Châteauneuf du Maule, adventures, dreams and reality – Part II

My friend and I did this trip in three weeks. Our budget was tight, we slept in tents, and used to have baguette with cheese and ham for lunch. But it was well worth it since we got to meet producers of the standing of Jean Luis Chave before it became almost impossible to visit him. We also had the opportunity to come closer in touch with the biodynamic concept on a larger scale thanks to a visit to Chapoutier. But I confess that at that time I hardly realized the level of the wine personalities I was meeting.

It was a great trip. To a certain extent, even a defining one. It was thus that my friend Sergio Pappalardo decided to commit to natural wines, a task he carries out with great success to this day. And for me it was a remarkable opportunity to open my mind and palate outside of Bordeaux and Burgundy, incorporating new first source knowledge.

Some years later, already back in Chile, in 2011 I particularly recalled this experience when I vinified the grapes of two small Grenache plots that Pablo Morandé, with great vision, had grafted onto old Sémillon and Sauvignon Vert vines. Before rushing into this adventure, we patiently waited five years for the grafting to strengthen and the vine to develop. This time, the scenery was the beautiful Santa Elena de Comávida vineyard in Melozal, Maule.

It is there that we have our own modest Châteauneuf-du-Maule, with Syrah grafted on to old País vines, long-standing ungrafted Carignan, and those already mentioned Grenaches. Marsanne and Roussanne complete a picture that allows us to make a unique wine that shows juicy red fruits and sharp acidity, thus bestowing with verticality and freshness the 14.5 alcohol degrees that Grenache can easily reach.

We have learned that these Mediterranean varieties, which are not so well known in Chile, perform best under a different logic than the Bordeaux varieties. Despite their alcohol and sharp tannins, these are wines that are somehow delicate and profound, and their relation with oak during their aging is different. We understood this harvest after harvest. So we went from aging for 16 months in French barrels (15% of them new), to do it only in previously used barriques. Then we switched to toasted foudres until we finally arrived to untoasted foudres, built by artisan coopers who use the best wood cured in the open air for more than three years.

We thus manage to highlight the strength and uniqueness of Grenache and Carignan, without overshadowing with toasted or sweet notes the varietal purity, which, in my opinion, is the best characteristic of these grapes.

We are proud and pleased to offer and share different experiences through our wines. And, undoubtedly, this Mediterráneo –which was initially created in my imagination during a long journey along a river- finally materialized in Maule’s Secano Interior to embody our passion for vines and wines.

Ricardo Baettig

Winemaker at Viña Morandé

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