Odfjell Aliara 2012
Blend: 40% Malbec, 32% Carignan, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Family-owned and inspired by the Vikings’ spirit of exploration, Odfjell Vineyards makes wines that are a true expression of its terroir and capture the best of Chile’s Maipo Valley. 100% organic and biodynamic wines, an architecturally stunning gravity-flow winery, and gentle Norwegian fjord horses are signature elements of Odfjell.
A spirit of seafaring adventure and a love for the natural beauty of Chile drew Norwegian ship owner Dan Odjfell to the Maipo Valley, where he planted his first vineyards in 1994. Today Odfjell has 275 acres in the Maipo, Lontué and Cauquenes Valleys, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and old-vine Carignan.
Since 2012 all of Odfjell’s vineyards have been organic and biodynamic with annual certifications. In addition to a wide range of biodynamic farming practices, the winery is home to Norwegian fjord horses, brought to Chile by Dan Odfjell. The horses control weeds, provide better soil drainage, and transport grapes during harvest without compacting the soil, and are used for pediatric hippotherapy.
Odjfell honors its seafaring past with three wine styles, all crafted by long-time winemaker Arnaud Hereu, who was born and educated in Bordeaux. Armador is the Spanish word for ‘ship owner’ and is the name of its original line of wines. Orazada means ‘sailing into the winds’ and showcases specific old vines in Odfjell’s estate vineyards. Finally, Aliara is the Spanish name for the small tin cup used to dole out alcohol rations on sailing ships, and these are fittingly the most limited production wines from Odfjell.
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.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.