From 17-23 November, 30 Masters of Wine took a tour of Chile, covering more than 2000km by road and air, tasting over 200 different wines, and working their way through well over 7,000 glasses.
The arrival: Passing over the Andes on the last leg of the flight from London to Santiago, it was apparent quite how little snowfall there has been over the recent winter, with precipitation around 80% below average levels.
Day 1: Sunday 17 – Concha y Toro: Don Melchor Experience. Following an introduction to Chile by local wine writer Patricio Tapia, the MWs met with Don Melchor winemaker Enrique Tirada, who talked them through seven vintages spanning 30 years of the pioneering fine wine from Chile, from the inaugural ’87 vintage, to the latest release from the 2017 harvest.
The tasting, which took place at Concha y Toro’s historic HQ in Maipo, was preceded by a tour of the nineteenth century ‘Don Melchor Casona’ manor house, featuring this portrait of the man, who brought Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux to Chile in the 1880s, and founded Concha y Toro, which is now the largest wine company in Chile by a significant margin, producing around 33 million cases annually (the second biggest Chile wine group, VSPT, makes around 7m cases annually).
Lunch followed, where Isabel Guilisasti, whose family have a majority shareholding in Concha y Toro, expressed her gratitude to the MWs for visiting Chile “during these difficult days”, referring to the social and political unrest in Santiago.
She also said, “We are so proud to celebrate this 30th anniversary with you”, while revealing that from the 2017 vintage the brand is being called Viña Don Melchor to reflect the fact it was “one winery, one wine”. As lunch drew to a close she served the MWs a sweet fortified ‘Licor Don Melchor’ from the 2003 vintage. With 79g/l residual sugar and 20% abv, and masses of rich, raisined black fruit, it was similar in style to vintage Port. With just 810 bottles produced, it is reserved only for the family and their guests.