Posted on December 7th, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Santa Alicia winery in Maipo Valley, about a 45 minute drive from Santiago. We were given a great welcome, as you’ll see from the video below.
Santa Alicia was founded in 1954, so it’s quite old by Chilean standards. The founder, Mr. Máximo Valdés, was at one stage the Chilean minister for Agriculture.
The original name “Viñas Casas de Pirque”, or houses of Pirque (the townland in Maipo) was changed more recently once Chile entered the free market. Thw new name is said to be in honor of “Alicia”, which is present in every generation of the family. I suspect ease of pronunciation in foreign markets may have been a driver for change.
Like many Chilean wineries, this is one of scale. That said, the quality is really good, my favourites being the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Reserva range, the Carmenère and Merlot single varietals from the Gran Reserva range, and the Anke blends (Anke Blend 1 tipping it for me). Their premium wine, Millantu, show promise too, but needs a bit of time for the oak to relax a bit.
The wine makers
There are two main winemakers at Santa Alicia, David Gonzalez and Eduardo Gajardo. David is very experienced while Eduardo is very typical of many of the winemakers I met on my week long trip – young!
Looking at the crumpled tanks behind the winery, it’s clear they suffered considerable wine loss during the earthquake earlier this year but they look as if they’re getting on with it. The Chileans are a resilient and hard working bunch, similar to the Irish in many ways.
Other points of interest
They have their own ironworks on site, where they reconstitute old barrels into various novel items which they ship with their wines. They also teach their vineyard workers other skills like ceramics, to keep them employed throughout the year. Their reception area is primed for wine tourism, an opportunity which seems to be untapped in the Maipo, save for Concho y Toro. You’ll see planes, cars, bars inside giant barrels and a whole host of both clever and kitsch items all made from repurposed oak. You can see a great sense of humour in the place, and of course the people who work there.
Profile in Ireland
They’re well represented in Ireland, with Curious Wines being the main importer and retailer.