Valley Pioneers in biodynamic and organic growing methods
In the past half decade, the wineries of Chile’s new wave movement have made significant strides in establishing their nation as one of the world’s premier wine producing countries. Given the fact that Chile’s wine history can be traced back to the Sixteenth Century, this news is probably no real surprise. Scores of new wineries along with a similar number of upgraded existing winery facilities have made Chilean wines a competitor in even the most stringent international wine competitions.
The scenario is not unlike that of California’s Central Coast wine growing and producing region, suddenly on par with the existing wine behemoths of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. It seems hard to believe that Chile, now released from a constricting political climate that handicapped its wine industry for decades, can count its wines among the world’s finest.
Plantings in Chile are also up impressively, with additional acreage rapidly under vine and attention being paid to developing and expanding new wine growing areas on a daily basis. The total acreage under vine has almost doubled since the mid 1990’s, and seems ready to accommodate additional vineyards. This expansion has been pushed along by advantageous weather conditions throughout the entire country.
In fact, the Chilean wine industry seems poised for further expansion and even greater achievements. What’s interesting about the whole development is the large amounts of capital that has poured into winery construction and expansion. While some of the money had come from outside sources (it has been considered a smart move for wineries in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to invest in Chile), the greater part of all investments have come from Chilean nationals who seem to know a good thing when they see it. Companies in all forms of non-agricultural businesses now have a stake in a Chilean winery, be it large or small. Many have seen early payouts and a small number have enjoyed early financial success.
Chilean wines have always been considered great wines for the price and this continues to be true today. With more consumers aware of price/value relationships of wines, the fact that Chilean wines represent excellent value has also helped the Chilean cause. Many stores and restaurants now offer Chilean sections within their stores or on their wine lists. The fact that many of these wines are now identified by their respective regions within Chile speaks legions to the fact that these wines are highly sought after. A few restaurants even list an ultra-premium Chilean selection for the most highly regarded wines, an honor formerly reserved for only France and California.
The world stage that is the international wine business has added a new member to compete for its prestigious audience. Chile was a longshot to accomplish this honor and credit should be given to the growers and vintners that have made it possible. With entrepreneurial insight such as that expressed by this International Series selection Matetic, the momentum for further honors should be easy to continue.
Winemaker: Julio Bastias
An agronomy engineer from the Universidad de Talca, Julio Bastias began his professional career at the Universidad He has been an assistant winemaker at Vina Viu Manent, Vinedos Organicos Santa Emiliana and Vinedos del Maule. Julio also spent time in Napa Valley working as an assistant to Ken Bernards and producing wine for Ancien Wines, Witford Cellars, and Donum Estate. Julio believes in a biodynamic farming practice, one that includes both organic farming elements as well as the philosophy that connects winemaking with nature and the cosmos.
The biodynamic vineyards that comprise the Matetic Vineyards winery holdings are located in the Rosario Valley, a sub valley of the larger San Antonio Valley that lies approximately seventy miles west of the capital of Santiago.
Rosario Valley is a large, completely enclosed valley of approximately 22,000-plus acres, which lies perpendicular to the nearby Atlantic Ocean. This favorable location provides incredible Mediterranean-type climactic influence that results in temperature variations of more than 50 degrees and is ideal for the maturation of grapes. This natural maritime influence produces cold nights and allows for the vines to regenerate themselves.
The temperature rises during the early morning until midday when a soft sea breeze maintains a temperature of around 79 degrees, near perfect for growing superior grapes. Two distinct types of soils are found in the valley, a clay/granite layer on the hillsides, and another soil, granite and clay mix that is more fertile, but low in nutrients. Both soil types are excellent for producing low yield fruit.
Vina Matetic Winery
The Viña Matetic Winery is just barely a decade old (it was started in 1999) and came into existence when the Matetic Family decided to diversify its businesses and invest in a winery operation. Jorge Matetic (Don Jorge in Chile) had interests in sheep, cattle, farming and tourist development before entering the wine business. When he and his family finally made their decision, they forged forward in a most remarkable manner.
The Matetics decided to make their new winery a biodynamic entity, a fact that bears explanation. One of a small handful of biodynamic wineries, Viña Matetic must follow rigid guidelines before its fruit can be certified biodynamic. Simply put, biodynamic farming (relative to grape growing) insures that the principles and practices of biodynamics are based on a spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but also includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system. Involved are the cycles of the moon, exact temperature and humidity control and a number of manure enhancing practices that makes biodynamic farming a good deal more expensive than regular farming.
When making his decision to go biodynamic, Jorge Matetic noted that a number of the greatest vineyards and wineries had already converted to biodynamic farming. The likes of famed Napa winery Grgich Hills has taken the step along side such notables as Burgundy’s Comtes Lafon, Leflaive and perhaps the most revered wine producer on the planet, Domaine de la Romanée Conti. In Alsace, there is Domaine Weinbach, Deiss and Zind-Humbrecht. In the Rhône, it is Chapoutier. In the Loire Valley, there is Coulée de la Serrant, whose owner, Nicolas Joly, could be considered the John the Baptist of the movement. Around the globe, there is tremendous credence to the biodynamic movement.
For Viña Matetic, all ninety acres of their vineyards are biodynamic. With a total production of fewer than 3,500 cases, Viña Matetic is tiny by world standards. Nevertheless, its wines have won major awards on the international wine scene and should continue to do so for many years to come.
“We chose this path because we love nature and the outdoors,” Matetic was recently quoted as explaining. “This system involves harnessing the forces of nature to act with positive energy.
For example, if a bug is bad for crops, find another bug to eat it. When you treat the plants that are naturally good, this is evidenced in the vineyard, because when our neighbors are affected by frost we are not. Moreover, this form of production can get better prices.” Jorge Matetic has built a marvelous, modern wine facility that overlooks the slopes of the Rosario Valley near the Pacific Ocean. Its modernistic design and architectural stances fits in well with its selective type of farming and winemaking.
The 'Corralillo' on the label represents the name of the still standing century-old wine cellar and winery in Rosario Valley where wine of the old Mission grape was once made.
The three varietals featured with this International Series selection are all estate grown in the San Antonio Valley appellation. All the Corralillo Pinot Noir is hillside fruit from Matetic's oldest organic vineyards. The vines are extremely low production and the tannins produced allow for near perfect maturation, so necessary for a truly fine Pinot Noir. The Corralillo Winemaker's Blend combines four red varietals - Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot - each grown in the San Antonio Valley region that benefits from its Mediterranean climate.
Finally, the Corralillo Chardonnay is produced from vineyards located in the Rosario Valley, a new sub region of the larger San Antonio Valley appellation. The soils here consist of granite in various stages of decomposition, some characterized by a higher proportion of quartz and others in volcanic decomposed materials. The different topographies were both essential and ideal for the optimal growth of the vines, resulting in high quality fruit and excellent varietal expression.
If ever there was a completely thought out winery and vineyards, Viña Matetic is most certainly the operation that comes to mind. Helped most assuredly by the entire new wave Chilean wine movement, Viña Matetic will continue to gain in statue and prestige in the following years. It is our pleasure to have introduced this marvelous winery for your enjoyment.