Posted on January 21st, 2011
The long day is almost at a close by the time we leave the busy motorway and make our way up the driveway of Viña Chocálan. Workers in the vineyard are finishing up and making their way slowly back home. We’re running late after the long day of wine tasting and driving, the weariness is setting in I wonder if we’d have been better off just heading back to Santiago to turn it.
The driveway is dusty and bumpy, forcing us to slow down as we make our way up to the winery. The slowing of the pace allows us to take in more of our surroundings before meeting our host, Aída Toro.
We’re greeted with a smile as wide as the Andes are high and all feelings of weariness fade immediately. I met her once before, in the O’Brien’s wine tent at the inaugural Taste of Dublin festival. Then, as now, there’s an amazing aura of calm about her. Even though we’re late, Aida seems in no rush to be anywhere else.
We’re shown around the winery first. As we approach, the winery looks understated and unimposing from the outside. Fitting in in rather than standing out. It’s not trying to make a bold statement, like so many others.
Inside, it’s simple and open, functional and minimalist. Built for purpose. The reception area is similarly designed. Soft wood, bare concrete. Elegant simplicity. On the top floor, undergoing redevelopment to receive weddings and other events, the large glass panes bring the outside in or the viewer outside.
Downstairs in the barrel room, where the wines rest, there’s the same sense of tranquility. No fancy fittings or ostentatious mood lighting, just a peaceful place where the wines are left to develop slowly.
I briefly wonder if we shape our surroundings or do they shape us? I suspect it’s a bit of both as the place seems to reflect the calmness I sense in Aída.
Wine making philosophy
Perhaps it’s Aída’s influence, but the winemakers we meet are equally calm and soft spoken. Their approach to their wines is equally simple. They want to express the grape varietal’s “typicity” as well as they can. Minimal intervention, respect for the fruit, confidently new world in style.
We try a flight of whites, followed by reds, 14 in all. The Riesling and Gewurtztraminer the most interesting of whites. Perhaps, the Chardonnay could benefit from some malolactic fermentation and a little time in oak barrels. From the reds, the Malbec stood out. It’s not a huge production for Chocálan. Malbec isn’t huge in Chile but from what I’ve tasted here and elsewhere, it shows real promise.
We leave, with the same sense of calm that greeted us.
Chocálan wine availability in Ireland.
Chocálan wines are available exclusively from O’Briens wine, nationwide.
I spent a week in Chile in November 2010 as a guest of Wines of Chile. My travelling companion, David Whelehan, who in his time working as Marketing Director and Wine Buyer for O’Brien’s, introduced Chocálan to the Irish market.