The only way to describe it is 6 days of paradise, that is what the Armit Wines team enjoyed on their recent trip to visit the Matetic Winery in the San Antonio valley in Chile.
After a decent, if slightly lengthy, 14 hour flight we were greeted at Santiago airport by the smiling face of Jose who kindly drove us the hour or so south west to the Matetic Hotel in the Rosario Valley (a sub section of the San Antonio Valley wholly owned by the Matetic Family).
A quick shower and change to refresh and we were then joined by Jorge Matetic (owner) and Arturo Larrain (General Manager) for a delicious lunch, accompanied by Matetic wines of course, delights included some zingy fresh ceviche, meaty prawns and succulent white fish with Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc, EQ Chardonnay and Corralillo Pinot Noir.
Then we were off to the vineyards and winery. Matetic has been Biodynamically farmed from the outset with the first vines planted in 1998, they now have 70 Hectares planted in the San Antonio Valley to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Syrah, planting densities vary between 3000-5000 vines per hectare dependant on the variety and whilst the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer & Pinot Noir have their crop density maintained through pruning, the Syrah is spur pruned with 2 shoots and then green harvested to remove one shoot to get the best quality and perfectly ripe fruit. Matetic use 3 clones for the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah, 2 for the Pinot Noir and the Gewürztraminer is purely masale selected. Julio the winemaker is an incredible font of knowledge on everything from improving soil biodiversity to improve fruit quality and reduce erosion, to the use of concrete eggs to improve minerality. As I mentioned Biodynamics and organics are at the heart of everything that Matetic do, as only then will they have the fruit quality required to make the best wines, soil is also very important and all the vineyards are planted on a mix of Granite, clays and silica. Fruit is totally hand harvested in to 10kg boxes and the winery has been designed exactly to accommodate the quantity of fruit produced, not only does the fruit go through a hand sorting when it arrives in the winery, but there is then a secondary vibrating belt sorter to ensure all the fruit is perfectly healthy and free of alien material.
Julio puts the reds through approximately 6-8 days of cold soak and then ferments with 50% whole bunch. For the whites the EQ Chardonnay is barrel fermented and aged for up to 12 months in 15-20% new oak, a portion of the best Chardonnay and Sauvignon are put in to two concrete eggs to increase minerality when blended back. The oak barrels are sourced from a mix of 12 coopers using wood from 8 or 9 different forests and 3 different toasts, they are used for 4 years.
My tasting notes for the range we tried are available here, but without exception the wines were pure, precise and exciting. In 2011 two new vineyards in the Casablanca region came on stream and the extra freshness and intensity of fruit has lifted the wines further, there are now approximately 50 hectares planted in 2 separate vineyards to Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir & Syrah.
Without a doubt in the spectacularly capable hands of Julio the wines are just going to carry on getting better and better, we were very lucky to try a special parcel of Pinot Noir bottled by Julio to see how it would develop, that displayed Pommardesque ferrous intensity, there will be a black label Pinot Noir before to long to rival the top Syrah of that I'm sure. This really is one of Chile's top 3 wineries and we are very proud to represent them in the UK.
After all the hard work it was time to play and Matetic showed us the beautiful port of Valparaiso, which some have likened to South Americas answer to San Francisco and then flew us up to the incredible Atacama desert, for a few days of trekking, sight seeing ( the valley of the moon and valley of mars will be something we shall never forget) and R&R before the long flight home, truly an experience of a lifetime.
Corralillo Sauv Blanc 2013 - aromas of citrus, flint, capsicum, tad ferment pear, touch creamy, palate is crisp and bright with ripe acidity, rich citrus, lovely mouthfeel. All San Antonio fruit from 3 different clones, keep solids in suspension for approx 4 months to increase palate weight.
Matetic EQ Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - All Casablanca fruit, just 2 clones, 10% old barrel ferment, Passion fruit, kiwi, papaya, chalky and mouth filling lovely balanced minerality.
Riesling 2013 Corralillo - 100% Casablanca fruit, Apricot, sweet floral notes, quite broad, palate is rich yet super clean mineral, lime and floral peach notes once more.
Gewürztraminer 2013 Corralillo - perfumed, spice, lychee and Rose petal notes, palate has richness honey, spice, mineral, Rose petal and quince, delicious.
Chardonnay Corralillo 2012 - Aromas of toffee, nuts and ripe figs, palate has lovely ripe citrus acid, butter, nut and rich tropical fruit notes on the ripe acidic finish. (No malolactic at all on this wine)
Matetic EQ Chardonnay 2012 - less pronounced nose of sweet melon, peach and toast, palate has lip smacking acidity, bright pure, mineral and toast, with a creamy tone to the ripe tropical fruit character, very good. (20% Malo, small batch from concrete egg, once a week battonage for 6 months)
Corralillo Pinot Noir 2012 - ripe strawberry, red cherry, boysenberry, grip on palate, rich red fruit, quite saturated rich juicy red fruits, sappy and long.
Matetic EQ Pinot Noir 2012 - more withdrawn, deep sweet rich strawberry, spice, darker mocha, palate is elegant, sleek and exciting, loads of dark rich red fruit, saturated but suave and captivating.
Pinot Noir 309a special selection 2012 - spicy, ferrous rich dark fruits, touch animal hare (Pommard) palate has grip and richness, dark notes black cherry, strawberry, grip and richness ripe tannins on the spicy finish.
Corralillo Wine makers Blend 2011 - notes of herb, blackberry, aniseed and plum, palate has sappy richness, black fruit, spice, earth and black tea, floral and mouth filling.
Corralillo Syrah 2012 - aromas of creme de mure, floral violets, juicy red fruit edge. Palate has grip and energy, rich acid, ripe tannins, plenty of ripe black berry fruit, sappy and long.
(28% new oak, 85% San Antonio hillside 15% Santo Tomas)
Matetic EQ Syrah 2011 - denser, more blueberry, blackberry, spice, graphite, palate is gorgeous, blackberry, grippy rich tannins like a dogs growel, earthy, dark spice bright acid, touch of mint. (33% new oak, 85% San Antonio valley floor, 15% Santo Tomas)
Matetic Syrah 2010 - dark black and brooding, spiced rich roasted meats, dark chocolate, quite fragrant pepper, black fruit, palate is super rich, grip and power all balanced lovely acidity, pepper spice, meat, earth and black fruit with mint to finish. (40% new oak, 100% San Antonio valley floor)
Cab Sauv, Syrah & Petit Verdot (85%, 14% & 1%) 2012 - Spice, nutmeg, fragrant, cassis, richly textured plum, grippy rich tannins, bright acid mouth filling juicy and long.