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)

Tasting the Profound Wines of Tenuta San Leonardo in a Three Decade Vertical…

After much anticipation, today I finally attended a fascinating vertical tasting with Marchese Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga and his son Anselmo, owners of the iconic Trentino winery Tenuta San Leonardo. Carlo has been a long time admirer of the great red wines of Bordeaux so perhaps it was inevitable that he would steer his estate in that direction and utilise their special planting’s of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot to produce one of northern Italy’s truly great iconic red wines.

Carlo asserts that the excellence of San Leonardo can also be directly attributed to the rigour and passion of his son Anselmo and the whole winemaking team, as well as their 270 hectare estate and its unique 30 hectares of plantings, terroir and Mediterranean-Alpine climate where the fruit is grown.

Sites are at a relatively low elevation of 150 metres, where the Merlot is planted in gravel-rich soils that were once the bed of a branch of the Adige river. Sandier, pH-neutral soils, at elevations of 150-200 metres host Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Vineyards are mostly planted to 6,600 vines per hectare and trained to the Guyot system except for some of the old vine Carmenere that is still planted at 1,650 vines per hectare on a pergola system.

The average blend consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere and 10% Merlot, all naturally fermented and blended in concrete vats before ageing in barriques, 20-25% of which are new oak. The final blend is then assembled in vats, aged a further 4 months before being bottled and aged in bottle for 2 years before release.

Tenuta San Leonardo Vertical 1986 to 2013

(None of the wines have an Abv greater than 13.5)

San Leonardo 1986

Lovely picante nose of bruleed coffee beans, sappy wood spice, earthy black bramble berries and foresty leafy spice. Plenty of tertiary allure but also superbly vital. Acids are crisp and the earthy, leathery red fruits very juicy. A statesman of a wine, standing bold and tall, with wonderful elegance and mature finesse.

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

San Leonardo 1990 (Magnum)

Beautifully lifted warming nose reminiscent of great Bordeaux. Tea leaf, cedar spice, coffee bean and saddle leather together with a delicious leafy under tone of sweet earthy red currant fruits. Acids are super bright and fresh and the finish incredibly powerful and bold with fine grained tannins adding shape. Lovey fruit depth and intensity. A mature majestic beauty.

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

San Leonardo 1995

Taught lifted nose of graphite, cut steel, blood and iron and tart earthy red plums. Plenty of coffee bean bruleed notes and green leafy spice. Impressively mineral, fleshy and plump textured with a tart, grippy energetic finish. Solid effort but not profound.

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

San Leonardo 1996 (Magnum)

Exotic nose of sweet baking herbs, leafy spice, wet tobacco leaf, coffee bean and crushed gravel. Classical aromatics follow to a cool, super elegant, fine boned palate with feminine elegance, subtlety and ample finesse. Attractive sweet black currant nuances and forest floor complexity on a silky, cool classically restrained finish.

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

San Leonardo 1997

A classical cool climate Bordeaux style with grilled herbs, tannery leather, gun smoke, crashed leaves and earthy black berry fruits with a sizeable dusting of crushed gravel minerality. Palate shows sappy sweet black berry, coffee bean spice, herbaceous allure and picante mineral tannins. Very suave, elegant plump fleshy texture and a long, sweet macerated red currant finish.

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

San Leonardo 1999

Dark dusty broody mineral nose of wood spice, crushed gravel, polished oak and earthy black currant fruits. Hints of wood smoke and herbal green tea spice. Palate is bold and fleshy, full and round, dense and creamy, yet retains super elegance and harmony, albeit with a little more fat and flesh. Very youthful still.

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

San Leonardo 2000

Classical nose with lovely dark black berry Cabernet fruits boldly asserting themselves. Seamless aromatics of earthy cassis, forest bramble berries, black plum and sweet caramelised coffee bean hints. Ripe and opulent, there is plenty of flesh on the palate together with dense sweet tannins balanced with soft acids. A ripe high quality vintage, this expression is still youthful and precocious. Give this a few more years in the cellar. Supremely delicious.

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

San Leonardo 2001 (three bottles tasted)

Quite an atypical nose with overt caramelised black berry fruit and creamy oak notes, vanilla pod spice and lactic caramel notes. Texture is very sleek, the acids pin point and fine, but the fruits are little too tertiary for the vitality of the structure. Fruit and tannins are moving at two different evolutionary speeds. Start drinking this one up over the next 3+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

San Leonardo 2004

Dense dark and smokey with sweet herbs, coffee beans, graphite and wood smoke spice. Hints of leafy spice, green beans, black berry and dusty crushed gravel. Tannins are sweet and taught, the fruits slightly chewy and youthful. But the underlying balance is harmonious if not just a little bit youthfully rustic. Fine length and textural depth, you can comfortably leave this in your cellar for another decade.

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

San Leonardo 2007

Wonderfully harmonious wine with fine complexity with perfume and fruit notes tightly interwoven. Subtle hints of bruleed oak spice, earthy black current, bruleed coffee beans, espresso and cassis berry. Palate is plush, ultra lush, structured and pure, showing the most beautiful black cassis fruits, chalky gravelly tannins, and seamless acidity freshness. While youthfully grippy, this wine looks like the complete package. Really very impressive now, but will be ultra impressive in 8 to 10 years time. Wow.

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

San Leonardo 2010

This powerful wine possesses real dark broody depth, black plums, earthy cassis, polished mahogany and subtle bruleed wood spice complexity. Super cool, elegant and pure fruited, the blueberry and saline black berry fruits are so seductive and creamy, balanced by sweet powdery tannins. This is another classic in the making with knock out intensity and mouth watering length. Very impressive.

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

San Leonardo 2011

Thoroughly classy nose exudes breeding and class. No doubting there is something very serious lurking in the bottle. The nose is dark and black fruited, quite tight and broody with reductive cassis, blueberry and graphite hints. The palate holds no secrets, unleashing waves of saline cassis and opulent blueberry muffin and caramelised fruit notes. So utterly seductive, beautifully polished, and highly accomplished. One to drink now if you can’t resist, and to watch for 10 to 15+ years for future greatness.

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

San Leonardo 2013

Rich dark bruleed nose showing caramelised wood spice, black current and earthy foresty notes. Pretty perfumed red cherry pithy notes lift the whole aromatic profile. The palate is suave, silky and seamlessly soft with plush creamy tannins and a concentration of fruit that treads incredibly lightly. The palate finishes with chalky dry tannins and an understated acid freshness, all in perfect harmony. Definitely a wine where less is more. A real beauty.

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