Few will realise that Undurraga actually began as far back as 1879 when Francisca Undurraga Vicuña began bringing European grape cuttings back to his native Chile. He brought pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon from France and gewürztraminer and riesling from Germany, transporting the cuttings in lead capsules to stop them wilting in the extreme heat.
Viña Undurraga was officially founded in 1885 and had its first harvest in 1891. It was the first Chilean winery to export to the US, in 1903, and Undurraga wine won its first international award as early as 1910. By the 1940s the company was already producing 30,000 bottles a year, rising to almost half a million bottles by the 1960s, a portion of which they exported to around 60 countries. During this time they enjoyed visits from royalty, as well as first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong!
Throughout the final decades of the 20th century the company continued to grow. However, when millionaire José Yuraszeck took ownership in 2006, Undurraga underwent significant modernisation. Part of this was the introduction of the TH or 'Terroir Hunter' range - which seeks out wines which combine the best match of climate, soil and grape variety.
Undurraga's vineyard area now stands at 1,800ha, which is managed by Agricultural Manager Francisco Valdivieso. The vineyards occupy various popular vine-growing sites across Chile, each of which is chosen for its suitability to particular grape varieties. Like many Chilean producers, Undurraga attempts to practise environmentally friendly viticulture, and interferes with nature as little as possible. With that in mind, the company uses drip irrigation in its vineyards, as it has proven the most effective both in terms of fruit quality and caring for their surroundings.
Winemaking is managed by Rafael Urrejola, one of Chile's brightest young winemakers, who is also responsible for the TH range. Undurraga has two state-of-the-art winemaking cellars with a 20 million-litre capacity, so Rafael is also assisted by talented winemakers Carlos Concha and Patricio Lucero. In addition, Undurraga receives support from renowned oenologist Alvaro Espinoza, and Frenchman Philippe Coulon advises them on the production of their sparkling wine.
The cool underground cellars, dating back to Undurraga's beginnings in the nineteenth century, provide the ideal environment for ageing their Reserva wines. Unsurprisingly, Undurraga wines continue to win a host of prestigious awards each year, with its premium wines achieving consistently high scores amongst critics.