EXQUISITE WINE PAIRING
Nestled at the foot of the imposing Andes Mountains discover Viña Concha y Toro's Puente Alto vineyard, the home of Chile's most celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon – Don Melchor.
We talk to Isabel Mitarakis Guilisasti, co-winemaker of the outstanding Don Melchor wine from Chile’s Concho Y Toro, about winemaking and why Don Melchor wine is so special.
Don Melchor is an iconic wine for Chile, created with painstaking hard work and great skill by a team led by winemaker Enrique Tirado and his cowinemaker Isabel Mitarakis Guilisasti. The first Don Melchor vintage was in 1987 and, over the years, it has won many accolades. Viña Concha y Toro's dedication to tending its vines specifically by block, with each block developing its own specific character, and the subsequent careful blending, among other factors, has resulted in Don Melchor wine consistently making Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the World list, with the 2001, 2003 and 2010 vintages all making the Top 10.
The current 2014 vintage has been distinguished as the Best Cabernet Sauvignon in the most recent report on Chile in Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, which praised the 2014 Don Melchor for “combining power with elegance” and for its “refined tannins and superb balance”, while Wine Spectator gave it 96 points, the highest score for a Chilean wine to date, and placed it on the collectible wines of the year list.
The wine's style, complexity and elegance derives from the perfect balance between rocky soils in Puente Alto, the cold winds from the Andes Mountains, the age of the vines, which are now yielding their finest grapes, and the painstaking work of the Don Melchor team.
Don Melchor, Chile's first iconic wine, has established the Puente Alto terroir as one of the best on the planet for Cabernet Sauvignon and has confirmed this wine as one of the best representatives of Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile, and indeed, the world.
Exquisite Taste was delighted to talk to Isabel when she visited Bali to host a vertical Don Melchor wine dinner at W
Bali – Seminyak to introduce this iconic and prestigious wine to the island's connoisseurs.
: You must be very proud of the recognition the 2014 Don Melchor is receiving. Can you tell us a little about what you think is so special about this particular vintage?
Isabel: It's a superbly balanced wine from a cold vintage with very gentle tannins, but at the same time it has the fresh fruit expression of a warm vintage. It shows great layering, starting with really fresh red fruit, followed by the minerality of the aromas. In the mouth it tastes very soft and round and is very fresh at the end of mouth.
: You’ve brought four Don Melchor vintages to Bali. Could you tell us something about these vintages, and which is your favourite?
I: What is important with Don Melchor wine is the climate condition as it impacts heavily on the character of the grapes and thus that of the wine. We respect each year's conditions and work with them to showcase the best potential of that year's cabernet grapes in Puento Alto; we don't try to make the same
wine year after year. The 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012 that we are drinking this evening show the range of our wine. The 2009 comes from the warmest vintage in the history of Don Melchor and has a very different profile from those from colder vintages, while the 2011, for example, was a cold vintage that gave us very different grapes.
My personal favourite depends on the moment and who I am with, but at this time, I prefer vintages from cool seasons, like the 2010, 2011 and 2014, because I like the very round, smooth tannins. I think for the Indonesian people and the kind of food that they have, the colder vintages are perhaps a better choice.
: You started with Concha Y Toro in 2011 and moved to Don Melchor in 2013. What do you most enjoy about your work with Don Melchor?
I: Don Melchor is like a winery within a winery and our team handles everything, from beginning to end. Working in the vineyard gives you a better understanding of how to manage it to get the best wines. We tend the grapes while they grow, then harvest and vinify those same grapes. We are responsible for the entire process, including maintaining the quality and maximising that potential every year. We are really focused on one wine, so you concentrate harder and learn more about the variables; I think this is one of the reasons why Don Melchor wine is so special. It's very hard work, but I really enjoy it.
: You have a degree in agronomy, specialising in oenology. How do you think your education most benefits your work? I: My family has a vineyard and I grew up around the grapes and listening to everyone talk about the different aspects of grapegrowing and winemaking. When I had to choose a career, agronomy was very natural for me. I chose to specialise in oenology, because I believe it is very important to understand how to make wine, so you can properly manage the vineyard. If you don't know what your ultimate goal is – in this case wine – then you can't manage the earlier stages in the same way.
: Would you share with our readers one of your memorable moments in the wine industry?
I: One year, I was harvesting at Château Mouton Rothschild and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild invited me to lunch at her house. We talked a lot about wine she told me that for her, every vintage of wine is a work of art. There is a lot of science around winemaking, but there is great creativity too; you have to paint a new masterpiece every year. That idea has stuck with me and been a great influence.
To fully showcase these outstanding vintages, W Bali – Seminyak presented wine lovers with an astounding wine pairing dinner at FIRE. The six-course extravaganza delighted the guests and showed remarkable skill in the pairings. Of particular note was the roasted foie gras udon in duck consommé paired with the 2012 vintage. The wine showed a beautiful balance between freshness and tannins that was sublime with the meaty flavour of this surprisingly light dish. The duo of Australian lamb was a splendid melding with the robust 2009 vintage, while the impressive fresh fruit expression, abundant aromas and flavours, along with the high concentration of very fine tannins of the 2011 were a perfect match for the generous selection of AOC cheeses.
The 2014 Don Melchor is currently being prepared for shipping and will soon be available in Indonesia at Vin+ shops. We highly recommend those who love the finer things in life place their orders soon!
Isabel Mitarakis Guilisasti
Isabel Mitarakis Guilisasti