The Maycas Range

Marcelo Papa

The Maycas range, based in Chile's Limarí Valley, is a super-premium project that was launched by Chilean giants Concha y Toro in 2005. In the Inca language, Quechua, Maycas means 'arable lands'. The Inca influence is also clearly visible in Maycas' labels, particularly in the use of the colour turquoise in their images: turquoise is found in the Limarí valley and was the stone of Incan royalty.

Chief winemaker Marcelo Papa - who has been working for Concha y Toro since 1998 - has been the driving force behind the project. Although the Limarí Valley was previously just a pisco and table-wine grape area, Marcelo saw the potential of the vineyards and persuaded Concha to invest. Unusually for Concha they also purchased a separate winery for the production the Maycas range.

Marcelo has been celebrated for having a unique talent for imprinting his distinctive mark on each wine he makes, and Maycas wines are no exception. He is also assisted by Javier Villarroel, who has been with Concha since 2000 but previously has experience both throughout Chile and in St. Emilion.

In the words of Marcelo, 'Maycas del Limarí wines capture the spirit of the valley, unveiling the freshness and minerality of this land of cold light.' Indeed, it is the nature of the valley, with its proximity to the ocean and many varied soil types and climates, which is key to the character of the Maycas wines.

Limarí is a desert, covered in cacti, but a cool one. Rainflall is about 100mm. A vine needs 700mm a year to survive so irrigation is necessary. A gap in the coastal range to the northwest allows air cooled by the 14°C Pacific Ocean to penetrate inland. About 25km from the coast at Quebrada Seca, for example, where Maycas' top chardonnay comes from, the average maximum in the hottest month is 26°C, like Puligny-Montrachet. This cool climate and the calcareous soils give chardonnay from Quebrada Seca a marked mineral character.

Generally speaking, sauvignon blanc is planted nearest to the coast where the climate is cooler, whereas pinot noir and chardonnay are planted further inland in limestone-based, high-density vineyards where they fare better. Even further inland syrah is planted, where the rocky and granite soils helps to control vigour and produce excellent, tarry wines, and furthermost from the sea is where the best cabernet plantings are found.

Maycas cultivate vineyards both north and south of the Limarí river, but two vineyards in particular are notable for Society members. The first is San Julián, planted south of the river, and the source for most of the pinot noir used in the Maycas Reserva and Especial ranges. There are 19 hectares of pinot here in all, planted on alluvial, red clay loam, and quality of the fruit was even better than expected. What is exceptional about these wines is the mid-palate weight, a desirable character that so many Chilean pinots lack.

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