Enrique Tirado Santelices was in town the other day, he is the technical director and winemaker of Concha y Toro’s flagship Don Melchor. An intimate tasting and dinner was held in the private room of Harbour Sixty Steakhouse and seven vintages of Don Melchor were sampled, along awesome cuts of beef and truffle fries.
I got the privilege of being seated beside the excellent winemaker, so I could have a convivial conversation, get some background information about his career, his wines and the Don Melchor estate.
This tasting was somewhat ground-breaking, given that one rarely gets the opportunity of tasting seven vintages side–by–side and I learned that even at the most recent VinExpo only six vintages of these fine wines were showcased.
It’s noteworthy to mention that at the reception of this memorable affair two vintages of Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay were also served, and the 2011 vintage was wonderful, fresh, light on its feet with seamless alcohol and oak integration, and an undercurrent of mineral nuances. The grapes for this wine come from the much in vogue Limari Valley and are grown in alluvial, calcium–rich soils, while the climate of the site benefits from the cool influences of the Pacific Ocean. And yes, there were plenty of East and West Coast Canadian oysters, Alaskan King crab legs and Nova Scotia lobsters towered in front of the small group and everyone present was up for a real treat.
Enrique told me that he has been winemaker at Don Melchor since 1997, but the wine’s first vintage date was 1987 and back than it was made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot was added in the later years, as well as Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, bringing the most current vintages to 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot.
The 127 hectare estate vineyards of Don Melchor are located in the Puente Alto sub–appellation in the Maipo Basin, just South of Santiago on North facing terraces of the Maipo River. They are by the feet of the Andes Mountains at a 650 meter altitude above sea. The soil is poor, alluvial, volcanic – stony and the climate of the sites is clearly influenced by the Andes, with during–the–day temperatures of 28 or 29 degrees Celsius and dropping to 8 degrees at night. Harvest occurs in mid-April; it’s 100% by hand with rigorous bunch and berry selection process.
There are 15,000 cases of Don Melchor produced from fairly low yielding grapes, 4 tons per hectare, with the winemaker’s desire of capturing the elements of the unique terroir of Puente Alto, “if you have complex terroir, you can make complex wine”, he adds. New and one year old French barriques are used only.
And here are the wines:
2001 – currants, boldo leaf, bacon and a bit of leather; silky and fresh, still, (2001 was a cooler vintage), with an undercurrent of game, five spice dust and dried rose petal nuances, drinking fabulously right now. (93)
2003 – cassis and smoke, intense with lively tannins, lesser refined (compared to 2001), 2003 was a rainy vintage. (90)
2004 – dramatic, deep and dense with black and blue fruit, flavoured tobacco notes, full and tight with cinnamon accents on the finish. (91)
2005 – shy nose, somewhat closed altogether, not showing its best, perhaps in down phase, , blueberry, musk and warm spice, well structured, not heavy, just needs a bit more time. (90+)
2006 – forward and fleshy with muscular tannins, plenty of cassis notes here and succulent acidity. (91)
2007 – concentrated and smoky with an excellent structure and admirable balance, very long finish, apparently yields were lowest ever in history of making this wine, a historic vintage, “but, they are all historic vintages”, murmurs Enrique. (92+)
2008 – fruity, full, ripe and bold, yet another sexy beast in the making, must decant if drinking now, the perfect steakhouse wine. (90+)
Zoltan Szabo is a sommelier and wine writer based in Toronto. He is available for corporate and private wine tastings, restaurant and hotel consultations, as well as assistance with private collections. His website is zszabo.com and he tweets regularly as @zoltanszabo.