Saturday, January 1, 2011
After a visit to Aquitania, we went a couple of kilometers down the road to Cousiño Macul. Unlike the former this winery is not a newcomer. In fact it was the 3rd winery in Maipo, part of the clan that began the fine wine industry in the region (and, in effect, in all of Chile). It is an interesting contrast to go from one end of the spectrum to the other… it really shows the lifetime thus far of Chilean wine.
Pauillac and Margaux, Sauvignon from Martillac in Graves, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy. He managed the estate until his death at the young age of 38. But his widow continued management with the assistance of French enologist Pierre Godefroy. The families still work together.
The Macul vineyards are planted in mostly shallow (10 centimeter depth) alluvial soil atop rocks and clay. I have been told of the salinity in the region, but there is none here. Hot days are moderated by a cool mountain breeze, and temperatures drop significantly at night. Only the red spider mite poses any threat, and not much of one. Rainfall is low here and high levels of ripeness are achieved leading to alcohol levels in excess of 14.5%. Reverse osmosis is sometimes practiced to lower the alcohol content for “a more enjoyable experience.”
One major issue is air pollution, which is causing more difficulties in recent years. Due to the particulate matter in the air the grapes must be rinsed and dried before vinification, and barrels are taken 30 km south near Concha y Toro to age. This was deemed necessary after a study was done using barrels of the best Chateau Margaux wines aged here at the estate… many quickly became vinegary due to the massive amount of bacteria easily transported on pollution particles.
After a lengthy tour through the vineyards and cellars, we tasted the following wines:
2010 Sauvignon Gris
This is a light 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé produced by must contact of only 40 minutes. An interesting dusty nose exhibits red fruits with a bit of lemon. This wine would make a very nice aperitif.
2009 Antiguas Reservas Merlot
Grapes for this wine come from original cuttings from Chateau Lafite and Chateau Margaux. After fermentation on steel tanks it spends 14 months in second-year French oak. Purple flowers, vanilla, plums, and baking spices abound; plums and strawberries with noticeably strong tannins coat the palate. A slight menthol component, according to the sommelier, is due to the presence of deep eucalyptus roots n the nearby soil. I’m not sure this is the origin. But this is actually a really delicious Merlot, enough to convert anyone into an avowed Merlot fan. We certainly bought a couple of bottles…
2008 Finis Terrae
60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. A good but not remarkable Bordeaux-style blend. In comparison to the Merlot, basically unmemorable.
2008 Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon
14 months in French oak. Intense red fruit and really good structure. This one is not quite ready in my opinion, but will be perhaps in 2-3 years.
For more information see Cousiño Macul’s website or contact Martin Duran.
Posted by Sarah T