Producer: Almaviva Winery
Region/Appellation: Puente Alto
Country Hierarchy: Maipo Valley, Chile
Grape/Blend: Bordeaux Blend Red
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Bold and Structured
Alcohol Content: 14 – 15%
Notes: Ownership: A joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Concha Y Toro.
Puente Alto Wine
Puente Alto is a wine-producing region within the Maipo Valley on the southern fringes of the Chilean capital of Santiago. The area was one of the first in Chile to be recognised as having a distinct terroir for the production of wine, in a country that is historically better known for high production than for high quality. The Cabernet Sauvignon that is produced in Puente Alto is held in high regard and commands some of the highest prices in Chile.
The Maipo River flows through Puente Alto on its route from the Andean peaks to the Pacific Ocean, into which it flows just near San Antonio. The eastward growth of Santiago is prevented rather dramatically by the steep slopes of the lower Andes Mountains, which rise from 2000ft (600m) to peaks of 9800ft (3000m) within just a few miles. Puente Alto itself stands at an altitude of roughly 2300ft (700m), and it is this altitude, combined with the presence of a bridge over the Maipo River, that gives the area its name, which means ‘high bridge’ in Spanish.
The coat of arms of Puente Alto © Wikimedia/B1mbo
The terroir here is heavily influenced by the Andes. The soil is considered by most growers to be the ace in Puente Alto’s hand, and is made up of Andean rocks brought down into the region by the Maipo River. This alluvial soil is dry and free-draining, limiting the vigor of the vines and resulting in the production of small, concentrated berries. The resultant wines have a good structure and firm tannins and are said to get their minerality from this soil.
The Andes have a significant effect on the climate in Puente Alto. Vineyards are shaded in the morning as the sun rises over the mountain range, and warm, sunny afternoons are then followed by colder nights cooled by alpine winds. The altitude of the area exacerbates this diurnal temperature variation, slowing the ripening of the berries overnight. This leads to a balance of flavor and acidity in the wines of Puente Alto.
Vines arrived in the region in the 1800s, spreading south from the pioneering Cousino Macul vineyard north of the Maipo River. Any description of Puente Alto as a wine-producing area must reference the great names Almaviva and Don Melchor – the two wines that put the area on the viticultural map. Vinedo Chadwick is also based in Puente Alto and has cemented the region’s prestige by winning international competitions and awards. The Berlin Tasting of 2004 pitched this Puente Alto wine against Chateaux Lafite, Latour and Margaux and Italian greats Sassicaia and Tignanello. The panel of 36 European judges voted Vinedo Chadwick as the top wine, making history for Chile’s wine industry and breaking the image of the country as a producer only of ‘good-value Merlot’.
While Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the majority of plantings in Puente Alto, the region also produces good examples of Syrah, Carmenere and Chardonnay.
A Bordeaux Blend, at its most basic, is any combination of those grape varieties typically used to make the red wines of Bordeaux. The phrase, which seems to have originated with British wine merchants in the 19th Century, relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself (© Copyright material, Wine-Searcher.com). Far from being an officially defined or legal term, it is almost never used for wine-labeling purposes (although it occasionally appears on back labels). Its equivalent in the United States is Meritage, which is not only legally defined, but also a registered trademark.
Red Bordeaux Blends are known for their powerful structure and deep flavors. Dark fruits and berries such as plum and blackcurrant are commonly used to describe the flavors of red Bordeaux, although there is an unlimited range of terms that have been ascribed to them. Tannins tend to be relatively high in these wines, giving them a firm structure.
Blending red Bordeaux wine
Cabernet Sauvignon is widely accepted as a compulsory component of any Bordeaux Blend, with Merlot following close behind. In fact, the majority of Bordeaux Blend wines are often made exclusively from a blend of these two varieties. The remaining components are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, used in varying combinations and proportions. Even Carmenere is on the list of possible ingredients, despite being rarely used by modern Bordeaux vineyards (notable exceptions include Haut-Bailly, Brane-Cantenac and Clerc-Milon).
With the global wine industry expanding and developing at pace, the use of the term “Bordeaux Blend” is changing. Although a product of the Old World, it remains a useful concept, allowing the wine industry and enthusiasts everywhere to talk about Bordeaux-style red wines as an international group, irrespective of regionality.
Flexibility and a useful vagueness are key assets of the term “Bordeaux Blend”, but are also its Achilles’ heel; if it becomes too broad or too widely used it will lose its meaning. Is a Bordeaux Blend still a Bordeaux Blend if it contains Zinfandel, Sangiovese or Syrah? Without a formal definition to go by, the answer to that question lies entirely in the collective consciousness of those who use the phrase. Provided that Bordeaux’s vignerons don’t discover a new grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon is only a few hundred years old), the term’s definition remains relatively clear.
The red Bordeaux style has reached almost every winegrowing country, with new candidates looking to emulate Bordeaux’s success. North and South America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all have their own expressions of the Bordeaux Blend. Even countries in North Africa and the Middle East produce their own interpretations of the style.
For more information on the various permutations of the Bordeaux Blend, please see Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot, Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc – Merlot.
Food matches for Bordeaux Blend wines include:
- Steak entrecôte marchand de vin (red-wine sauce and shallots)
- Grass-fed wagyu rib-eye fillet
- Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic
(sources : wine-searcher)