Don Melchor: Seven Parcels Cabernet Sauvignon Masterclass - hosted by Enrique Tirado, Winemaker at Don Melchor

 

Held on Thursday 1 October 2015 at The Westbury Hotel, London

 

Concha y Toro, the largest wine producer in Latin America and global giant in the world of wine, was founded by Don Melchor de Santiago in 1883.  Its HQ and winery are in Santiago, Chile and it has vineyards throughout the country.  Concha y Toro also owns vineyards in Argentina together with a number of California wine brands including Fetzer, Bonterra and Coldwater Creek. 

 

Don Melchor is Concha y Toro's best expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is produced from a small vineyard in the Maipo Valley and the first vintage was in 1987.  Don Melchor produces around 12,000 cases per annum, the majority of which is shipped to Brazil, Asia and the US.  Brazil and the US are the largest countries in terms of volume.

 

Jacques Boissenot, a talented French winemaker, has worked on the production of Don Melchor since its inception and he and his son, Eric Boissenot, have both worked with Enrique Tirado to produce Don Melchor.  Enrique joined the company in 1995 and was appointed head winemaker of Concha y Toro’s premium brands in 1997, which included Don Melchor.  He is now sole winemaker. 

 

Enrique led the Masterclass which was intended to showcase the individual parcels from the vineyard to assess the differences.  It was also an opportunity to taste the latest vintage.

 

Don Melchor’s exceptional quality comes from the Puente Alto vineyard which is located in the Alto Maipo Valley, in the foothills of the Andes.  The Puente Alto vineyard lies 30 km south of Santiago and covers an area of approximately 350 ha.  The Don Melchor vineyard covers 127 ha, of which 90% is Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.1% Cabernet Franc, 1.9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot.  Grapes are grown on the northern bank of the Maipo River on the oldest and highest terraces, approximately 650 metres above sea level. 

 

The vineyard’s proximity to the Andes has a big influence in terms of soil and climate.  Water from the Andes is used for drip irrigation as most rain falls during the winter.  The climate is semi-arid Mediterranean with four defined seasons.  Each night, cold winds blow down from the mountains and cool the vineyards.  This creates great variations in temperature between day and night which allows the grapes to ripen slowly, developing fresh red fruit flavours and ripe tannins, whilst retaining good levels of acidity.  This results in more concentrated colours and flavours. 

 

The soil contains a number of different nutrients and elements which create complexity in the wines.  The soil is alluvial with clay, sand and loam and generally poor and stony.  This naturally restricts the vines vegetative growth and provides good drainage.  Soils vary in each individual parcel and parcels are sub-divided by vine vigour and flavours produced by the grapes.  Of the 7 parcels, 1 - 6 are Cabernet Sauvignon and parcel 7 is Cabernet Franc. 

 

Not only do the soils differ, but timing of harvest and cellar management techniques vary for each parcel; the aim being to extract the unique personality from each one.  What they do have in common however is minimal intervention in terms of product additions; the wines should be as pure an expression as they can be.

 

110 ha of the 127 ha are old vines whose average age is 30-35 years.  Some areas are in the process of being replanted.  In the old vineyard, there are around 4000 vines per ha, but there can be as many as 8000 vines per ha in the new vineyards.  Yields tend to be between 3.5 to 4 tons per ha.

 

Harvest takes place in mid-April, when daytime temperatures can reach as high as 27C but will drop to 8 or 9C at night.  Harvest is by hand and the 127 ha vineyard is sub-divided into 142 parcels.  After vinification, wines are tasted and the final blend is made.  This usually happens in July.  Wines will then be transferred into barrels (70% new French oak/30% old) for a minimum of 12-15 months, after which time they will be bottled, and aged for a further year to 18 months before sale.

 

In July 2015, Enrique, Jacques and Eric tasted 167 different wines before creating the final blend!  They taste the parcels blind; the goal always being to make the best quality blend. 

 

Since 1987, the final blend contained 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the exception of 1995, when 3% Merlot was added.  This practice continued until 1998.  In 1999, 7% Cabernet Franc was added and in 2000, the final blend was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Franc was added again in 2001 and 2015 is the first year they have added Petit Verdot to the final blend.

 

Petit Verdot was first planted in 2006.  It provides soft fine-grained tannins, hints of pear, spicy black pepper, violets and rose.  It has high acidity, an abundance of red fruit flavours and an amazing deep red cherry colour.

 

Parcel 1

A fairly complex wine with sweet ripe red fruits, soft fine-grained tannins and a long finish.

The soil is in this parcel contains less clay and stone, and more lime.

 

Parcel 2

A more complex wine, with higher levels of tannins and minerality, less red fruits, more black, and aromas and flavours of dark chocolate and menthol.      

 

Parcel 3

A more powerful wine with lots of minerality, a good concentration of red and black fruits, hints of tar and lead pencil and firm mouth-coating tannins.

 

Parcel 4

Elegant, very smooth, soft fine-grained tannins, ripe red fruits, some eucalyptus on the nose and more pronounced oak.

 

Parcel 5

Lighter with less minerality, ripe black fruits and hints of black pepper.  This wine had higher levels of acidity, but lacked the density of some of the other parcels.

 

Parcel 6

A well-structured wine with a good concentration of ripe red and black fruits, smooth tannins and aromas and flavours of chocolate, tobacco and oak.

 

Parcel 7

More rustic in style, good concentration of wild blueberries, ripe soft fine-grained tannins, good levels of acidity, herbal, floral and menthol aromas and a long finish. 

Master Blend 1

92% Cabernet Sauvignon & 8% Cabernet Franc

This blend comprised 1% from parcel 1, 5% from parcel 2, 33% from parcel 3, 13% from parcel 4, 25% from parcel 5, 15% from parcel 6 and 8% from parcel 7.

A very elegant blend of ripe red and black fruits, black pepper, green peppers, soft fine-grained tannins and good levels of acidity. 

 

Master Blend 2

Master Blend 1 with 1% Petit Verdot added

More spicy than Master Blend 1, more black pepper and more complexity.  Someone suggested that this was like “adding salt to food”.

 

Master Blend 3

Master Blend 2 with 9.14% Press Wine added

Beautifully smooth wine with fresh acidity, ripe soft fine-grained tannins, bursting with red and black fruits and a long finish.  The press wine adds freshness.  The Petit Verdot supplies spice which adds another dimension.  This wine needs barrel ageing for 2-3 years; the addition of the press wine increases its ageing potential. 

 

Press Wine

The press wine used in Master Blend 3 was a blend of 30 different press wines; all Cabernet Sauvignon.  Deep purple in colour, youthful, with rich, ripe red and black fruits and mouth-coating tannins.  The press wine adds tannin and muscle, and the best press wines will also add concentration and depth to the final blend.

 

Don Melchor 2011 – just released

2011 was a cold year with average temperatures around 13.9C.  Rainfall was lower than average and harvest was later than usual.  This wine was aged 15 months in French oak and is a blend of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Rich, ripe, complex wine with a spicy nose and a good concentration of black fruit, green peppers and black pepper, very smooth tannins and a long finish with hints of smoke, oak and cigar box.

   

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