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Fine, pretty, cedary Chilean cabernet franc from Tabalí's Espinal vineyard, aged in barrels for about a year.
Product Code: CE10811
View all products by Viña Tabalí
This estate, which began planting vines in 1993, is located on the southern bank of Chile’s northern Limarí Valley, around 400km north of Santiago. About 29km inland from the Pacific ocean, where the average maximum temperature in the hottest month is about 25°C, this is ideal for fine chardonnay and pinot noir. The predominant vegetation is cacti, attesting that this is a desert, with just 90mm of rain a year (Mendoza has 200mm, Santiago 400mm), but it is a cool desert. Despite a series of reservoirs in the Andes, recent years have been very dry, and lack of water may threaten existing vineyards and limit future development.Vineyards are situated on three sites, comprising 300 hectares of vines in total. The site around the winery was originally poorly planted but viticulturist Héctor Rojas has been analysing the soils and planting in the best ones which often have high levels of active calcium carbonate. The new Espinal vineyards, 25 km from the sea, have been planted to a density of about 7000 vines a hectare, drip irrigated, and planted with excellent clones and French sélections massales of pinot noir and chardonnay from French nursery Guillaume. The first crop of chardonnay appeared in 2013 and is already showing a huge promise. Syrah from near the winery has also been a huge success. The second site is in the Talinay mountains just about 12km from the coast, with significant wind, which reduces crop at flowering and limits photosynthesis (and so maturity). What is remarkable here is both the very low temperature of about 23°C (the average maximum in the hottest month), which makes this one of the coolest vineyards in Chile, and the so far unique white limestone soil, with some clay, a marine terrace formed from the shells of sea creatures. Pinot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are planted here and make tense, taut mineral wines, very different from anything else produced in Chile. A range made from grapes grown here is labelled Talinay.The third site is a small experimental site called Rio Hurtado at 1922m above sea level in the mountains. It was planted a couple of years ago, and so far a number of red varieties have been planted. Malbec has been promising but it is early days.The winery reflects the Molle culture of the pre-Columbian era: during this period, the people used to live at the bottom of ravines to protect themselves from the heat and to be nearer to water supplies, and so Tabalí chose to build its winery in the cool depths of a ravine. Gifted winemaker Felipe Müller oversees the production of a handful of ranges, from the keenly priced Reserva range, which showcases the elegance and complexity of single varietals (including syrah, chardonnay, viognier and a sweet, late-harvest muscat) to the more premium Reserva Especial range, made from grapes planted on the oldest alluvial terrace of the Limarí river. The wines are fermented in stainless-steel tanks, and aged in new French oak where appropriate, normally for around a year.Tabalí’s top wine is the exquisite Payen, a 100% syrah grown from a small plot of the estate’s very best vines, which is fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and French oak, and then aged in oak (90% new) for up to 18 months.
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.
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Decanter 2nd Sep 2020
"A cool climate
cabernet franc. Leafy mint with mineral aromas, bright black fruit and barrel
spice. Intense and quite sapid on the palate, well focused acidity, medium body
and textured tannins. 90/100 Alejandro Inglsias"
"An interesting take on the Cab Franc grape. We're definitely not in the Loire here, although the wine isn't a million miles away from the classic expression of the grape's homeland. The colour is certainly familiar, deep dark cherry red with a garnet core, but the nose pushes the ripe sweet brambles fruit way out in front of any capsicum savouriness. It's a good wine though, and fairly unmistakable. There is a stalky 'sapidity' here, which carries over onto the palate, with has a nice harmony between bold, peppery black and blue fruit and drying tannins. The finish is long and nicely rustic, helped by some grainy oak, which is quite judiciously handled. A wine that appreciates some air. Thumbs up from me."
Mr William Thomas (23-Sep-2019)
"Well three and a half is nearer the mark, very dark for a Cab Franc, didn't get a lot on the nose despite opening well in advance, but a tasty mouthful of blackberries chocolate plum, some acidity but a little to alcoholic for me and not much finish other than some spice, as it has already had some bottle age can't see this integrating much more anytime soon.
I have drunk other Chilean Cab Francs none have been so in your face as this one but it is a grape they do quite well."
Mr John Wigglesworth (29-May-2019)
"Layers of chocolate and plums on the nose. Gorgeous, moreish flavours of black raspberries, cherries, liquorice and some herby notes in the flavour. The weight of the high alcohol level definitely benefits from decanting an hour or so before. "
Mr Addam Merali-Hosiene (02-Dec-2018)
"This is an interesting expression of the CF grape. Not so much the fragrant raspberry, herbaceous and lighter style of the Loire but bigger, fuller and more powerful. At 14.5% ABV the advice to decant (back label) is certainly worth following. I'm aware that it's moved into a different type of wine than the CF I enjoy; however that is my preference and not the wine's fault. If you like a big heft of fruit and power with some structure then you'll like this. "
Mr Geoffrey Bolton (27-May-2018)
"Satisfying blend of old world elegance and new world power. Surprisingly full bodied for a Cabernet Franc the rich red fruit and touch of plumminess were ably balanced by decent acidity. This will age and will keep your friends guessing both its grape and provenance. My only comment is that the alcohol was a little high and showed slightly."
Mr Alfred Nicol (11-Apr-2018)
"Proper cab franc with pencil cedar notes & gentle tannin, richer bodied than your typical Saumur Champigny or Chinon. An excellent find by TWS. Perhaps too good for a midweek supper but it shone through accompanying an unusual Jamaican curry goat dish - a surprisingly good match for the allspice & chilli. I'm thinking this would go well with Xmas turkey + cranberry sauce?"
Mr Tim Potts (23-Nov-2017)
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