Viña Ventisquero, and their Apalta Vineyard, Colcghagua, Chile   
Exploring the diversity of Chile's Vineyards, Part 3


Viña Ventisquero was founded in the late 1990s by Gonzalo Vial, owner of Chile’s leading fresh food producer, AgroSuper. With a $2 billion business to his name, Gonzalo isn’t short of cash, and doesn’t really know how to do things small.

However, while Ventisquero is a big winery, it represents just 2% of his total business interests. His father was a farmer, with vineyards and chickens. Apparently, the manure from the birds was used to fertilize the vines. Gonzalo studied at university for just two years, and then returned home to work with the chickens. With 12 brothers, it turned out there was no space to work in the vineyard.

Gonzalo’s two passions are horses and wine, although his biggest is (of course) horses (he’s Chilean), and he’s apparently a bit of a cowboy. He’s a very private man, though, and never gives interviews or travels to export markets to sell his wine.

He brought his first land for vines in 1996, and planted from  1998–2000. The first wines were released in 2000. Most of these vineyards are in the Colchagua region, which sits between two transverse ranges of mountains. It’s Chile’s largest fine wine area. Currently production is 1.2 million cases, of which 85% are exported, largely to the UK, USA and Brazil. 

A significant portion of Ventisquero’s offering is good quality commercial wine, sold in the UK under the Yali name in supermarkets, and Ventisquero in independents and the on-trade. These are good, tasty wines that deliver at these price points, but there's not a great deal to say about them beyond this.

I'm a lot interested in the higher-end offerings under the Grey, Vertice and Pangea labels. From Grey upwards, consultant winemaking advice is provided by John Duval, the Australian winemaker who for many years was custodian of Penfolds’ Grange. Pangea is actually a joint venture with John.  

Chief winemaker Felipe Tosso

We visited the jewel in Ventisquero’s crown: the Roblerìa vineyard in Colchagua’s Apalta subregion. Present were Felipe Tosso (chief winemaker), Nicolás Kowalski (UK brand ambassador), Alejandro Galas (winemaker) and Sergio Hormazabal (winemaker). We were also joined later by famous terroir expert Dr Pedro Parra who has been consulting for Ventisquero since 2006. 

Pedro Parra

Parra gave a long and interesting talk on terroir, with specific reference to the work that has been done at Apalta. Ventisquero's high end wines really do deliver, and I was impressed by the Grey range. Pangea is also very good, although I would really like to see just a little more freshness and definition, perhaps through picking a little earlier. A bit of tannin in a young wine is nothing to be afraid of.  


Viña Ventisquero Grey Chardonnay 2009 Casablanca Valley
From clay and granite soils. Nicely expressive mineral nose with some citrus and toast notes. The palate is fresh with apple and melon fruit. Intense fruit expression with some toasty notes. Elegant, fresh, toasty and persistent. 92/100

Viña Ventisquero Herú 2008 Casablanca Valley
This is a Pinot Noir, made from the Davis Concha y Toro clone vines planted 15 years ago. Fresh and nicely savoury with pure dark cherry fruits and some spice and mineral notes, as well as a hint of coffee oak. Fresh, mineral and savoury with good acidity, showing freshness as well as fruit richness. 90/100

Viña Ventisquero Grey Merlot 2008 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
This has 10% Syrah and 5% Carmenere in the blend. Sweet, aromatic, gravelly and savoury with some mineral character on the nose, as well as tar notes. The palate is concentrated and dense with a strongly savoury character: gravel, minerals and lovely dark fruits. Dense, pure, spicy and complex. Rich yet balanced. 93/100

Viña Ventisquero Grey Carménère 2008 Maipo Valley
This has 7.5% each of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in it. Soils are 2 m deep, with the top 1.5 m being clay silt and the rest more gravelly. Ripe, lush, sweet and quite generous with lovely bold dark fruit, and grainy, almost chalky tannins. Ripe and plush, but with some seriousness. Stylish example of this variety. 91/100

Viña Ventisquero Grey Syrah 2008 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
Sweet, lush, pure and ripe with lovely purity of sweet fruit. Silky and lush yet retaining good definition. Mineral, salty edge to the finish. Stylish with silky tannins; ripe but fine. 93/100

Viña Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Maipo Valley
7% Petit Verdot in this. Rich, lush blackcurrant and berry fruits with some nice spiciness. Very ripe and sweet with some lushness and jamminess. 88/100

Viña Ventisquero Vertice 2007 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
A blend of Carmenere and Syrah. Attractive warm spicy nose with a subtle herby, cedary edge to the dark fruits. The palate is lush and sweet with ripeness and density. Soft and full with some chalkiness, showing nice definition despite the sweetness. 91/100

Pangea 2004 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
95% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The coolest year in a long time. Fresh with a minerally chalky undercurrent to the restrained blackberry fruit. Some elegance here: ripe but restrained. 90/100   

Pangea 2005 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
95% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. A normal year climatically. Lush but elegant with lovely definition to the sweet black cherry and berry fruit. Nice purity and elegance with good definition and some hints of iodine. 93/100      

Pangea 2006 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
100% Syrah. This was the first year that Pedro Parra began mapping the Apalta terroir. It was almost a drought year, with some temperature peaks in March. Ripe, spicy and a bit tarry with some gravel notes under the sweet blackberry fruit. Stylish wine, finishing meaty and quite firm. 92/100    

Pangea 2007 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
100% Syrah. This was when mapping was carried out in proper detail. It was a very dry year but not a particularly warm one. Lush, sweet, pure nose with nice blackberry fruit and some floral notes. Really elegant and smooth on the palate with lovely fruit and some grainy structure. Ripe yet expressive. 94/100  

Pangea 2008 Apalta, Colchagua Valley
100% Syrah. Quite a rainy winter followed by a warm, dry summer. A warm vintage. Taut, dense, ripe, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with smooth but pronounced tannins. An attractive youthful wine with good purity and some elegance to the dark fruits. Very promising. 93/100

We also tried a couple of wines from a new project, located in Huasco in the Attacama desert, in the far north of the country. This is a very cool site 22 km from the coast.

Ramirana Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Valle del Huasco
13% alcohol. Fresh, green menthoxypyrazine nose is quite pure, with some fresh tropical fruit notes. The palate is fresh and pure with a hint of spiciness. Delicate and precise. 91/100

Syrah 2010 Valle del Huasco (barrel sample)
Very fresh and peppery. Bright, herbal and minty with a hint of balsamic character. The palate is light, elegant and expressive with lovely purity of fruit. Expressive, elegant and pure with a sweet fruit profile. This could be very good indeed: time will tell. 91–94/100


Part 1, Dos Andes: Veranda and Agustinos, Bio Bio
Part 2, Viña Leyda, Leyda
Part 3, Viña Ventisquero, Apalta
Part 4, Viña Tabalí, Limarí
Part 5, Casas del Bosque, Casablanca
Part 6, Viña Falernia/Mayu, Elqui

See also:

Visiting Chile's wine regions (a series from a visit in 2008)

Published 01/12  
Wines tasted 12/10

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