One thing that I learned from my time being a part of the South World Wine Society many years ago was that Chile produces many premium wines, but at the time the entry-level wines were only making it into BC liquor stores. Things slowly change and you can now find more premium Chilean wines, usually from Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the King of grapes for Chile. Chile has an excellent climate for ripening all Bordeaux varieties and many other grape varieties from around Europe. Many wineries, such as Vina Santa Rita founded in 1880, have been around for many years and their wines are on our shelves.
But there are newer winemaking families in Chile such as the Toro family located in the Maipo and the San Antonio Valley. They bought their first vineyard in 1998 and made their first wine in 2001 under the label Viña Chocalán. They originally wanted to have “Toro” in the winery name, but there are too many Toro’s already out there so they settled on Chocalán, which is the indigenous word for the yellow blossoms from a shrub that blooms in the area.
The Toro family came into winemaking as they began as a maker of glass bottles and are the second-biggest owner of glass bottle making in the world and decided to diversify. If you see a “T” on the bottom of a wine bottle that stands for Toro. Their goal is to produce Reserve level wines and higher tiers in a New World style that can be appreciated around the world. Their wines are in Alberta, BC, and Quebec (and maybe other provinces as well). They now use 90% of recycled glass in their bottles.
Viña Chocalán is committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible development of their wines and are validated by the Sustainability Certificate issued by Vinos de Chile through its R&D Consortium. Since 2006 they are also ISO 9001 – QUALITY and ISO 14001 – ENVIRONMENT certified, and in 2007 they obtained their CLEAN PRODUCTION AGREEMENT (APL) certificate of compliance.
They grow their white varieties primarily in the San Antonio Valley, in the Malvilla vineyard, which is located 5km from the Pacific Ocean. Truly a cool climate region and benefits as well from having a limestone predominant soil. Inland 35km from the Pacific Ocean is their Maipo Valley vineyard with granitic soil covering 300 hectares on a slope which makes a natural amphitheater and concentrates the sun’s rays (as the slope is closer to perpendicular to the sun’s rays). They have planted and experimented with 12 different grape varieties here, mainly red. The Bordeaux varieties have been very successful, with them growing Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Syrah, a Rhone variety, and Garnacha also does well.
A Sample of Their Wines
During a virtual seminar, Fernando Espina, the chief winemaker for Viña Chocalán lead us through the tasting of two white wines from their Malvilla vineyard, and four red blends from their Maipo Valley vineyard. I opened these wines 30 minutes before the tasting and poured them into glasses. The reds were tasted later, so probably had 60 minutes of decant time in the glasses.
Viña Chocalán Gran Reserva Origen Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (BC $24.99) – has a bright medium-intensity lemon colour. A pronounced nose with primarily asparagus and a touch of gooseberry. Dry, light-body, linear with medium-plus acidity. Tons of asparagus on the palate, plus a touch of honey and jalapeno pepper. Crisp and fresh flavours. There was also a salty note present for this coastal wine. Medium length. –
Viña Chocalán Gran Reserva Origen Chardonnay 2019 (BC $24.99) – This wine had 40% aged in French oak barrels with lees contact for 6 months, and 10% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. This wine is deep golden with an amber tint. A light intensity nose with tropical fruit, butterscotch and touches of honey and white flowers. A medium-plus body, smooth and round. Medium intensity tropical fruits and butterscotch flavours, and a touch of oak. Some minerality. Medium-plus acidity keeps with the fresh. Medium length finishing with some pepperiness. I would like to have the finish a little longer. Depth with class.
Viña Chocalán Gran Reserva Origen Carmenere 2018 (BC $24.99) – 85% Carmenere, with 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. This is a wine with character. The aromas kept evolving as I went back through the tasting to nose this wine. 80% of this wine was aged in French and American oak for 10-12 months. I did not notice for this wine or the other Gran Reserva red wine that there was any malolactic fermentation. This wine is an opaque garnet and ruby in colour. A light intensity nose with capsicum, plums, sweet spices, black pepper and dark fruit aromas. Through the tasting, I also noted grilled jalapeno peppers, violets, and chocolate aromas as well. This wine has a medium-plus body, is silky, with light roundness and mouthfeel and light chalky tannins. Sweet fruit, blackberries, plums, and cassis plus a touch of capsicum, sweet spices, and chocolate. Medium-plus length. One of my favourite wines of this tasting.
Viña Chocalán Gran Reserva Origen Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (BC $24.99) – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10% Carmenere and 5% Petit Verdot. 80% of this wine was aged in French and American oak for 8-10 months. An opaque dull garnet colour in the glass. Fresh black and red fruit, vanilla, oak, cassis, and chocolate aromas. Full-bodied with a thicker, velvety round mouthfeel. Medium acidity and medium intensity fine-grained tannins. Fresh red and black fruit, plums, cassis, and some candied cherries. The tannins do get stronger with air. A fresh modern Bordeaux blend.
Viña Chocalán Vitrum Blend 2019 (BC $TBD) – a blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Syrah, 8% Malbec, 5% Carmenere and 2% Petit Verdot. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are always the base grapes for this wine. Each grape variety is separately fermented and undergoes malolactic fermentation before blending. The wines are aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% second use. A dull opaque garnet colour. A lighter intensity nose with anise, vanilla, cinnamon, ripe black fruit, floral and licorice aromas. A medium-plus body, very smooth and silky, with a thicker mouthfeel. Silky soft tannins, medium acidity, and flavour intensity. Ripe red fruits, plums, candied fruit, and nutmeg spice flavours. Subtle acidity. A medium length with a peppery finish. Quality. I do like the label for this wine, looking like bits of broken glass, aka Vitrum, considering the family is also in the glass bottle business.
Viña Chocalán Alexia 2017 (BC $TBD) – only made in the best vintages. Their flagship wine. This vintage was made with 75% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Petit Verdot. 100% of this wine is aged 18 months in French oak barrels. This wine has an opaque dull garnet colour. Vanilla, milk chocolate, plums, cedar, red fruits aromas. A sweet fruit nose. Fuller bodied but has a medium mouthfeel. Round but not too heavy. Ripe red fruits, raspberries, blackberries, and black cherries flavours as well as light chocolate, floral and candied red cherries, and pepperiness. Medium acidity. A medium length with drier grippy tannins. A wine that can age.
Overall these wines are outperforming their price point. Enjoy them and let your friends and family know as well.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
These wines are new to BC so are in the process of being distributed to wine shops. When I find out which stores, I will add them to this article.
Thanks to Pacific Wines & Spirits for inviting me to attend this event.