A Sense of Place

By: Qian Leung posted Nov 17th 2017 06:13PM

In 1883, a Chilean nobleman brought grape varieties from Bordeaux and planted a vineyard. The winery takes after his family name, Concha y Toro, and in 1987, a label was named after his first name, Melchor (‘Don’ being an honorific). “On the stony soil of Puente Alto, the cuttings that he brought back would develop roots and leaves,” says winemaker Enrique Tirado, 51. “The soil is poor in nutrients, yet complex – with clay, sand, lime, and stones of different sizes – that gives the wine a concentration, and a unique personality.” The nose, which is intense and contemplative, with hints of lead and smoke, reminds me of the Viña Almaviva vintages that I had tried during a World Gourmet Summit masterclass five years ago.

Grown on a plot of land next to the Don Melchor vineyard, Viña Almaviva was a collaboration with Baron Philippe de Rothschild in 1998. “They have a similar expression, but different views behind them,” says Tirado. “Almaviva was conceived to be Bordeaux in style; Don Melchor carries Chile’s history.” While the Don Melchor vineyard is planted mostly with cabernet sauvignon, the expression is different depending on the location. “Some have more stone, some have more clay, and some consist more of sandy soil,” says Tirado. “So we divided the land into 142 parcels. Each parcel produces different layers of aromas and flavours.”

Positioned with the ocean to the west, and the snow-capped Andes to the east, the grapes receive lots of sun in the day, and get blanketed in cold air at night. This allows them to maintain their fruit expression, freshness, and minerality. “For each parcel, we pick the grapes at different times depending on maturation,” says Tirado. “So in the end, it’s like having 142 different wines.” To create a multi-dimensional blend, cabernet sauvignon from seven parcels – some known for red fruits and sweet tannins, some for black fruits and spice, some for freshness and vibrancy, and others for density and depth – are blended with small amounts of cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot. “Since the beginning, when we make the final blend, we have our French consultant with us,” says Tirado.

“Jacques Boissenot, then, and now, his son, Eric.” Boissenot was known for his work with Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild, and Château Latour. “The goal has always been to make a wine that expresses its terrior.” On the trend to make cabernet sauvignon more fruit-forward and ready-to-drink for newer and younger markets, Tirado looks visibly perturbed. “My philosophy is to not to follow a trend, or you’ll lose the personality.” It gives him satisfaction when the wine is able to evoke a sense of place when you drink it. Indeed, the majesty of the Andes mountain range, with its glaciers, volcanoes, desert, lakes, and forest, does seem very near, when you are holding a glass of Don Melchor.

Concha y Toro Don Melchor is distributed in Singapore by VCT Group of Wineries. Tel: (65) 6507 9476