A pioneering adventure
Grapevines were planted in the north of Chile in the 16th century, in the wake of Spanish conquistadors.Production expanded rapidly and the country was soon exporting to Peru, challenging imported wines from Spain. The Echenique family, of Basque origin, planted vineyards in the Peralillo area of the Colchagua province around 1750 and in the 19th century, the same family... Read more
A pioneering adventure
Grapevines were planted in the north of Chile in the 16th century, in the wake of Spanish conquistadors.Production expanded rapidly and the country was soon exporting to Peru, challenging imported wines from Spain. The Echenique family, of Basque origin, planted vineyards in the Peralillo area of the Colchagua province around 1750 and in the 19th century, the same family was part of the rapid expansion that took place in Chilean wines, at the initiative of a handful of pioneers who were inspired by the French model. The first French grapes were planted in the Cañeten Valley of Colchagua in 1850 but when phylloxera ravaged Europe’s vineyards, Chile’s production increased dramatically. Vineyards went from 9,000 hectares in 1870 to 40,000 hectares in 1900. The first exports of wines to Europe took place in 1877.
In 1947, production in the Cañeten Valley of the Peralillo region was reorganised and rationalised. Plots of land were cleared and prepared for planting, water supply and storage systems were put in place and cellars equipped with cement tanks were built. The “Cañetenes” wines gradually built up a good reputation. However, the land reform measures which came into force in the late 60s and early 70s put a stop to any further expansion.
Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite took over the Los Vascos estate (Los Vascos meaning The Basques, in honour of its Basque origins) in 1988. At the time, the property extended to some 2,200 hectares, of which 220 hectares were under vine. The pioneering ambition of DBR in Chile was above all the result of extensive research into the potential of local wines. Many properties were visited and very many wines were tasted before choosing Los Vascos, because of its location near the ocean and its exceptional soil. Along with ideal weather conditions, Los Vascos benefits from intense exposure to the sun, adequate water sources, semi-arid soils and little risk of frost. At an average of 130m above sea level and at just 40 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, the microclimate of Viña Los Vascos has everything to produce fine wines.
The new Los Vascos project included major investment under the direction of the Technical Director at Château Lafite Rothschild from 1983 to 1994. The vineyard was restructured, a replanting programme was put in place and yields were reduced. Drilling provided a plentiful source of water and a weather monitoring station was installed in the vineyards. The bodega itself was enlarged and modernised step by step to cope with the new requirements in winemaking and ageing. The refurbishment included the installation of stainless steel tanks, pneumatic presses and improvement to the barrel cellar. The aim of all the improvements to the winery and the vineyard was to improve quality and, under the supervision of Claudio Naranjo, a new team of local management was recruited.
Los Vascos is now a single plot, 580-ha vineyard in the heart of a 3,600-ha hacienda. Gradually, the improvements to the property have been mirrored in the wines and the vineyard’s increasing maturity has meant that premium wines like Los Vascos Grande Réserve and Le Dix de Los Vascos have been added to the range. In recent vintages, the wines overall have shown increasing concentration and finesse. The finishing touch to the estate has been the construction of a new guesthouse, designed in the traditional Chilean architectural style. Read less