Wines of Chile: Cachapoal Valley

By Kori ~ December 4th, 2012.

During my recent media trip to Chile, I had the pleasure to visit a number of its wineries and vineyards and meet many of the movers and shakers in the Chilean wine industry. I am individually highlighting some of the wine regions we visited including reviews of wines I tasted from those regions. Today, I am focusing on the Cachapoal Valley, located about 85 kilometers south of Santiago.

The Cachapoal Valley is in Chile’s agricultural heartland. With its Mediterranean climate, it is best known for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Carmenere. We tasted wines from three different producers whose grapes came from the Cachapoal Valley. Our winery visit in the Cachapoal Valley was to VIK.

Alexander Vik, a Norwegian entrepreneur, wanted to create an exceptional vineyard in order to produce a unique, world-class wine. He enlisted the services of wine industry veteran Patrick Valette to locate the perfect site. They looked at about 50 different properties in Argentina and Chile and took over 6,000 soil samples in the process. In 2006, Vik purchased 4,325 hectares in Chile about 200 kilometers south of Santiago, began planting the vineyard, and Viña VIK was born. When they began planting, there were no other vineyards in the area. Currently, VIK has 385 hectares planted to grapes with about 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Carmenere, and the remainder to Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot. There are twelve different valleys on the VIK property, and each variety is planted where they believe it will grow best.

VIK only produces one wine, a red blend, and its first vintage was 2009. In the winery, they have one tank for each vineyard block and keep each block separate until it is time to blend. During our visit, chief winemaker Cristian Vallejo talked about the winemaking process at VIK, which includes blending two different times as part of a “weeding out” process. After 15 months, they start working on the initial blend. At VIK, they use only new French oak with medium toast. They work on the final blend around 23 months. Currently, VIK produces about 2,500-3,000 cases per year.

“Chile has historically been known for its value, lesser quality wines. But now Chile is proving that it can make higher quality wines as well.” –Patrick Valette, General Manager

VIK is an ambitious project, and it is obvious that Alexander Vik is sparing no expense in pursuit of his goal to produce the “Premier Grand Cru” of South America. While I thought the 2010 VIK Red Wine was excellent, only time will tell if the winery can reach those lofty heights. Nevertheless, VIK is an impressive place and well worth a visit if you find yourself in Chile. They are in the process of building a new hotel with fine art to showcase the wine and encourage tourism, which they hope to have completed by next fall. Also, they are in the process of building a new winery facility, which will be very “green” and utilize gravity. The goal is to have it ready in time for the 2013 vintage.

Wines I tasted from the Cachapoal Valley during my recent media trip:

2008 Santa Carolina Herencia (Peumo, Cachapoal Valley, Chile): 96% Carmenere and 4% Malbec. Deep, dark red. Gorgeous nose with black fruit, spice, and floral aromas. Black cherry, leather, clove, herbs, and floral notes come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high, silky tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long, lingering finish. A beautiful wine.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $100

2010 Santa Carolina Specialties “Wild Spirit” Mourvedre (Cachapoal Valley, Chile): Deep purple. Very aromatic with black fruit, game, and tobacco on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $15-17

2010 VIK Red Wine (Cachapoal Valley, Chile): 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Carmenere, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, and 3% Syrah. Deep, dark purplish red in color. Very aromatic with ripe red and black fruit, spice, and leather on the nose. Blackcurrant, black plum, licorice, spice, and a touch of raspberry come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, silky tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with good complexity and a very long, elegant finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $130

2010 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (Cachapoal Valley, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Deep purplish red. Aromatic with black plum, chocolate, and a slight vegetal note on the nose. Jammy with black plum, black pepper, and a touch of chocolate on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, medium to high tannins, and a medium finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $22

Be sure to come back as I individually highlight more Chilean wine regions in the coming weeks.


Filed under: Carmenere, Chilean Wine, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Vineyards, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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