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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Our trip to Chile to visit Julio Bouchon, by Rob Allen

From the semi-desert near moonscape of rural Mendoza-shire we hopped over the Andes, trying not to think of the film Alive too much, and touched down in Santiago in the late afternoon. We gladly met up with a limping Julio (a recent skiing accident left him with a bad limp – get well soon!) and Jaime, before the relatively simple drive three hours south to their hacienda in the Maule Valley. Driving down the Central Valley’s spinal dual carriageway gave us a good opportunity to see other vineyards from the road and to marvel at the amount of vines and fruit trees planted. Chile has a much greener and more “European” countryside than in Argentina with rolling hills with forests and crops. Arriving as the light was fading gave us a tantalising glimpse of the Mingre estate, but we would have to wait until the morning to properly see it. After a delicious home cooked supper, we retired to the outdoor hot-tub to watch the Southern constellations slowly roll by – all in the name of work! 
 

We were up early for a quick breakfast with delicious freshly squeezed super juice (maybe the secret elixir to long life, it tasted that good). We set off to explore the winery facilities- big stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks for the aromatic whites and French oak barrels for the more serious reds. Then we donned our well used cowboy kit for a horse back tour around the vineyards, the Carmenère leaves turning a beautiful shade of red & orange in the final stages of ripening.



Grape baskets were being strategically placed around the rows of vines in preparation for picking the following day, great to see it all in action. We retired to the shade, much to the chagrin of our resident sun-worshipping MW student, to taste through their range of wines. At this point we were joined by our pilot for the afternoon, Pedro, who was to fly us back up to Santiago, after a brief aerial tour of their other vineyards. Pedro assiduously avoided the wine and drank soft drinks, unsurprisingly we enthusiastically dived into the wines.  


Jaime explaining the different qualities the separate vineyards imparted to the wines. The Batuco vineyard terroir gave a more mineral expression of the grape whereas the Santa Rosa a purity of fruit. It was interesting to taste their Malbecs, as they are very different from their Argentine cousins, tasting more cool climate, with a drier more mineral fruit profile. Then we tasted the trademark Carmenère, from the vineyards we had ridden through in the morning, leading to the highlights of the tasting. Assemblage 2008 (Cabernet, Syrah & Malbec) was deliciously perfumed, soft in the mouth with damson fruit & dark chocolate, an excellent balance and integrated tannins. The Mingre 2007 (Cabernet¸ Malbec, Syrah, Carmenère) was more intense on the nose, with a black cherry / dark fruit profile, firm tannins and great freshness. My tasting was slowed down by the delicious cheese empanadas served with the wines, which went well with both the whites and reds. A light lunch and then over to the grass runway on the far side of the estate to be introduced to Pedro's plane

Up, up and away viewing their vineyards from a condor's viewpoint. We kept tracking west, following the river to the coast and followed it northward to Santiago.

After a few minutes flying, Pedro handed the controls over to Alex, our fearless (but untrained) 1st Officer, who then proceeded to expertly find every air pocket and thermal to the accompaniment of shrieks and squeals. At least I think it was her not me squealing.




It was truly amazing to fly up the Central Valley with the Andes on the right and the Coastal range on the left, seeing the entire width of Chile.

All too soon we arrived at Santiago and happily Pedro took control of the plane again. Sad that our whistle stop tour of Julio Bouchon and Chile were over, we gallantly clambered aboard the last plane of the day to take us back over the Andes for a night out in Buenos Aries, to catch up with the Hawksmoor boys again and see if they had perfected their man on man traditional tango. Needless to say a big night out, hazy packing and a 14 hour flight back to the UK is not the best way to see in a Monday morning at Heathrow. An amazing trip we all enjoyed immensely, thanks to all at Luigi Bosca in Argentina, Julio Bouchon in Chile and Tom and Mark from Hawksmoor for getting stuck in like the pros they are.

 
 Written By Robert Allen, London Trade Sales

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