Concha y Toro looks south for old-vine País19th August, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt
Concha y Toro is to launch a País and Cinsault blend from old vines in Maule and the Itata Valley under its upmarket Marqués de Casa Concha label.
Speaking to the drinks business in Chile last month, Concha y Toro’s chief winemaker Marcelo Papa said that the company was increasingly looking to southerly Chilean wine regions such as Maule for its reds, after years looking towards relatively cool coastal locations for its whites.
“Concha y Toro has 9,300 hectares in Chile in nine valleys from Limarí [in the north] to Maule [in the south], and the main focus of the last 10-15 years has been on the Limarí area, and before that, it was Casablanca – so we have been very concentrated on cool climates, especially near the coast,” he said.
Continuing he recorded, “We are now thinking about the reds and rediscovering the Maule region… for quality we are going back to Maule: there is a fantastic potential for good quality for grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and the opportunity to use old vines for interesting wines.”
As part of the company’s development of “interesting wines”, Concha y Toro will introduce a Pais/Cinsault blend using grapes from this year’s harvest, according to Papa.
Noting that he will launch the wine later this year under the traditional Marqués de Casa Concha label, which currently comprises international varieties such as Cabernet and Chardonnay that sell for over £10 in UK retailers, Papa told db that he wanted to “support” the new blend “with an established brand to give consumers confidence”.
However, he added that although the brand is not new, the packaging “will be different, and we might do something crazy”.
While the País comes from 100 year-old dry-farmed vines in Maule’s Cauquenes Province, the Cinsault is from 50 year-old vines planted further south in Chile’s Itata Valley.
Carbonic maceration is being used for both grapes to make a light, fruity dry wine with around 12.5% abv, and the final blend will contain two thirds País and one third Cinsault.
“The idea is to make a wine with good freshness and low alcohol; one that could be chilled for drinking in the summer, a bit like a Beaujolais,” explained Papa.
He also said that “between 300 and 500 cases will be made, and we will see how it is received, and if it is a success, we could do much more.”
The recommended retail price will be £9-10 in the UK, according to Papa.
Although Concha y Toro have 1,000 hectares planted in Maule, which are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, it is buying the old vine País grapes from growers in the region.
“The idea is to work together with small producers under a new strategic model to help them improve production, so we work together on vineyard management to improve the quality and then we buy the grapes,” recorded Papa.
“Normally the growers of País have less than 1.5 hectares and the price of the grapes is the lowest [of all varieties grown in the region], but we pay a bit more to help them improve the vineyards,” he added.
Around 15 years ago there was 15,000ha of País planted in Chile but it has gradually decreased, leaving 7,000ha today, according to Papa, most of which is found in Maule.
The grape originates from Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, where it is called Listán Prieto, and was taken to Mexico in 1540 by Spanish Franciscan priests, who founded several missions, explaining another synomyn for this grape – it is called Misson in North America (Robinson, Harding, Vouillamoz, 2013, Wine Grapes).
Listán Prieto was then introduced to Chile in the 1550s, and in the 1850s it was named País.
Meanwhile, Papa told db that he has also experimented with a dry still white from Muscat of Alexandria grown in the Itata Valley, but admitted that he was unlikely to release the wine commercially.
“I think it is too aromatic for a wine, but it would be good for a sparkling Moscato with 7-8% abv and 30-40 g/l residual sugar, so I will do a test,” he said.
Also for the future, he said he was hoping to release a wine in 2016 using fruit from 90 year-old Carignan vines, which, like the País mentioned above, comes from Maule’s Cauqeunes area.
He has already made the wine using Carignan from this year’s harvest, but because it will come under the Vigno designation, which stipulates a minimum 2-year ageing period, he won’t be able to release it until 2016.
To be able to put the Vigno name on a label producers must also use a minimum of 65% Carignan grown without irrigation on bush vines over 30 years old.
“We want to join Vigno and we’ve already done all the paperwork to get into the organisation,” said Papa.
Click here to read more about the Vigno movement and organisation in Chile.