A Chilean Fine Wine Icon Brand with An Impressive Track Record – Tasting a Mini Almaviva Vertical with Michel Friou in London…

Established more than 20 years ago by the Concha y Toro family’s joint venture with the Baron Philippe de Rothschild group, Almaviva can be regarded as one of Chile’s first high quality fine wines that carries a global presence. At a recent tasting dinner hosted in London, Almaviva technical director Michel Friou presented a number of current vintages alongside older back vintages to illustrate the wines pedigree, age worthiness and consistency.

Made from grapes grown in Puente Alto in the Maipo Valley, Almaviva set out to mimic the Bordeaux chateau model making a wine from its own surrounding vineyards which have slightly higher average temperatures than Pauillac but also a much higher elevation at 630 metres and a lot lower average rainfall at 340mm.

To illustrate this Bordeaux’esque stylistic leaning, Michel Friou selected four vintages from cooler, wetter vintages that display more elegance, freshness and classical restraint. Always using Cabernet Sauvignon as the base, the blend also includes a significant percentage of Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot since 2010.

Now distributed in Europe almost exclusively through the Bordeaux Place and by several negociants, the brand’s reach and consumer awareness have perhaps suffered as a direct result of this distribution method. While this channel to market works well for Bordeaux releases, it can prove more tricky for some new world brands. Despite this, producers such as Errazuriz (for Chadwick and Sena) and Lapostolle (for Clos Apalta) have all chosen to follow the Bordeaux negociant distribution channel to market.

Almaviva 2016, 14 Abv.

An intriguingly mineral and restrained expression from Chile. Dusty and lifted but boldly opulent and intense showing a fragrant bouquet of cassis leaf, black currant, charcoal embers, graphite and crushed granite minerality. A lovely piquant saline line is drawn straight down the palate and personified further by bright acids and dusty chalky tannins. An impressive, classical but forward looking Chilean expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Almaviva 2014, 14 Abv.

A more stern, taut, linear expression, I just love the dusty, gravelly, mineral restraint with nuances of maritime oyster shell, graphite and black cherry pith. Palate is simultaneously vibrant yet strict, taut and powerful, revealing precise linearity, tension, black cherry and a pin point black fruit focus. Very impressive precision.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Almaviva 2007, 14.5 Abv.

This vintage shows a much more savoury, plush evolution of Almaviva with a nose of salted cured meats, pork scratchings, cassis and stewed black plums. The palate is full, rich and opulent, sweetly textured with massive generosity, vibrant freshly sweet black fruits and a delicious creamy breadth. Touch of alcohol heat on the bold finish, building a little more with wood spice influences. Drinking well now and over the next 3 to 5 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Almaviva 2002, 14.5 Abv.

Finely evolved nose of sweet leather, cedar and cinnamon spice, graphite and gun smoke. Tantalisingly elegant, evolved yet retaining vibrancy. The palate reveals a lovely full fleshy expression, that is dense, earthy, savoury and sweetly fruited, finishing with rejuvenating acids and a sweet, fleshy cloak of fruit. Drinking now and over 2 to 5 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Top Flight Chardonnay from Errazuriz’s Aconcagua Costa Estate – Tasting the Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2015…

In May 2018 I reviewed the delicious new 2017 Las Pizarras Chardonnay release, undoubtedly the most impressive Chardonnay I have ever tasted from Chile. This is a wine that redefines top flight Chardonnay quality from South America and joins a rarefied handful of wines including Catena’s White Stones and their White Bones cuvees from Argentina as stand out examples.

I recently got to taste the excellent 2015 Las Pizarras vintage again. Produced from vines grown on mostly Schist soils, this wine was aged for 9 months in French oak barrels and retains an incredibly restrained Burgundian expression. Indeed, it was this very wine that almost cracked the New World selection for the wines chosen to compete against Burgundy in the Great Blind Chardonnay Tasting 2018.

Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2015, Aconcagua Costa Valley, Chile

A crystalline bright straw canary yellow colour, the electricity is so evident in this superb wine. The nose is the most beguiling mix of liquid limestone, lime peel, lemon grass, wet slate and seductive orange blossom. Your palate is met with an incredible intensity, pithy citric lightning bolt that runs through your body. So delicious, fresh and pithy with the liquid minerality continuing to the finish. Just the right amount of complexing flinty struck match reduction guides you to a very happy place especially if you’re a Chardonnay connoisseur. A really incredible wine from Chile. Certainly a game changer. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood

The Finest Chardonnay in Chile – Tasting the Profound Errazuriz Las Pizarras From Aconcagua Costa…

Chardonnay is a very tricky varietal category. In order to make a wine that will impress, it has to be capable of holding its own against the finest French examples from Burgundy and further afield like Limoux, the Jura and the Bouches du Rhone / Alpilles (think Trevallon Blanc).

But recently, I got the opportunity to taste not only the current release Las Pizarras 2015 Chardonnay, but also the fab 2016 and the future release 2017. As a Chardonnay / white Burgundy aficionado, I would be the first to express my scepticism at the claims that Chilean Chardonnay can be great or even profound. But tasting the Las Pizarras expression from Errazuriz really blew my mind and reset my regional compass for the potential of this varietal.

Errazuriz Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017, Aconcagua Costa, Chile

Wonderfully vibrant, taut and youthful with an incredible spring in its step, this wine is still embryonic but so expressive, focused and intense. Showing white citrus, green apple and honeydew melon exuberance but with a broody, schisty minerality lurking not far beneath. From a cooler vintage, this 2017 shows piercing acidity, incredible vibrancy and a pristine focus. A rasping dry mineral finish, this is a truly world class Chardonnay unlike anything made in Chile previously. A real eye opener. Drink from 2022 to 2035+

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Celebrating Eduardo Chadwick Winning the 2018 Decanter Man of the Year With a Superb Retrospective Tasting in London – Part 2: Vinedo Chadwick Vertical…

Another of the excellent tasting events organised to mark Eduardo Chadwick’s Decanter Man of the Year 2018 award was an exciting and rare Vinedo Chadwick retrospective vertical tasting in London attended by top journalists and the who’s who of the European fine wine trade.

The vineyard around the Chadwick family home had produced outstanding red grapes for decades and it was Eduardo Chadwick that recognised the potential of this unique terroir and persuaded his father to convert his beloved polo field into vineyards, planting Cabernet Sauvignon in 1992.

Located at 650 metres altitude at Puente Alto in the Maipo Valley, this 15 hectare vineyard is considered one of Chile’s best terroirs.

Vinedo Chadwick Vertical 1999 to 2015

Vinedo Chadwick 1999, 14 Abv.

94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Carmenere aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Supremely old Bordeaux style, this has all the hallmarks of classical Cabernet with sweet tannery hide, tobacco, leather, sweet earthy black currant and complexing clove spice. Lush, meaty and dense, this wine shows wonderful depth, tension and classy Cabernet Sauvignon intensity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2003, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Brûléed, opulent, dense wine with complex notes of polished mahogany, black plum, brûléed black berry and dark cherry kirsch liquor intensity. Super ripe, plush and fleshy, this has the opulence of a warm vintage with a gravelly, mineral edge that confounds the senses. A super block buster.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2006, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. More evolved and tertiary, the 2006 has pronounced notes of black plum, molasses, sweet chew tobacco and tar. The palate is tarry, saline and focused, but also very much in the riper flavour profile. With a slightly blocky, chunky finish, this wine is still a bit monolithic.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2009, 14.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. Dark dusty Cabernet nose with chalky brûléed black berry notes, creamy cassis, lush liquorice depth and opulently hedonistic. Warmer vintage, this has great power and character, but also great harmony and balance. Intense concentration, great silky high quality tannins, lovely expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2010, 14.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 95% new French oak. Chalky dusty gravelly nose, there are multiple aromas of sweet cassis, salty plums, black berry and a slightly rooty edge. The palate is plush, fleshy and fresh, but quite punchy and opulent finishing with a restrained, mineral, graphite, cassis leaf reserve.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2012, 14 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 90% new French oak. Showing more youthful, brûléed blackberry tones, this wine seems to have a more reserved Cabernet tone with chalky tannins, violets, cedary spice and a ‘lamb and mint sauce’ savoury complexity. The pitch perfect balance is definitely there with the archetypal Vina Chadwick precision. A real beauty.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2014, 13.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 75% new French oak. Started with a difficult season with big frost damage but with the secondary growth still able to yield around 40% (5000 bottles) of a normal crop, followed by a hot summer and cool ideal Autumn. The nose is plummy, chocolatey and lush with dried herbs, sweet cassis and a really pronounced salinity. Wonderful purity, intensity and precision, this wine oozes class and breeding.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vinedo Chadwick 2015, 13.5 Abv.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 73% new French oak and 15% in Stockinger foudre. Deliciously opulent nose of sweet cassis, roasted herbs, roasted lamb fat, violet perfume and a subtle mineral, graphite edge. Ultra plush and generous on the palate, this wine has no edges but is sublimely harmonious and seamless. Superbly elegant, fine and distinguished, this screams class. Delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Celebrating Eduardo Chadwick Winning the 2018 Decanter Man of the Year With a Superb Retrospective Tasting in London – Part 1: Vina Sena Vertical…

2018 will surely go down in history as the year the Chilean wine industry was finally recognised for producing some incredibly profound fine wines, and certainly nobody within their industry has done more to establish the country’s reputation than Eduardo Chadwick from Vina Errazuriz.

One of the several events planned to mark Eduardo’s Decanter Man of the Year 2018 award was an exciting and rare Vina Sena and Vinedo Chadwick retrospective vertical tasting in London attended by top journalists and the who’s who of the European fine wine trade.

Patrick McGrath MW, head of UK importer Hatch Mansfield with Eduardo Chadwick and his daughter.

To give both these incredible tastings their due respect, I will feature the tasting notes of Vina Sena and Vinedo Chadwick in separate write-ups.

Journalist Oz Clarke in attendance

“What Eduardo Chadwick is proving now with his vertical tastings of Sena is that as his wines and similar vintages of Bordeaux age, his wines are still up there, judged equal, if not superior.” ~ Steven Spurrier, October 2013

“It is a terrific red in every regard and contends with the best of the world. All the same, there is so much more to Sena than sheer quality. Put simply, it comes down to two words: provenance and pedigree.” ~ James Suckling

Vina Sena Vertical 1997 to 2015

Vina Sena 1997, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 13.5 Abv.

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carmenere with 16 months ageing in 43% new French oak. Sweet meat, earthy, red currant and gamey depth, with impressive flesh, texture and mouthfeel. Palate shows hints of tomato purée, sweet macerated plums and stewed winter fruit compote. Pithy strawberry crunch, dry chalky minerality and lovely long tertiary length. Great power and concentration from a warm vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2000, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 6% Carmenere with 18 months ageing in 92% new French oak. A cooler more elegant vintage showing super supple tannins, a cool creamy texture and wonderful classical vibrancy and youthfulness. Ultra polished, super fine, intense, focused wine with great purity and finesse backed by Cabernet structure and power.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2005, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14.5 Abv.

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Carmenere, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot with 18 months ageing in 100% new French oak. Lush dense and overtly opulent, instantly obvious luxurious nose of sweet plum, creamy oak vanillins, sweet cassis and subtle liquorice stick. A really impressive expression that moves to a more profound level. Wonderful balance, fine chewy tannins, power, intensity and real muscle in wonderful tone and proportion. Wonderfully youthful.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2009, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14.5 Abv.

54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 16% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 100% new French oak. Dense, dark and broody, with a hint of polished oak, tomato leaf, saline cassis and a real piquant black berry intensity. A really youthful, plush and approachable wine, it certainly lacks no intensity and complexity. At almost 10 years old, it’s still a baby and shows great promise for the future.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tim Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick presenting a signed copy of the history of Vina Sena to a US sommelier.

Vina Sena 2011, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere, 15% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 77% new French oak barrels. Another cool late season. Plush, dark opulent expression with exotic floral aromatics of chocolate orange, black berry and cherry liquor. The palate is supple, incredibly fresh, yet positively vital, showing beautifully fresh acids, fine detail, elegance, and impressive textural harmony. Pithy, black cherry and blueberry finish, this wine speaks of Sena’s very finest qualities. Lovely fine wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sir Colin Hampden-White and Tim Mondavi

Vina Sena 2012, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Carmenere, 12% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot with 22 months ageing in 70% new French oak. A very warm vintage, this big opulent wine shows a dense, hedonistic weight and breadth. The first vintage including Malbec, the nose is spicy, lush, chocolately and full with a wonderful sappy blueberry edge. The palate is equally opulent and luxurious with the most creamy tannins, finely poised elegance and a very long, luxurious, harmonious finish. Youthful, intense, absolutely delicious!

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2013, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 14 Abv.

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 10% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot with 22 months ageing in 75% new French oak. Taut, mineral and saline, this shows very shy, restrained aromatics. From a long cool vintage for the purist connoisseur. With crisp acids, sour cherry, tart Victoria plum, this is the classical style that is leading the way forward for Sena in the long run. Subtly with power, complexity with real focus and freshness. Wonderful restraint, beautifully self-assured style.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2015, DO Valle de Aconcagua, 13.5 Abv.

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc with 22 months ageing in 65% new oak barrique and 12% in new Stockinger foudre. Still so youthful and primary, the 2015 is an elevated, focused, ultra expressive wine. Hedonistic showmanship combined with introverted, introspective depth. Through the exotic blueberry, cassis and black cherry aromatics, the wine reveals an elegance and power with a bridled restraint, classism, and lower alcohol elegance. A real coming of age wine, this wine truly shows the potential of the Vina Sena site. Bravo Eduardo and winemaker Francisco Baettig.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

New Wines and New Horizons – Tasting Christelle Guibert’s Tierra del Itata Muscat Orange Wine 2016…

I have been very fortunate to have shared a friendship with Christelle Guibert for almost two decades. Her sterling work at Decanter Magazine and at the Decanter World Wine Awards as Tasting Director has helped elevate these two entities for many years. Christelle recently announced that she will be moving on to newer, greener pastures just over the proverbial bridge. I just hope her new travails and new role allow her time to continue with her secret double life as a vigneron / winemaker.

Indeed, few outside the wine trade know that Loire originating Christelle owns, grows and makes fabulous white wines in Muscadet under her Vine Revival Terre de Gneiss label with the help of vigneron Vincent Caille. The vines are situated in the village of Monnieres, where the fruit is vinified using biodynamic principles, hand harvested and fermented in an egg. But there is none this year due to adverse weather conditions so Christelle has moved her attentions temporarily to producing a fabulous Muscat orange wine made from 150 year old vines in the Itata Valley in Chile. With the valuable assistance of Leo Erazo, 2000 bottles of the maiden 2016 vintage were produced.

This is a unique, delicious, characterful wine that reminds me of some of the finest natural style skin contact white wines made from Zebbibo (Muscat) in northern Italy. The grapes are organicly grown in bush vines on steep granitic hill side vineyards and are ungrafted and dry-farmed. The wine spent 42 days on its skins in concrete spherical shaped tanks. Only natural yeasts were employed and the wine was bottled bone dry, unfiltered. Stylistically, I would even go as far as to say this is one of the best dry orange wine Muscats I have ever tasted. Track this rare unicorn down quickly before it’s all gone. 🇫🇷 🍷 🇨🇱

Christelle Guibert Tierra del Itata Muscat Orange Wine 2016, 13 Abv. Chile

Seductive dark yellow straw colour, there is a slight haze to remind you of this wine’s natural, minimalist winemaking aspirations. Raised in a concrete sphere, the nose is reminiscent of the most seductive Zebbibo wines, positively overflowing with sweet quince, rose water, lychees, barley sugar, Thai basil, marzipan and pithy new season bitter marmalade on buttered brown toast. The amazing depth and complexity follows to the palate that is full bodied, intensely concentrated, superbly fresh with a vibrant acidity and a piquant, sweet / sour peachy depth. The key to this wine remains its mouth watering freshness allied to its pithy, bone dry liquid mineral finish. Once again, this is a triumph of old vine fruit intensity and passionate artisanal winemaking. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Errazuriz ~ Single Handedly Putting Chilean Fine Wine On The Global Map…

Vinedo Chadwick and Sena have been at the forefront of world class Chilean wine for over 20 years. Indeed I feel very privileged to have studied my Master of Wine with Errazuriz owner Eduardo Chadwick, starting back in 2003. A wonderful character, a great visionary, and highly ambitious ~ both for himself and his country, Chile. So it’s probably not surprising that the key estate brands in the Errazuriz portfolio have captured the world stage with fine wine quality never before seen out of Chile. 

Vina Chadwick, Sena and Don Maximiano (along with fellow industry high achievers Almaviva, Lapostolle Clos Apalta and Montes Alpha) have redefined the meaning of fine wine in the South American context. Congratulations Eduardo and of course group chief winemaker Francisco Baettig!

With Francisco Baettig at the UK launch of Vinedo Chadwick 2015 and Sena 2015.

Last year, Vinedo Chadwick was the first Chilean wine to crack a 100 point score when James Suckling rated the 2014 vintage. This year, it was the turn of Sena 2015 to reach this prestigious pinnacle of 100 points, with Vinedo Chadwick 2015 close behind on 99 points, both scores again  coming from critic James Suckling. 

The 2015 Sena is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, aged 22 months in 65% new French oak and 12% in foudre, with the remaining 23% aged in used oak barrels. 

Errazuriz Sena 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Always a personal favourite of mine within the Errazuriz premium range, the Sena 2015 is a beautifully elegant and utterly refined expression of a Bordeaux blend. The very alluring, pretty aromatics of red cherry stone fruits, mulberry, black currant and blue berry almost seem boundless, with notes of saline cassis, cherry bon bons, and salty red liquorice developing in the glass as the wine unfurls. The palate is as vibrant and pin point as the wine’s aromatics, revealing incredible intensity, mouth watering acidity freshness and super sweet tart red cherry and stick candy complexity. There is profound precision and focus, admirable balance, and the finest powdery, lacy red cherry pithy tannins on the generous finish. Winemaker Francisco has nailed this above average warm vintage with earlier picked, fragrant, fresh acidity grapes. This is a wine worthy of major accolades. Make space in your cellar!

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)