Cousino Macul Riesling Dona Isadora 2005
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.
One of South America’s most important wine-producing countries, Chile is a reliable source of both budget-friendly wines and premium bottlings. 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 some time in the 1550s. But Chile’s modern wine industry is largely the result of heavy investment from the 1990s.
Long and narrow, Chile is geographically isolated, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders allowed Chile to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation in the late 1800s and as a result, vines are often planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted (as is the case in much of the wine producing world).
Chile’s vineyards vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt Current. While historically focused solely on Pisco production, today this area finds success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata make excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. It can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and the best exmples can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Tasting Notes for Riesling
Riesling can be a sweet or dry white wine. In any case it usually has a high acidity and stone fruit, citrus, spice and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Perfect Food Pairings for Riesling
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, freshly shucked oysters and most Asian food. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
Sommelier Secrets for Riesling
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.