Producer: Vina Millaman
Region/Appellation: Curico Valley
Country Hierarchy: Chile
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Bold and Structured
Alcohol Content: 14%
Awards: International Wine Challenge, 2016: Bronze
Curico Valley Wine
Curico Valley is a wine-producing region in central Chile, located roughly 115 miles (185km) south of the capital, Santiago. It is divided into two sub-regions: Teno in the north and Lontue in the south. The valley is known for its reliable, good-value everyday wines, particularly the reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Curico Valley in Autumn © Matt Wilson/Wines of Chile
Curico was the wine region of choice for Spanish wine legend Miguel Torres when he began his foray into Chilean wine in 1979. Torres brought with him from Spain a number of winemaking techniques and technologies which have had a significant impact on the Chilean wine industry. In those days, Curico was considered to be a southern part of the sprawling Maule wine region, but is now recognized as a region in its own right. The presence of several well-respected and well-established wineries in Curico almost certainly supported the case for its individual recognition.
The valley’s climate is varied. The eastern part – closer to the Andes Mountains – is cooler than the western as it benefits from breezes coming down from the slopes of the Andes. In this way, it differs from regions further north, where the western ends of the valleys, being influenced by the Pacific Ocean, are generally cooler. In Curico, however, the hills of the Coastal Ranges dissipate the effect of east–west air movements. The major centers of production and the established names of Curico Valley wine (Echeverria, Montes, San Pedro, Torres and Valdivieso) are located around the cooler eastern towns of Curico and Molino.
The meltwater rivers Lontue and Teno that flow through Curico Valley before converging to form the Mataquito River have a significant effect on viticulture here. The region’s soils are derived from limestone and volcanic rock from the Andes and have been deposited in the valley over time by the rivers (alluvial) as well as by gravity (colluvial). While these soils are slightly more fertile than in other, more quality-focused wine regions of Chile, they are sufficiently high yielding to cement Curico Valley’s reputation as a quality bulk-producing region.
Curico’s vineyards are planted with more varieties than anywhere else in Chile. The dominant grapes, however, remain the same as they were when the region first appeared on the international wine map: Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Curico may have yet to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon to rival Maipo’s red wines and its Sauvignon Blanc still does not match the fresh, complex style found in Casablanca, but the valley is one of Chile’s workhorse regions and its output is consistent and reliable.
Malbec is a black-skinned grape variety native to southwestern France (specifically the area around Cahors), but now better known as the iconic wine grape of Argentina. Through its success in the vineyards of Mendoza, in a few short decades Malbec has shot from relative obscurity to international fame, simultaneously bringing newfound attention and respect to Argentina as a wine-producing nation.
Malbec typically ripens midway through the growing season and produces small, intensely colored grapes. As it is so sensitive to its growing environment, the level of ripeness has a considerable effect on the structure of the eventual wine. Broadly speaking, French Malbec tends to be more meaty, rustic and tannic, while examples from Argentina seem to be uniformly rich, ripe, jammy and juicy. On both sides of the Atlantic, Malbec wines are generally aged in oak to enhance the wine’s structure and aging potential.
A mature Malbec vine in Mendoza
In France, Malbec is the grape of Cahors. It must constitute a minimum of 70 percent of any AOC Cahors wine, accompanied by rich, round Merlot and rustic, tannic Tannat. It is also a common ingredient in red wines from Bordeaux, as a constituent of the classic Bordeaux Blend. In both of these regions the variety has traditionally gone by its local name – Cot – but, due to the success of Malbec in Argentina, it is increasingly known by this more internationally recognized name. In the Loire Valley, Malbec is blended with Cabernet Francand Gamay, sometimes as part of a sparkling Saumur wine.
The 20th Century presented some significant setbacks for Malbec as a vine variety. Its importance in Bordeaux was significantly reduced after the great frost of 1956, which killed off many of the region’s oldest vines. In the years following this, most vignerons chose to replant their vineyards not with Malbec, but with more reliable, economically viable varieties such as Merlot. Malbec suffered similar losses during Argentina’s national vine-pull scheme in the late 1980s, during which a vast number of Malbec vines (including some of the South America’s oldest) were uprooted.
Susceptibility to frost and coulure has done little to endear the variety to European vignerons, but in the higher, drier climes of South America, Malbec has really come into its own. Argentinian Malbec vines produce a wide range of wine styles. At lower altitudes, the variety’s skins tend to be thinner, and the fruit soft and supple – ideal for rosés and mass-produced reds (carbonic maceration is sometimes used to create an approachable, light red wine for summer). Further up, on the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains, the variety develops a thicker skin and a deeper concentration of flavor. Wines from these altitudes (particularly above 3000ft/1000m) are more aromatic and have intense, vibrant coloring, and rank among the most respected of all South American wines. Argentina’s very highest vineyards, in the Salta province, reach altitudes of almost 10,000ft (3050m) above sea level, and are among the very highest in the world. These are typically planted with Malbec, along with the nation’s iconic white-wine variety Torrontes.
Malbec forms part of the Meritage blend in the United States, and has a strong presence in California. In Australia and New Zealand, it is frequently blended with the softer, less tannic Merlot, to produce bright, fruit-driven wines against a backbone of oak. Plums and violets are common flavor descriptors.
Synonyms include: Cot, Cahors, Auxerrois, Malbeck.
Food matches include:
- Sirloin of Ibérico pork
- Braised lamb shoulder with roasted parsnips
- Fillet steak with chimichurri
Here’s a look at Malbec in its adopted homeland…
(sources : wine-searcher)