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Chile’s early pinots put the accent unashamedly on the fruit – as buyer Toby Morrhall puts it, ‘they had a beginning and and an end; this has middle too’. With an inviting black-cherry perfume and a firm, fine structure to support the grape’s pretty fruit, this wine from Undurraga’s excellent ‘Terroir Hunter’ range shows the quantum leaps being made here.
Product Code: CE10841
View all products by Viña Undurraga SA
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. One of the results 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.
The Spanish conquerors introduced vinifera vines to Chile, and with them the establishment of vineyards for winemaking, in the middle of the 16th century, and the area around the capital Santiago has a history of winemaking stretching back nearly four and a half centuries. By the middle of the 19th century the Chilean wine industry was well established, but was making fairly rustic fare and it was a well-travelled local called Silvestre Ochagavia Echazzarreta who, in 1851, brought a French winemaker and a cargo of vine cuttings back from his travels to France and set a new era in motion.Robust domestic consumption kept demand, and tax revenue, high in the 20th century until domestic drinkers turned away in the 1970s and 1980s and many vineyards were pulled during the unsettling political upheavals of the former decade. The return of democracy stimulated investment and growth and a forward thinking, export oriented industry pointed to a brighter future.Quality begins, absolutely in the vineyard. In the last ten years Chile has begun to plant vineyards not just by matching variety and climate, which it has done very well up to now, but by mapping and analysing soils before planting. This new generation of soil-mapped vineyards planted in the last decade, with higher density, rootstocks and drip irrigation, or no irrigation, is now just starting to bear fruit and will revolutionise the quality of Chilean wines.Chile became first known for its cheap cabernets and merlots made from high yields in the fertile, warm, flat, flood-irrigated Central Valley. However, Chile is no longer a cheap country to buy from. Its economy is based on copper. It is the world's largest producer. Booming demand from China has seen its currency, the peso, strengthen, much like the Australian dollar which has been buoyed by its mineral resources. Labour for the wine industry is becoming more expensive and scarcer as it has to compete with the highly profitable mining industry which can afford to pay more. Energy costs have risen rapidly. It is estimated that half the vineyard area of Chile, about 62,500ha, is less than 15 years old. It probably takes 8-20 years to pay back a vineyard, and about 30 for a bodega. In Spain one can buy lovely 60-year-old-vine garnacha from co-operatives in Calatayud or Navarra at very cheap prices. The capital costs of the vineyard and winery have long been absorbed and the old vines offer lovely quality too.There are massive viticultural possibilities. This remarkable 3,000-mile-long country includes all the world's climates apart from sub-tropical and tropical. Grape varieties need different climates to prosper and Chile can accommodate them all.Many of Chile's cheap wines came from the flat, fertile and warm Central Valley, ideal for ripening large crops of very good entry-level wines. Before the advent of drip irrigation only these flat vineyards were suitable for flood irrigation. However, these flat lands were also situated in a warm climate and had fertile soils. The availability of drip irrigation allowed the planting of the cooler and less fertile south facing slopes, and availability of rootstocks allowed a greater diversity of soils to be planted.From Elqui in the north to Rapel in the middle of the country the rainfall increases from 90mm to 550mm. This lack of rainfall means Chile is free from most fungal diseases and has some of the healthiest grapes in the world. Water reserves from snow in the Andes, and the advent of drip irrigation (a vine needs about 700mm a year to survive) has allowed cool south-facing slopes, with less fertile soils, to be cultivated and yields controlled. From Maule down to Bío-Bío rainfall increases from 550 to 1,500mm and there are many unirrigated vineyards here.As well as the north to south dynamic, there is also a huge temperature variation east to west. Dr Richard Smart, a viticulture guru, says that to combat global warming viticulturists should head to the mountains or to the coast. Chile has both. More vineyards are being planted in the Andes mountains up to 2,000m, where average temperature decreases by 0.6°C with every 100 metres of altitude. The coast, cooled by the 14°C Pacific Ocean, has spawned a remarkable recent growth in vineyards. First came Casablanca (1982), then Leyda (1998), swiftly followed by Limarí (2005), Elqui, Aconcagua and Rapel. In between, the Central Valley and its offshoots like Apalta and Peumo are much warmer and are typically ideal for carmenère, and the southern Rhône varieties which are starting to appear, or for ripening large crops of cabernet and merlot to make cheaper wines.If Chile has successfully understood the matching of climate with grape variety, what it did not do, until recently, other than by accident, was to match the climate and variety with the right soil. There has been a step change in the quality of vineyards planted in the last 10 years or so. Knowledge about the soil following scientific analysis, appropriate planting density, choice of rootstocks, excellent clonal and massale selections of grape varieties, ability to plant cooler and less fertile south-facing slopes with the advent of drip irrigation (flood irrigation can only cope with virtually flat land) have all conspired to revolutionise the quality of vineyards planted in the past decade or so.For a more detailed examination of Chile and its regions please go to our How To Buy Chile section of our web site.
2016 was a cool year, with quite a lot of cloud. There was significant rain in most of the central areas, Maipo and Colchagua, over 14/15 April between 150-200mm, then again on 23rd there was about 50mm. The north, LImarí and Elqui, and the south, Maule and Itata, were much less affected. There are really two vintages, one before and one after. Before the rain the cool year saw flavour ripeness develop at low sugar levels with excellent coastal whites and pinots.It was carmenere in Maipo and Colchagua that got hit. Concha y Toro and Undurraga harvested most of their Maipo cabernets before the rains and these are fresh and fine. However, cabernet harvested after the rains, and most Colchagua carmenère rotted. Stefano Gandolini sold off his Maipo cabernet for bulk processing as it rotted so there will be no 2016. There are good wines from Maule as only about 50mm fell at this time.The cooler conditions suited sauvignon blanc very well and there are many fine examples at all levels.
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"Colour: Black cherry fading to a red rim.
Aroma: Med-intensity, savoury and earthy, smoke, mushroom, damp soil, forest floor and nettles with lesser fruity tones of raspberry, cherry and plum.
Taste: Dry, med- body, flat acidity, very little tannin, hollow. The palate like the nose is very earthy but dull. Bitter touch to the decent length finish.
Overall: A bit disappointed, very one-dimensional, needs more fruit, acidity and tannin to add robustness, it just lacks solidity and comes across as a bit flat. Drinkable but wanted more for the money."
Mr Gabriel Higgins (20-Jan-2020)
"One of the best wines I have tasted in the last 50 years! I hope that the WS make this one available in future. It is everything a Chilean Pinot Noir drinker would want. I actually score this 6 out of 5."
Mr John S Corbett (11-Jan-2020)
"Excellent wine for the price - pity it's now out of stock!"
Mr Steven Bliss (30-Aug-2019)
"great taste, very full flavoured wine and great with a good steak.. highly recommended!. will order again"
Mr Philip Latham (04-Aug-2019)
"A great example of the progress of Chilean PN. A brilliant shade of cherry red catches the eye, and it's the cherry fruit that pushes to the front of the scent, among redcurrants and raspberries. Plenty of fruity depth to the flavour as well, with more of the cherry and raspberry, along with blackcurrants and touches of wood and smoke."
Mr Addam Merali-Hosiene (01-Aug-2019)
"Good Pinot Noir is a rare beast. And yet this is the 2nd excellent bottle in a week! From Burgundy, Sylvain Pataille Bourgogne Rouge 2016; and for the New World this one from Chile is perhaps even better. Unlike most new world P.N. the oak is restrained, it's medium bodied not jammy, and a wonderful perfume. Could be that my search for worthwhile P.N. is concluded. "
Mr Tim Potts (21-Jul-2019)
"Very impressed with the quality of this. Very old world 'pinot' on the nose, pungent menthol, fennel, and riped cherries. It has nerve, grip and length on the palate, very accomplished wine at this price point."
Mr Juan Trujillo Andrades (01-Jul-2019)
"Excellent pinot noir. Dark colour, enough body for a fairly rich paella, and approachable soon after opening."
Mr Colin Mitchell (11-Jun-2019)
"Enjoyed this cellar cool. Ruby, almost opaque colour. The nose has pungent menthol, eucalyptus, mint leaf, raspberry and black cherry. The palate has delicious ripe black cherry fruit and the unmistakable whiff of menthol which helps clear the nostrils and gives it a power that the weight of the wine belies. Interesting and distinctive take on Pinot Noir."
Mr David Peters (11-Mar-2019)
"Cherry nose definitely present, but not much fruit in the mouth. Quite acidic. Gains body, thicker mouthfeel with air. Best when paired with food. A bit too acidic to drink on its own. 3.5/5."
Mr Barry Kelly (08-May-2018)
"A beautifully judged and excellent value pinot noir."
Mr Toby Jones (08-May-2018)
"Good nose quite well balanced but a bit tart for a Pinot, not obviously new world in style and certainly not as obviously fruit driven in flavour as are most Chilean Pinots."
Mr John Wigglesworth (18-Aug-2017)
"Perfectly nice but not exciting. Good balance if a little sweet. Comparably priced US pinot's in this price range are better value."
Mr Colin Mitchell (02-Jun-2017)
Decanter (8th Sep 2016)
Malty, tamed tertiary aromas: leather, earth and tar. Contained palate rich in
spice, herbs and wild red fruit. Fresh and complex in an old-school style. - Panel Tasting"
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