Harvest Diary from Chile – Last Chapter, Day 5

23 April, Saturday – Last Chapter, Day 5
We woke up for a freezing cold, but very bright morning. Simply, the golden rays of the sun were making wonder on the rolling hills of the vineyard and the whole of the valley. The morning was slow and easy, as there were no labourers coming and neither did we have grapes to process. After a leisurely breakfast I caught up on some writing, then joined the guys at the winery.

The tanks got punched down, pumped over and cooled. The three containers holding the crushed crop of Grenache Noir, Tempranillo and Syrah were moved in the sun so that they would finish cold soak and warm up sufficiently for fermentation. In the meantime, Christian had got in an engineer who was busy repairing the forklift. We had washed some of the larger crates used for storing stalks or juice so that they would be clean and ready for Monday. Next week would be very busy, as most if not all the fruit would have to come in from the vineyard.

Once we had done everything we could, Brendan suggested we tasted some of the wines from barrels, which was the 2010 vintage. It is just fascinating to see how much difference each barrel shows reflecting the individual terroir of given blocks or the time of the picking. Looking at the individual barrels one would imagine that it is tough to make wines to the same standard, but it needs to be remembered that the final product is a blend. A blend of the same variety from different plots and/or pickings or, in some cases, of different varieties. Each component has its role. Some provide the backbone for a riper, full-bodied and concentrated style, others bring freshness of acids, elegance of texture or firmness of structure. Blending is an art whereby the winemaker brings the pieces together into a beautiful patchwork, just like a composer brings together a variety of instruments and singers into a piece of music.

Omar was in charge of lunch, whilst Sven had to deal with a flat tyre on his 4×4. A fresh green salad with a light garlic dressing, followed by a selection of courgette, mushroom and aubergine dishes proved to be a delicious meal.

In the afternoon, we made two visits. The first one took us to the other end of the Colchagua Valley, where we saw the breathtakingly located Lapostolle winery. One of the biodynamic producers in Chile, the winery had been completed in 2006 at a cost of US $ 9.5 million. It was designed with great care and is home to a 10,000-case production, which accounts for 5% of the total wine production of Lapostolle. The remaining 95% of the wines is produced at another winery, which is also biodynamic, but not so much a showcase one in terms of design. A detailed report will follow on here in June.

The second visit we made was to Viu Manent, a large family-owned winery. It is conveniently located along the main road in the middle of the valley, and capitalising on this, they operate a busy visitor centre for tourists. Their production ranges from large quantity product lines to small, premium ones. It was the cellar master who showed us around and let us taste wines from the 2011 vintage. Some had just finished fermentation, some were around 70 – 80% through. Again a very interesting opportunity to learn about vinification, how different quality levels are handled, how they behave and what decisions there are to make for the winemaker in charge of the operation. After all a winery is a business and it needs to maintain itself financially.

At the end of the day, we were just enjoying the beautiful scenery on the way back to Polkura Vineyards. Snow-capped mountains signalling the altitude along the Argentine border, amazing skyline as the sun was setting and the might of nature in the shape of sleeping volcanoes. Sven prepared our last dinner at Polkura, a foil-wrapped, seasoned and oven-baked salmon with steamed rice and spicy vegetables. The Block G + I Polkura Syrah, top of the range, was tasting and drinking perfect as the fire roared and our stay at Sven’s beautiful vineyard came to an end.

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