Tasting No 252 – April 25, 2023, 12:30 PM
Wines from Aconcagua Region, Chile
1. Tasting Overview
The wines of the Aconcagua region, Chile, have a long history and tradition of more than 150 years and are awarded worldwide recognition for their quality. The main objective of the present tasting is to discover the new wines of this region produced by the historic winery Errázuriz. The three red wines presented are from a special edition 2020 vintage, aged in first and second-generation barrels that mitigate the wood influence in smell and taste from older barrels. The fourth red is one of the new ultra-premium wines in Chile created by the winery Seña, located in Ococa, at the center of the Aconcagua Valley. The wines to be tasted come from the coastal Valley and the Andes Mountain, selecting the varietals that most shine in these areas.
Type of tasting: Open
Presenters: Jorge Claro and Cristian Santelices
Participants: M. Averbug; L. Boccalandro; J. Brakarz; J. Claro; C. Estrada; J. García; A. and C. Perazza; L. Redwood; C. Santelices; R. Santiago; E. Silva; P. Turina and J. Entwistle (invited).
These are the wines:
- Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
- Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
- Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carmenere, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
- Viña Seña, Seña– 25 años, Aconcagua Valley, 2019
The Aconcagua Region
The Aconcagua Valley is a wine-producing region of Chile located 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital, Santiago, and is one of Chile’s four main producing regions. It takes its name from the eponymous river flowing through it, named after the 6,960 meter-high (22,835 ft) Mt. Aconcagua at its eastern end. This is the highest mountain in the Americas and directly contributes to the terroirs in the Valley below. This Valley is part of the Valparaiso Region, which produced 15% of the 2022 national wine production.
The Aconcagua Valley was chosen for this tasting because of its unique viticultural climate. The Mediterranean climate in this valley ensures the warm, dry summers, the bright sunny days, and the cold, rainy winters that the vines love. In addition, the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt current and the down-drift winds of the Andes Mountains create unique climate conditions with cooling midday breezes, cold nights, and a broad daily temperature oscillation that also extends the ripening period so that the grapes develop intense fruit flavors, ripe tannins, deep color, and crisp acidity.
Measuring around 100 km (60 miles) in length, the Valley runs between the slopes of the Andes in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Many wine-growing areas are closely linked to the Aconcagua river and follow its course as it brings fresh meltwater (and mineral-laden silt) down from the Andean peaks and provides vineyard irrigation. Vineyard altitude in Aconcagua varies from 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) above sea level in the east to 50 m (160 ft) in the lower-lying regions in the west.
While alluvial soils predominate in the Aconcagua Valley along its river throughout, its east-west flow creates drastically different conditions on each end. Its western seaside vineyards, with clay and stony soils upon gently rolling hills, produce cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Its inner region is one of Chile’s hottest and has some of its best red wines. Panquehue in the inner Aconcagua is the site of Chile’s first Syrah vines, planted in 1993.
Red grape varieties dominate the production in the highest part of Aconcagua Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc have a long tradition in the interior of the Valley. However, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, as cooler climate varieties, are well suited to the coastal zone of the Valley.
Information about the Wineries
Errázuriz Winery and Vineyard
The winery was founded by Maximiano Errázuriz (February 21, 1832 – November 17, 1890), a Chilean politician, industrialist, and winemaker of Basque descent. He chose the Aconcagua Valley to found Viña Errázuriz in 1870, when no one imagined its natural benefits as a terroir.
With 150 years to its name, you might be forgiven for thinking Errázuriz is a historical winery – it is, but it is also one of the most innovative and forward-thinking producers in Chile. The wine portfolio is almost endless, and their treasures include the ‘Aconcagua Costa’ range, from the cooler parts of Aconcagua Valley, and the ‘Las Pizzaras’ Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on slate soils. Their most famous wine is ‘Don Maximiano’, a rich Cabernet-based blend from the warmer Aconcagua Andes.
In 1873, Viña Errázuriz launched its first wine. At this time, Viña Errázuriz had 300 hectares, irrigation canals, and vines imported from France. Together with the winery, Don Maximiano built a villa, baptized as Villa Errázuriz, which had a church, a school, and houses for the worker. Since its foundation, Viña Errázuriz has been dedicated to a philosophy of excellence and innovation. Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and, with tenacity and perseverance, transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard.
In 1890, Rafael Errázuriz, the son of Don Maximiano, took over the administration of the winery. During this period, the total area of planted vineyards increased to 1,300 hectares, making it the largest vineyard in the world in the hands of a single owner.
On August 16, 1906, the Valparaíso earthquake happened, with an intensity of 7.9° on the Richter scale, which damaged part of the winery’s cellars, including the underground warehouses. During the following decade, intense repair work was carried out, which also meant renovating the bottling room.
Inspired by ‘The Judgement of Paris’ in 1976, Viña Errázuriz decided to carry out a blind tasting, one of the most professional and impartial ways of presenting and qualifying wines. The tasting took place in 2004 in Berlin, with the wine legend Steven Spurrier. Europe’s most respected judges tasted historic vintages of First Growths Super Tuscans from Italy and Grand Crus from Bordeaux, France. The result was surprising. Two wines from the same group won first and second place, and Don Maximiano was listed as one of the ten best wines in the world. The Berlin tasting became a milestone for Viña Errázuriz and the entire Chilean industry, empirically verifying that Chilean wines were up to the standards of prestigious fine wines worldwide, and raising Chile’s image as a world-class producer.
This critical milestone was followed by ten years of blind tastings around the world, with the support of Steven Spurrier. It included 22 events in 18 markets around the world, with more than 1,400 experts from the wine industry. Chile was among the first three places in 20 of the 22 events, reaching an impressive 90% of the preferences, demonstrating enormous consistency.
Viña Errázuriz promoted the new Aconcagua Costa Appellation, and was the first winery to plant vines and develop the coastal area of the Aconcagua Valley. Established into a new Chilean wine appellation, Aconcagua Costa was recognized by Chilean Wine Legislation in 2012. Aconcagua Costa’s new DO appellation is an area with a cool climate, maritime influence, and slate soils.
Errázuriz is recognized as, perhaps, the single top-quality producer of Chilean wines in recent years. As a result of these efforts, a Chilean wine obtained 98 points: Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017 was awarded best Chilean wine, a milestone for the country’s wine industry. The same year, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Extraordinary Winery Awards recognized Viña Errázuriz as the Best Winery in Chile. In addition, Eduardo Chadwick, the current owner, the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business, was named Decanter Man of the Year 2018.
Today, this family tradition continues, exploring new appellations in the Aconcagua Valley and constantly improving its winemaking techniques to keep Chile a world-class wine producer. As an estate winery, Errázuriz strives to produce the finest wines by controlling every stage of the winemaking process with the most natural techniques. An emphasis is placed on the delicate handling of the wines to produce wines of elegance and complexity. This dynamism and passion for wine have made Errázuriz an internationally respected quality wine producer.
Seña Winery and Vineyard
Seña is a stunning, ground-breaking estate located in Ocoa in the Aconcagua Valley. It was created in 1995, as a joint venture between Errázuriz President and owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and the well-known wine businessman Robert Mondavi. Their shared passion for excellence and innovation led to the creation of the first world-class Chilean wine with provenance and a distinct personality. Modeled on a Bordeaux style, it has a Chilean soul given by its Carmenère variety, grown under biodynamic farming principles in the Aconcagua Valley. Their dream was to create a wine that would be welcomed, in time, among the world’s First Growths.
Seña wine is one of Chile’s top Cabernet Sauvignon blends coming from Aconcagua Valley in Chile. Seña 2019, its 25th Anniversary vintage, showcases that full potential in a wine of balance, depth, and elegance. Each year, one Seña wine is made and blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It champions Chile’s Carmenère grape and showcases the grape, the region, and the nation.
4. Information on the Wines
Wine #1. Errazuriz ‘Aconcagua Costa’, Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
– Producer: Errázuriz Winery
– The wine:
- Composition: 100% Pinot Noir
- Viticulture: the grapes were sourced from the Aconcagua Costa vineyard, 12 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Planted by Viña Errázuriz in 2005 and 2009, the soil is composed of a thin layer of loamy texture and placed on clay and metamorphic rock (slate/schist), providing the mineral notes present in the wines that are grown in these vineyards.
- Winemaking process: Grapes were handpicked between February 26 and February 28, double sorted, 85% destemmed and crushed, then placed in open-top stainless-steel tanks (15% whole clusters). Before fermentation, the grapes underwent a 3 to 5 days cold soak at 8°C.
- Fermentation: was carried out with native yeasts only, by which the wine develops complex and distinctive aromas and flavors. Total skin contact, including post-fermentation maceration, was 12 to 20 days.
- Aging: The final blend is aged for 11 months in French oak barrels, 15% new.
- Alcohol: 13,5 %
- Critical Acclaim, awards: 93 pts (Tim Atking); 92 pts (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
- Important facts about the wine: the wine has limpid ruby-red color with beautiful violet flashes. On the nose, this Pinot Noir is intense, showing red fruits as raspberries, accompanied by floral notes that remind of rosehip, framed by spices and a smoky note. It also has notes of fresh red fruit with smooth balsamic touches, pleasant tension, fresh with polished, round tannins, and elegance. Fresh red fruits and floral notes with soft balsamic hints dominate the palate. It has excellent structure, tension, and freshness, with polished and rounded tannins that make it a very attractive wine and easy to drink.
- Suggested Pairing: Pairing with risotto, pizza/pasta, mild creamy cheeses, and oriental food.
Wine #2. Errazuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carmenère, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
– Producer: Errázuriz Winery
– Information about the wine:
- Year– Vintage: 2020
- Composition: 100% Carmenère
- Viticulture: The Aconcagua Alto Carmenère primary grapes come from various vineyard blocks in the Aconcagua Valley. Located in the valley’s interior, the vineyard soils have a predominantly silty texture and are of colluvial origin. The unique conditions of nutrition and drainage of the diverse soils help control plant vigor, producing balanced fruit loads with small bunches and berries.
- Winemaking process: Grapes were handpicked, double-sorted, and then crushed. Next, the must was deposited into stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Then, the wine was moved directly to French oak barrels, 35% of which new, where it underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 14 months.
- Alcohol: 13,5 %
- Critical Acclaim, awards: 92 pts. (James Suckling) and 92 pts. (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
- Important facts about the wine: The 2020 vintage of Aconcagua Alto Carmenère displays a beautiful cherry red color with violet hues. The nose delivers black cherries, cigar box, black olives, roasted red pepper, and a soft hint of ripe blackberries. With an elegant entrance, the palate offers red and black fruits accompanied by delicate notes of tobacco, cloves, and some bitter chocolate. Silky tannins deliver a great sensation of freshness and sound Volume with a long and pleasant finish.
- Suggested Pairing: Pair this with grilled and roasted red meat, casseroles/stews, and mature strong cheeses.
Wine #3 Errazuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020
– Producer: Errázuriz Winery
– The wine:
- Composition: Cabernet sauvignon 88 %, Petit verdot 7 %, Cabernet franc 5 %
- Viticulture: The Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are sourced primarily from our Max vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. Located in the valley’s interior, the vineyard soils have a predominantly silty texture and are of colluvial origin. The unique conditions of nutrition and drainage of the diverse soils help control plant vigor, producing balanced fruit loads with small bunches and berries.
- Winemaking process: The grapes were handpicked early in the morning, inspected on a double selection table, crushed, and deposited into stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Total maceration ranged from 8 to 28 days. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, 35% of which new.
- Alcohol:0 %
- Critical Acclaim, awards (optional): 92 pts. (James Suckling); 91 pts. (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
- Important facts about the wine: The 2020 vintage of Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon displays a medium-intensity, bright, ruby-red color. The nose shows ripe red and black fruit aromas framed by clove and a soft coffee note. The palate offers a dominant note of cassis, cherry, fresh blueberries, and a hint of cherry tart. It has a medium structure with fine-grained tannins provide excellent support, finishing with great persistence.
- Suggested Pairing: grilled and roasted red meat, casseroles/stews, mild creamy cheeses, and portobello mushrooms with garlic butter.
Wine #4. Seña, ‘25 Años’, Aconcagua Valley, 2019
– Producer: Seña Winery
– The wine:
- Composition: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 15% Carmenere and 4% Petit Verdot
- Viticulture: The Don Maximiano vineyards are located in the Aconcagua Valley, and the oldest among them are Max I, Max II, and Max V blocks. Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère vines were planted in 1978 and 1993, respectively, while the Petit Verdot was planted in 1999. The three vineyard blocks contributing grapes are planted on north or northeast-facing hillsides with 5°–25° of a slope. Soils are volcanic, colluvia l, and piedmont (Max I and II) or alluvial (Max V), with good drainage conferring low to moderate vigor. The colluvial and volcanic rocky soils of Max I show a high presence of mica with a clay-silt texture. Max II has deep colluvial grounds of volcanic origin, with loam to sandy-loam texture, and both have 30–40% stone content. Max V has deep gravelly alluvial soils with 50% stone content and excellent drainage.
- Winemaking process: After a mild winter and a shortfall of rain, warm temperatures encouraged a fast spring start with a healthy bud break and perfect flowering and fruit set as October to December were warmer than usual. Although 2019 is considered a warm vintage in Chile, the Seña vineyard enjoyed a cooler-than-average summer, resulting in a total heat summation of 1,478 DD, very much in line with our historical records. Being situated close to the sea and with the benefit of coastal winds generated temperatures, fortunately, cooled during January, March, and April, allowing for a long hanging period. This led to a slower accumulation of the sugars needed to balance the gradual softening of tannins and the development of fruit-driven flavors: so the wines’ fruit intensity and bright acidity were preserved. The 2019 harvest started on March 15th, delivering a small crop with complex aromas and ‑flavors. The young wines had a seamless texture, good structure, silky tannins, and great length, elegance, and finesse that shone through them. This is a great vintage of Seña. The wine was aged 22 months, 90% in French oak barrels (80% new) and 10% in foundres.
- Alcohol: 13.5 %
- Critical Acclaim, awards (optional): 98 pts Robert Parker, 98 James Suckling, and 97 pts Decanter
- Important facts about the wine: A deep, bright, ruby red color with purple hues, Seña 2019 shows complexity on the nose with red and black fruit aromas and a distinctive freshness. Several layers of aromatics deliver suggestions of pepper, dill, and rosemary alongside coffee beans, pastries, and vanilla. On the palate, Seña shows notes of blueberry pie and cassis cream whilst brimming with fresh-picked red and black fruits. Seña 2019 is an exquisite wine with great structure, complexity, and depth – with notable freshness and polished tannins.
- Suggested Pairing: grilled and roasted red meats, pizza/pasta, casseroles/stews, mild creamy cheeses, and mature strong cheeses.
The following link provides further information about the History of wine making in Chile, and about the founder of Viña Errázuriz, Maximiliano Errázuriz.
Grilled tenderloin with potatoes and green beans
CV Members Rating :
The tasting took place before knowing the wines’ prices, and 15 participants rated them from acceptable to exceptional. The combined results established the preference order during the tasting, as follows:
1st – Seña, Aconcagua Valley, 2019
2nd– Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carménère, 2020
3rd – Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020
4th – Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Pinot Noir, 2020
Seña, 2019 was rated as Best Wine and ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carménère, 2020 as Best Buy. The following Table presents the details of individual ratings and combined results.
Is this a joke? It doesn’t sound like.