For the past 20 years Enrique Tirado, winemaker of Don Melchor, has been cementing the reputation of Concha y Toro’s flagship wine as one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons that Chile has to offer. He was in London to take The Buyer through a mouth-watering vertical as well as give us a sneak preview of the latest 2013 vintage, a wine that is released in the UK in February 2017.
Balance, power and concentration were much in evidence with Don Melchor tasted in the 1988, 1996, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2012 and 2013 vintages.
Many wineries have flagship wines where nothing is compromised in the growing, winemaking or ageing process.
These signature wines are real labours of love and reflect not only the best a winery and winemaker has to offer but also – in almost all cases – demonstrate an expression of provenance and/or terroir that speaks directly to the consumer.
One such example is Don Melchor from Chile’s world-famous Concha y Toro stable. This icon wine originates from a single 127-hectare vineyard in Puente Alto in the Alto Maipo Valley where un-grafted vines are grown on stony, alluvial soil.
Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant here and this is among the finest terroir in Chile for growing this star grape.
Don Melchor has been made since 1984 when samples of wine from the vineyard were sent to leading Bordeaux winemaker Jacques Boissenot. With his help different parcels were blended to make the first Don Melchor wine, and the wine’s blend has been defined in Bordeaux ever since.
Since 1997 winemaker Enrique Tirado has been at the helm of the Don Melchor project and he was in London to lead a mouth-watering vertical masterclass of seven Don Melchor wines from 1988 to the soon-to-be-current-vintage 2013
“For me, Don Melchor is an ongoing quest to get the truest possible expression from every plant in the vineyard to attain beauty in the equilibrium from each Puente Alto terroir harvest,” says Tirado. “It’s my true obsession.”
All the wines tasted had 90% or more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend but, within the Cabernet alone, there are dozens of separate parcels vinified and blended to achieve the optimum ‘balance, power and concentration’. It was an eye-opening tasting which showcased the skill of the blend and helped define the sensory-DNA of this world-famous wine.
Here’s a look at what was tasted.
Don Melchor 1988
A meaty, savoury nose with smoke and pencil shavings. Unsurprisingly it’s lost some colour over the years but is still limpid. There’s bold flavour here – tobacco, cherry, cedar and iodine, then come the plums and red fruit. A long and savoury finish.
Don Melchor 1996
A very different nose to the ’88; lots more fruit – raspberry, blackcurrant – as well as vanilla and a herbal edge. It’s fresh and vibrant on the palate with soft, round tannins and a very silky feel. The fruit is still present as is mint tea.
Don Melchor 2001
The first wine of the flight that’s not 100% Cabernet. This has 9% Cabernet Franc, which might be responsible for the darker colour and more angular tannins. There’s a herby, garrigue (thyme, mint) nose and a generosity of fruit in the mouth – black fruit that’s abundant but not jammy. Some tertiary notes too of eucalyptus and stone, which add to the great structure and balance. Deep and brooding but bright and thoughtful – a lot like Leonard Cohen’s best work, in fact.
Don Melchor 2004
Again some Cabernet Franc here, but only 6% this time. The initial note is smoke (cherry wood) then comes the sweet fruit (plum, raspberry) and Christmas spice. The aroma is really quite heady. There’s coffee and black olive on the palate and some more of that mint. Very easy drinking.
Don Melchor 2009
It’s full-on Ribena on the nose with that blackcurrant character dominating the palate too, where it jostles with black olive and smoky bacon. This is a robust wine and still very young; the oak plays a key role in the finish where it’s still not 100% integrated, but well on its way. One to watch.
Don Melchor 2012
Like the 2009 this shows its wood early – there’s vanilla and oak on the nose and palate, but here there’s a minty, cocoa powder character that adds a delicious bitter edge. The fruit is plums and ripe cherry and there are floral characters too. Very young with teeth-sucking tannins and bracing acidity. A lot to love here now, but much more in the future.
Don Melchor 2013
This wine is released in February 2017 but could probably do with another year on its side in the Don Melchor cellar. It’s full and tannic with vanilla, cream and red fruit characters at the fore, as well some heat on the finish from its 14.5% ABV. One to return to in 24 months.