How the other half lives: a weekend on the coast

Finding a favourite carmenère and staying on the coast in one of Chile's oldest houses

Spending time with Cristóbal Undurraga of Viña Koyle is always a great experience, not just because he is a talented winemaker who is always experimenting, but because he is also that rare thing in Chile – a winemaker who lives with his family on the vineyard. He doesn't just make the wines, but also tends the vines, meaning he has an intimate knowledge of his land, more in the tradition of a European winemaker. And for visitors, you are welcomed into the family home, which is always a pleasure when you have been staying in hotels for weeks.

Chickens in the vineyards of Viña Koyle Chickens in the vineyards of Viña Koyle

One of the best Chilean carmenères I have tasted

Koyle is a native flower which grows in the mountains near the property Koyle is a native flower which grows in the mountains near the property

On the day I arrived, we spent the morning tasting at Cristobal's winery, Koyle (pronounced 'koy-leh' and named after the beautiful native flower that grows on the hillsides here). There was a superb batch of carmenère which I thought was so good it should be bottled separately. It comes from a low-yielding block named G2, high up the slope where the vineyards are situated. Here there is very little soil but the bedrock is a friable basalt which the roots can easily penetrate looking for water reserves in the fissures of the rock.

This vineyard is coolish for carmenère and makes a firm, fresh style which is beautifully balanced. Many carmenères for me are too jammy and difficult to drink, but this shows off its Bordeaux heritage and is cedary scented and fine flavoured. It has the catchy name Koyle Cerro Basalto Cuartel G2 2015 and is one of the best carmenères from Chile I have tasted, and I'm delighted to say it's exclusive to us.

Cristóbal's exciting new project on the coast

I then headed off with Cristóbal to see a new project he is working on as a consultant at Bucalemu, which is on the coast of the Rapel region. It is owned by Renato Peñafiel, a high-flying financier. He was one of the so-called 'Chicago Boys' who, after studying for MBAs in Chicago taught by eminent economist Milton Friedman, came back to Chile to help reform the country, transforming it into a low-tariff, free-market, free-trade economy. 'Fancy a job in the UK?' I remarked as we discussed the Brexit referendum results.

Renato Peñafiel's house in Bucalemu Renato Peñafiel's house in Bucalemu is one of Chile's oldest in Chile. Cristobal Undurraga (2nd from left) is making wine here for Renato (in the brimmed hat)

Renato Peñafiel lives in a 300-year-old house, one of the oldest in Chile. It is made of adobe, built in the colonial style, formed of a series of square courtyards, some with tinkling fountains. Verandas shade the walls from the heat. There are family photos with him and past presidents of Chile and a family chapel. The grounds have some ancient Chilean palms and herds of deer.

We visit the vineyards and return in the late afternoon to taste the wines. The vineyards are a work in progress. The cool climate is ideal for the varieties planted here – sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir. The wines were good but I thought not quite good enough. Some fine tuning of the vineyard is required to even up the ripening of the vineyard and the irrigation system needs improving. However, the wines are promising and Cristóbal is on the case. It will be fascinating to chart his progress.

From wine to rodeos

After a tranquil night's sleep, on Saturday morning we were given an insight into Renato and his son's passion for Chilean rodeo. We had a viewing of his stable of 20 or so horses, a Chilean breed with a particularly strong neck, and a demonstration of one of the disciplines of Chilean rodeo. This is where two horsemen place themselves each side of a galloping cow and guide it to a halt along the rails in a circular arena. It is done without ropes. The horse places its head on the cow to steer it to a standstill - I think that's why it needs a strong neck! At some stages the horses are almost galloping sideways, and many years are needed to train them to be able to manoeuvre in this way.

Rodeo Chilean-style, whereby the horses lay their heads on either side of the cow to steer it to a standstill Rodeo Chilean-style, whereby the horses lay their heads on either side of the cow to steer it to a standstill

Some R & R Chilean style

After lunch we headed north up the coast to Cachagua, near Zapallar, for some rest and recreation. It's a stylish resort on the coast - about two hours from the capital Santiago - where the well-off have weekend houses. Chile is a highly centralised country with some 6 million of the 18 million population living in Santiago. Many people's families are based in the capital, as this is where there are the best schools and hospitals, and nearly all companies are headquartered here. It's quite a noisy city with skyscrapers and traffic jams, but Chile is such a narrow country that it's easy to escape the capital. Go east and you can be in ski resorts in an hour and a bit, or head west to the coast and you can be surfing in a couple of hours.

Parts of the coast resemble California's Big Sur, with gnarled cypresses buffeted by the sea breezes on the rocky coastline. The Pacific produces massive pounding waves and one soon succumbs to its comforting rhythm. Some houses have infinity pools with amazing views of the rocks and surf below and wonderful gardens. The sun is shining, there is no wind, the sea is a deep azure colour, the manicured gardens are full of flowers, it's 18°C - and this is mid-winter! Pelicans fish and then relax on the rocks in the sun.

Near the coast at Cachagua Near the coast at Cachagua
Pelicans relaxing on the coast Pelicans relaxing on the coast

Winemakers tend to be good chefs. Cristobal spent about four years in Argentina and is a master of the asado or barbecue, both fish and meat (read more about the art of the barbecue next). As he lights the wood fire and we wait for the embers to glow white we have a couple of beers on the veranda of the house overlooking the sea. Lobster tails and entraña, which is gooseneck skirt or onglet in French, are on the menu, with the odd glass of wine of course! It's the perfect end to a fascinating couple of days, quite a departure from my usual buying trips, before returning the next day to Santiago, and reality!

Infinity Pool
How the other half lives!
How the other half lives!

Where to go next?

> A sentimental journey

> Return to trip overview

More from this trip

Trip homepage >

Other recent buyer trips

Discovering Washington

Washington, USA 2016

Discovering Washington

Buyer Freddy Bulmer visits one of the USA’s most up-and-coming wine regions to discover its potential and meet the producers shaping the future of the region.

View full trip
Argentina: the present and the future


Argentina: the present and the future

Argentina's malbecs, with their softly alluring, fruit-forward charm, are deservedly in vogue. I've been buying South American wine for over two decades and have been excited to see the increasing variety and nuance.

View full trip

Portugal 2015

Douro top to toe

Digital analyst and keen wine student David Mitchell joins buyer Joanna Locke MW on a revelatory three-day tour of the Douro Valley.

View full trip

Cognac 2017

Getting to know Cognac

Emma Briffett learns about the dedication put into creating our Society and Exhibition Cognacs, even witnessing one of them being blended, and changes from a relative Cognac novice to an avid enthusiast.

View full trip

Champagne 2015

The Pull of Pol

Buyer Pierre Mansour and head of copy Paul Trelford visit Champagne house Pol Roger, ‘the world’s most drinkable address’ and find out more about the importance of ageing and the date of disgorgement.

View full trip
The Glories of the Loire

Loire 2016

The Glories of the Loire

Cheryl Lee joins Joanna Locke MW on a trip to the Loire to get an early taste of the 2015 Muscadet vintage, before heading to Saumur to blend our latest Crémant.

View full trip
Browse all >

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.


4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies: Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.