Ventisquero shows off Duval project

Viña Ventisquero has launched the result of a 10-year project in collaboration with former Penfolds chief winemaker John Duval.

John Duval (left) with Ventisquero's chief winemaker Felipe Tosso

John Duval (left) with Ventisquero’s chief winemaker Felipe Tosso

The inaugural 2010 vintage of Enclave, a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend from Alto Maipo, began rolling out across international markets this year and has now arrived in the UK with an RRP of around £42.

“I had always had a desire to do a Cabernet blend; it’s 50% of our production and in the last five years we have developed much more consistent Cabernet,” explained Ventisquero’s chief winemaker Felipe Tosso.

Duval initially worked with Tosso on the producer’s 2004 Pangea Syrah from Apalta but by 2007 the pair had begun buying grapes to help them settle on the best solution for the new wine they had in mind. “We even bought grapes from some 120-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Apalta, but they were very rich which didn’t fit the style we were looking for,” recalled Tosso.

“The biggest thing about this project was that if we were going to put another wine on the market then it had to have personality,” he outlined. “Normally you take terroir and let the wine make itself, but with this it was much more intellectual. We thought about the area and the style we wanted to have – looking to the altitude that would give more freshness, cassis and the tannin structure to age well – then it came back to terroir again.”

With this aim in mind, the two winemakers decided to look beyond Ventisquero’s own vineyards and instead buy grapes from Pirque, a high altitude sub-region of Maipo Alto. “It’s the only wine we don’t make from our own vineyard,” remarked Tosso, explaining: “We thought we needed vines that were older – these are all 20-25 years old except for the Petit Verdot.”

Among the plots rented by Ventisquero in Pirque is a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard at 1,000m altitude owned by William Fèvre’s Chilean operation.

Although confirming that Cabernet Sauvignon will remain the “backbone” of the wine, Tosso admitted that as the project developed he realised “it was more fun blending.” As a result, Enclave also incorporates small proportions of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.

Turning first to Cabernet Franc, Tosso described it as “a fascinating variety that’s just starting to get attention, but there’s not much planted at the moment as it’s difficult to get right.”

Despite admitting that “at the beginning we never thought of Carmenere,” he highlighted this variety’s importance to the final blend. “We were looking for something to give some spice and silkiness – a hint of Chile,” explained Tosso. “When we made it with no Carmenere in the blend it could have been from anywhere.”

As for Petit Verdot, Tosso highlighted the variety’s “structure, flowers and seductiveness,” adding: “It’s a silent worker, it really changes the wine a lot with just a drop.”

Explaining the choice of the name Enclave, Tosso linked it to the “very special place” he and Duval found in the region of Pirque. Despite the presence of vines here for over 400 Enclave 2010_CS high resyears, the area is not currently widely known, although in addition to William Fèvre, Concha y Toro produces its Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard here.

As for the idea of buying their own land there now that the project has completed its third vintage, Tosso said: “Not now. There’s such a learning curve so it’s good to go to winemakers who are there already and to talk about how they manage their vineyards.”

Despite their long collaboration, Tosso noted some difference between his own stylistic preferences and those of Duval.  “The difference between me and John is that he’s a lot more restrained and he’s very, very good on tannin structure,” he outlined.

By contrast, Tosso suggested: “I’m a little bit more about the aromas – I’m more sensitive if a barrel is a little oxidised. I don’t like super-tannic wines.” Nevertheless, he summed up: “We’re very different but we both want to have wines that are maybe a little more European, more balanced.”

While production of the 2010 vintage was around 8,000 cases, Tosso suggested that future quantities are likely to remain “more or less” in line with the 10,000 case production of 2011.

The launch of Enclave, which has already been released in key markets including Chile, Mexico, Brazil, US, China and Japan, joins a Ventisquero portfolio which has seen its global premium wine sales (£13 and above) grow by more than 30% worldwide so far this year.

As a result of this performance, Tosso argued that the company is well placed to help develop Chile’s high end reputation. “I want to change the image that Chile is just good value,” he said. “There are a lot of exciting things happening in Chile but they don’t get to the shelf.”

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