Viña Maquis is one of the most unique and special wineries I have visited anywhere in the world, and without doubt THE highlight of the Criterion Wine Tour to Chile in 2019. So what made it so special?
Viña Maquis is situated in Colchagua Valley about an hour and a half’s drive south of the capital Santiago. Maquis is one of the oldest wineries in the Colchagua Valley and can trace its history back to the Jesuits in the 1770s. During the 19th century it was even owned by two different Chilean Presidents. And in 1916, the current owners, the Hurtado family bought the property to develop a fine wine business. It’s now run by 4th generation Ricardo Hurtado who has done a huge amount to raise the quality of the wines. Proof of that lies in Tim Atkin’s 2018 classification of Chilean Wines when he rates Maquis as a ‘First Growth’, an accolade which Tim gave to just 15 wineries in the whole of Chile!
Colchagua Valley is one of Chile’s warmest wine regions which produces some of the country’s best red wines, including many leading Carmeneres. Viña Maquis however has a unique location between two rivers, the Tinguiririca River and the Chimbarongo Creek, and these waterways act as pathways for coastal breezes that protect the vineyards from frost damage in spring and moderate the heat of the summers. As Ricardo explained, these breezes have an important effect lowering the maximum summer temperatures by 2º to 3ºC, which influences the characteristics of the grapes and the wines, giving more aromatics and fresher acidity. This increases the fresh fruit and floral aromas and makes the wines more vibrant on the palate, and also moderates the alcohol levels.
Thanks to its rivers, Viña Maquis has deep alluvial soils with a two-meter layer of clay set over a deeper layer of gravel. In these unique soil conditions with excellent drainage, the grapes grow to a small size which concentrates the flavours and helps to develop elegant tannins.
Viña Maquis do produce Carmenere, and also Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah. But, due to their unique terroir, their standout grape is actually Cabernet Franc, and indeed their top wine ‘Franco’, has become the first Icon wine in Chile made from this variety. Ricardo gave us a fabulous tasting of his wines, which all had wonderful purity of fruit, fine texture and balance. The wines almost had an ethereal quality which is hard to put into words, but these are my notes on the day:
- Rose Gran Reserva (blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc) 2018: Gorgeous nose of raspberry, red cherry and cranberry, wonderful texture, depth and breadth, possibly the best rose I have ever tasted!
- Lien (blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carmenere and Petit Verdot) 2012: Soft red fruits on the nose with a perfume and floral notes; soft and silky, so elegant, medium-bodied, so fresh and pure. Delicious
- Viola (Carmenere 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%) 2013: Red fruits, berries; silky, pure, ‘feminine’, almost Pinot Noir-ish, lingers
- Franco (Cabernet Franc 100%) 2013: Exquisite, ethereal, haunting nose; silky and velvety, yet powerful and complex, utterly beautiful!
A delicious lunch set up in the shade of the vineyard followed and we returned to our hotel well-watered and fed. Thanks to Pilar Valverde of Wine Routes Chile for arranging this truly memorable visit.