Friday, December 31, 2010

Viña Aquitania.

Aquitania is part of the more recent wave of wineries to hit Maipo Valley. Completed in 1993, this winery is the brainchild of Bruno Prats (of Cos d’Estournel fame) and Paul Pontallier (technical director of Chateau Margaux) along with Felipe do Solminihac (of Cousiño Macul down the street). In 2000 Ghislain de Montgolfier of Bollinger was added to the lofty list of partners.

The history of the winery goes something like this: the original three partners wanted to invest in vineyard land in Chile since the early 1980s. They had a desire to make Bordeaux-style Cabernets, focused on structure rather than fruit. After much searching, they found a plot of land close to the Cousiño Macul estate. After ripping up most of the plum and walnut trees and the berries growing on the 25 hectare plot, they planted (what else?) 20 hectares of Cabernet, 2.5 hectares of Merlot, and 2.5 hectares of Carmenere. Stainless steel tanks, the first in the Alto Maipo region, were imported here from Spain and still stand proud in the winery, used to this day in vinification (along with newer models, of course).

Unfortunately the climate was not suited to Merlot: this vineyard is located in Maipo Alto, the coldest area in the Maipo region. Cold air washes down the nearby mountains at night and delays the ripening of the Merlot until mid-May or even June. Because of this, the partners decided to graft Syrah onto the Merlot and Carmenere. Aquitania attempts to stay true to its original Bordeaux inspiration, but with Cabernet-Syrah blends.

From the Alto Maipo vineyards, you can see the city of Santiago and its layer of haze. This unfortunate result of the city's expansion forces producers in this area to rinse and dry their grapes after harvesting them to remove particulate pollution. Though this is a concern, it has not thus far been reflected in the quality of the wines. Aquitania also owns vineyard land in Malleco Valley where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are produced.

This producer’s wines were all rated far above average by those in our party. We left the winery with full hands, including a bottle of the 1999 Paul Bruno. Here are the wines we tried with Eduardo de Solminihac (to purchase any of these, contact Eduardo or visit Sherry-Lehmann's website):

2010 Aquitania Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark salmon in color. By the aromas you’d expect this 85% Cabernet, 15% Syrah rosé to be sweet: ripe red fruits, cotton candy, even a little cherry Jolly Rancher! But the surprise for me was the refreshingly spicy, dry, long finish. A great wine for a hot Chilean summer day. We bought multiple bottles.

2009 Aquitania Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon

20% new French oak gives a nice cinnamon and vanilla spice to this one. Plums and blackberries form the backdrop. I liked it for drinking now, but some may prefer a bit more complexity that would result from 2-3 years more aging in the bottle. Again, 85% Cabernet and 15% Syrah. And again multiple bottles came with us.

2003 Lazuli Cabernet Sauvignon

The dark brick color shows the slight aging. A meatiness and spiciness add interesting notes to the dark cherry fruit of this wine. There is definitely a concentration on structure here. Half of the grapes for the Lazuli were sourced, and half came from the vineyards in front of the winery.

1999 Paul Bruno

This Cabernet is perfect for pasta! It is rich and spicy, and seemingly reminiscent of… sausage! Strange but amazingly good. It made us hungry. And we took a bottle home, made some pasta with chorizo, and paired it up perfectly for dinner.

2008 Sol de Sol Pinot Noir

The 2008 was only the second harvest of Pinot Noir. The vineyards are located in Malleco Valley, a mostly experimental viticultural area in the far south of Chile. Volcanic soils there have shallow layers of clay over impermeable rock. A strange region, but this wine was phenomenal. This is a floral, elegant Burgundy-style Pinot filled with sweet cherries and a potent earthiness. Excellent acidity and a long finish tie everything together nicely. Absolutely delicious.

2008 Sol de Sol Chardonnay

See the above description for a bit about Malleco Valley. This creamy, yeasty Chardonnay is a mouthfilling masterpiece. Lemon meringue and peach syrup ooze over the tongue. Over time more peaches emerge. And of course we could not pass up the opportunity to buy many bottles. This is a stunning wine.

All the wines from Aquitania were quite good. It was actually difficult to decide which and how many bottles to buy. I’m very happy to have visited.

For more information or to set up a visit, check out Aquitania’s website or email Eduardo de Solminihac at

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