Cousino Macul Riesling Dona Isadora 2004
Founded in 1856, Cousiño-Macul is the only 19th century winery in Chile that remains in the hands of the original founding family. All Cousiño-Macul reserve wines are estate grown, vinted and bottled. After seven generations and over 150 years, Cousiño-Macul’s mission rings clear — to produce world-class wines that are unmistakably Chilean, carrying the distinctive character of the Maipo Valley. In 1994, the capital city of Santiago had expanded to the point of completely surrounding the original Macul estate in the southeast of the city, so the search for an additional single estate vineyard location began. In May 1996, the Cousiño family bought 750 acres of land in Buin, an agriculturally rich subregion of the Maipo Valley, about 20 miles southeast of Santiago. The Buin estate met the Cousiños’ ambitious criteria of soil composition, climate and proximity to the Andes Mountains. Few wine producers have the opportunity to make a completely new start, incorporating the best of their age-old experience and the most contemporary technology available. As technology continues to advance in the vineyards and wineries around the world, Cousiño Macul has seized this opportunity to innovate while staying true to the most important part of their long history. All Cousiño-Macul wines are made entirely with grapes sourced from its two estates located in the Maipo Valley. Both the Macul estate in the southeast of Santiago and the estate in Buin are part of the subregion known as Alto Maipo. The Alto Maipo is appropriately named due to high altitude orientation at the foot of the Andes Mountains. As the snow melts in the spring and summer, the Andes provide an ample source of pure, fresh water for vineyard irrigation. The soil is especially suited for the production of high-quality grapes: shallow, sandy-silky topsoil with rough stone below. All vines are planted on original root systems. Vines for new plantations come from massal selections carried out in the nurseries at Macul over a period of 10 years. This selection has allowed the preservation of genetic material of great value, originally brought to Chile by Luis Cousiño in 1860, including Cabernet and Merlot varieties from Pauillac in Haut-Medoc, and Sauvignon Gris from Martillac in Graves.
Dramatic geographic and climatic changes from west to east make Chile an exciting frontier for wines of all styles. Chile’s entire western border is Pacific coastline, its center is composed of warm valleys and on its eastern border, are the soaring Andes Mountains.
Chile’s central valleys, sheltered by the costal ranges, and in some parts climbing the eastern slopes of the Andes, remain relatively warm and dry. The conditions are ideal for producing concentrated, full-bodied, aromatic reds rich in black and red fruits. The eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry—is home to intense red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.
Chilly breezes from the Antarctic Humboldt Current allow the coastal regions of Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley to focus on the cool climate loving varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Chile’s Coquimbo region in the far north, containing the Elqui and Limari Valleys, historically focused solely on Pisco production. But here the minimal rainfall, intense sunlight and chilly ocean breezes allow success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata in the south make excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Spanish settlers, Juan Jufre and Diego Garcia de Cáceres, most likely brought Vitis vinifera (Europe’s wine producing vine species) to the Central Valley of Chile sometime in the 1550s. One fun fact about Chile is that its natural geographical borders have allowed it to avoid phylloxera and as a result, vines are often planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted.
Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, this versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Somm Secret—Given how difficult it is to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling from the label, here are some clues to find the dry ones. First, look for the world “trocken.” (“Halbtrocken” or “feinherb” mean off-dry.) Also a higher abv usually indicates a drier Riesling.