Now cel­e­brat­ing 30 years of har­vest, Don Mel­chor is one of the world’s finest Caber­net Sau­vi­gnons. Wine­maker En­rique Ti­rado tells us why


En­rique Ti­rado, Don Mel­chor

This month, we speak to wine­maker En­rique Ti­rado of Chilean wine­mak­ing pow­er­house Viña Con­cha y Toro. He heads up pro­duc­tion at Don Mel­chor, the com­pany’s cel­e­brated Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and one of the old­est icon wines of the New World, in the vine­yards of Puente Alto. Un­der his purview, Don Mel­chor is one of Chile’s fore­most and most il­lus­tri­ous la­bels, con­sis­tently win­ning 90 points and above in Wine Spec­ta­tor and other note­wor­thy in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tions.

I’m fas­ci­nated by how we can cre­ate some­thing new with every vin­tage.

The wine­mak­ing process in­volves a lot of art and pas­sion on my part to show­case the very best of the Puente Alto vine­yard. The most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent is the ter­roir. We have stony soil, which is very im­por­tant if you want to make the best qual­ity Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon. And we en­joy Mediter­ranean weather moder­ated by our close prox­im­ity to the An­des moun­tain, so we ex­pe­ri­ence cool nights and warm days—very con­trast­ing tem­per­a­tures be­tween day and night.

We also have a very unique par­celling con­cept that al­lows us to main­tain the com­plex­ity, fi­nesse and bal­ance that Don Mel­chor is known for.

We sub­di­vide the vine­yard into many dif­fer­ent small parcels of land. Each par­cel has the same soil ori­gins, but in some parcels we have stonier soil with big­ger stones, and oth­ers con­tain­ing a larger com­po­si­tion of clay and lime. Some parcels also con­tain more wa­ter. This gives us very dif­fer­ent root de­vel­op­ment across the var­i­ous parcels. In to­tal, we have 127 hectares that are sub­di­vided into 142 parcels.

We har­vest and vinify each par­cel separately, giv­ing us 100 to 150 dif­fer­ent wines from the vine­yard.

The idea is to un­leash the grapes’ full po­ten­tial by man­ag­ing the dif­fer­ent har­vest times. Then, we taste all the dif­fer­ent wines and make the blend over three or four days.

With dif­fer­ent aro­mas, dif­fer­ent flavours and dif­fer­ent lay­ers, each par­cel adds to the fi­nal blend.

Each year since Don Mel­chor’s first vin­tage in 1987, we’ve worked with the late renowned Bordeaux wine con­sul­tant Jacques Bois­senot, and now his son Eric, on achiev­ing the per­fect fi­nal blend.

2017 has been a fan­tas­tic year for Don Mel­chor.

Every year presents a new chal­lenge for us—this year it was in the form of man­ag­ing the ripen­ing sea­sons and main­tain­ing the bal­ance of the vine­yard in light of the warmer-than-usual year. None­the­less, I do be­lieve the vin­tage from this year will be one of the best ones yet.

We’re al­ways work­ing to­wards the next vin­tage.

You al­ways need to be look­ing for­ward to the next 10 years or more. Right now, we’re ren­o­vat­ing the vine­yard and look­ing into the ir­ri­ga­tion and prun­ing sys­tems. We’re also plant­ing new parcels, which we will see the re­sults of in about five years.

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