The Matetic family has a history of settling in new territory and making a success of agriculture. In 1892, the current members’ ancestors made the long journey by sea from the Croatian coast to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile. They soon acquired large haciendas for sheep and dairy farming. It was only in 1999 that the fourth generation of Chilean Matetic made the move into winemaking.
After a detailed study of the terroir, Jorge Matetic Hartard and his relatives decided to plant vineyards in a previously overlooked side valley of the San Antonio appellation - Rosario. Just 15km from the Pacific Ocean, the rolling hills of Rosario Valley benefits from cooling sea breezes and huge swings in temperature - from as much as 27C in the afternoon to 7C at night. Well drained, quartz-sandy soil requires vines to dig their roots deep into the ground (up to four metres) to find water and nutrients, making for low yields and high-quality fruit.
With the additional purchase in 2005 of vineyards in Casablanca Valley, the Matetic family has planted a phenomenal range of grape varieties - Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Malbec - but they made their mark early on with the first cold-climate Syrah in 2001.
This was under the EQ label, which puts forward elegant, balanced wines of great complexity with nuanced layers of flavors and structure for good ageing potential - Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Coastal Sauvignon Blanc. The Corralillo label, arguably a parallel rather than second label, is a nod to an old winery on a corral which had once produced wines from the native País grape. These wines - Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and the Winemakers Blend (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc) express this frontier-pushing terroir with great individuality and draw from plots in Maipo, near Santiago, and Colchagua further south, as well as San Antonio. The best Syrah, from two specific biodynamically farmed plots, is released in limited numbers (300 cases a year) under the Matetic label. It’s a fragrant full-bodied celebration of red fruit with jammy, chocolatey tones and a finish of leather, herbs and spice.
All three labels - EQ, Corralillo and Matetic are available in the UK, exclusively imported by Armit Wines.
Biodynamic viticulture is one strut in the tripod of eco-friendly practices Matetic follows in its winemaking - it is certified organic and sustainable as well as biodynamic. Regarding the Rosario Valley as a single organism, the team works hard to maintain the health of the ground (using Rudolf Steiner’s preparations of quartz, manure, herbs etc in cow horns but only using indigenous materials), the crops and the varied animal life in the ecosystem. Grape pomace is added to compost from the restaurant to be reused in the vineyards, as is water which has been used to clean barrels. And in human terms, local people make up the majority of staff, and the winery sells woollen and other craft goods made by artisans nearby. It’s all part of a philosophy that aims to make winemaking a venture which will benefit the family and its neighbours for generations to come.
Environmental responsibility continues into the winery itself, completed in 2003. Designed by Laurence Odfjell, the Norwegian shipping magnate and trained architect, who also built his family’s own winery in Chile, it has been described as the “incredible disappearing winery” because of the way it blends with its setting. Despite its large capacity - 600,000 litres in fermentation, 1,800 barrels in the cellars - the processes are as gentle and unintrusive as in the vineyards, with gravitational flow the only way wine moves around the building. This allows head winemaker Julio Bastias and consultant Rodrigo Soto to produce wines with wonderful harmony.
The Matetic family ethos even reaches as far as winery visits. Whereas most estates which welcome guests are focused on those over the legal drinking age, Matetic offers children’s food in the guest house and organic grape juice in the tasting room, as well as horseriding and bicycle tours and a chance to mingle with the animals, including geese and llamas.
Read Our Latest Blog
on how Matetic has been awarded the much sought after 'First Growth' status by Tim Atkin MW.