Don Melchor awarded 100 points by James Suckling
The beauty of composition
Puente Alto is a remarkable site, with a unique combination of soil, climate, an exceptional vineyard, and painstaking work by the agriculture and enology team.
The Don Melchor vineyard has played a key role in the history of contemporary Chilean winemaking. Located at the foot of the Andes mountains, on the north bank of the Maipo Valley – 650 meters above sea level – the vineyard’s history goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, when the first pre-phylloxera vine varieties were brought there from France.
The vineyard area now covers 127 hectares, divided into seven lots; 90% are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon vines, as well as 7.1% Cabernet Franc, 1.9%, Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. Following extensive research, the 127 acres that make up the Don Melchor vineyard have been subdivided into seven sectors of Cabernet Sauvignon and small sectors growing Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. These lots are each further divided into micro-scale plots, each of which is worked in a specific and detailed way, in line with the needs of each plant, row by row, in order to attain a perfect balance in line with each year’s climate characteristics.
The harvest time for Don Melchor is determined based on tastings and detailed analysis of growing grapes. The fruit are harvested by hand between mid-April and early May, selecting only the ripe, intact, and healthy grapes for fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Each homogeneous section is vinified separately, taking particular care over temperature and pumping over in each tank. Meanwhile, the color and tannins are extracted from the grape seeds and skins by means of a delicate maceration process.
After fermentation, these seeds and skins are pressed to conserve the maximum quality of grape tannins.
Each new vintage of Don Melchor is born from a perfect balance in the proportions of different Cabernet Sauvignon source wines, taken from different sections of the vineyard, to form a final blend that may only use 60-70% of the wine that has been made. Some years, small percentages of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot are added, to contribute complexity and elegance to the final blend.
Each year in the town of Lamarque, Bordeaux, France, master winemaker Enrique Tirado meets with Eric Boissenot – son of renowned Bordeaux consultant Jacques Boissenot – to taste over 150 vineyard samples, selecting only the ones that, perfectly blended, can express the beauty of Don Melchor’s equilibrium for the new vintage.
Once the blend has been settled, the new harvest of Don Melchor is decanted into oak barrels made from timber logged in the woodlands of Allier, Tronçais, and Nevers. Around two thirds of the barrels used are new, and the remaining third have been used once before. The wine is bottled 14 to 15 months later, and is then cellared for another year, developing the elegance and complexity that are the hallmarks of Don Melchor.
About Enrique Tirado
For more than 20 years, enologist Enrique Tirado has been one of the most influential figures in Chilean winemaking thanks to his tireless labor and dedication to Don Melchor. His passion and commitment have earned recognition for Don Melchor as Chilean wine’s flagship variety and a benchmark for quality in Cabernet Sauvignon worldwide, once again showcasing the excellence of this wine and the exceptional land where it is born. Since taking over the as head of Vina Don Melchor in 2019, Enrique has spearheaded its progress through challenging times with deep commitment and experience as the head of Don Melchor, with a great vision for the future.
Enrique has dedicated his life to garnering a true understanding of the soil and climate of this unique vineyard, combining traditional agriculture management techniques with the latest technologies to make the finest Chilean wine and one of the best expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world.
His commitment to learning the secrets of this wine country led him to undertake the first soil and terroir collaboration study to be completed in Chile, working jointly with the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon (INA PG), one of France’s most prestigious academic bodies.
Ever since the founding of Don Melchor in 1987, Enrique has worked side-by-side with leading consultant Jacques Boissenot, whose advisory services are sought out by the top Châteaux of Bordeaux. Now Jacques’ son, Eric Boissenot, is continuing his father’s legacy, working alongside Enrique to help craft Don Melchor.
“To me, Don Melchor is the constant quest for the best expression of every vine in the vineyard, so as to capture the beauty of the balance of the Puente Alto terroir. This is my true obsession. I use technology as a tool for attaining a deeper understanding, but more than that, watching and touching each plant and each vine is what allows us to attain the perfect balance in each vintage.”