le Cumbre = The Summit. Ripe and rich with a bold, chocolatey spicy depth to the nose. There’s plenty of oak here. The palate shows bold, intense dark fruits backed up by spicy, chocolatey oak. A very modern style that’s quite delicious but perhaps a little oaky. 91/100 (01/08)

Errazuriz KAI 2005
Chile’s first icon Carmenère. Lovely ripe dark fruits nose with a minerally edge. Dark, brooding and complex, with some gravelly notes. The palate is dense and full with stylish minerally character. Quite elegant despite the size. Really stylish stuff, and I really like the lovely earthy spiciness and the hints of tobacco. This was harvested in late May, which corresponds to November in the northern hemisphere. 93/100 (01/08)

Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2003
Very sweet, ripe blackcurrant fruit nose is lush and generous with some spiciness. The palate has more of that very ripe, lush fruit with a pure blackcurrant character. Bold with a little pastille-like richness. The palate has a tiny bit of hollowness in the middle, and some earthy tannin on the finish. Quite Chilean in character with lots of ripeness and sweetness. 90/100 (01/08)

Seña 2004 Aconcagua Valley
Sweet blackcurrant fruit nose with a rubbery, pastille-like red berry character. The palate is quite savoury with a nice earthy, spicy structure under the ripe red fruits. Nicely structured, but still tastes distinctly Chilean. 88/100 (10/07)

Seña 2003 Aconcagua Valley
Sweet blackcurrant and red berry fruit nose with some spicy notes. The palate is approachable with nice sweet red and black fruits. Nice spicy structure. 88/100 (10/07)

Seña 2001 Aconcagua Valley
Ripe, sweet nose with some earthiness under the berry and blackcurrant fruit. Beginning to show some evolution. Lush and quite elegant. The palate has some spiciness and earthiness with soft texture and smooth dark fruit. A very stylish wine that’s drinking well now. Quite evolved so drink soon. This was launched 10 years ago today (the day when this was tasted). 91/100 (01/08)

Seña 2001 Aconcagua Valley
Nicelhy aromatic blackcurrant fruit nose with some spicy, earthy complexity. Attractive and perfumed. The palate is spicy with supple red and black fruit character. Medium bodied and quite tasty with good balance. 90/100 (10/07)

Seña 1996 Aconcagua Valley
Earthy and spicy with a touch of tar. Perfumed and gently herby. There’s some sweetness here. The palate has nice fresh acidity supporting the evolved, earthy fruit with a hint of leafy herbiness in the background. Nicely proportioned and drinking very well. 90/100 (10/07)

Viñedo Chadwick 2001
First vintage. Dark fruits nose with a nice freshness and a subtle greenness. It’s a little minerally with aromatic pure dark fruits character. Starting to evolve with some leather and herb complexity. Harmonious and expressive – almost floral. The palate is dense and earthy with pure expressive fruit and some structure. Evolving really nicely with a lovely core to it. Superb. 93/100 (01/08)


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