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2018 Grus, Viñedos de Alcohuaz - a high-flying Chilean red from the world's highest commercial vineyard

July 2021

 2018 Grus, Mezcla Tinta, Viñedos de Alcohuaz

£115 per 6 bottle case in bond

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This is something of a bargain – to the extent that I tasted without knowledge of the price and was more than pleasantly surprised when I saw the cost. This doesn’t always happen.
 
Viñedos de Alcohuaz was founded in 2005 by father and son Àlvaro and Patricio Flaño in Chile’s Elqui Valley, some 150 kilometres to the north of Santiago. Home to a breath-taking landscape, this is an interesting location for viticulture as it borders the Atacama Desert, one of the driest spots on earth, but the valley stretches from the South Pacific coastal plain all the way up to the Andes Mountains inland. Unsurprisingly, the area that works for grape-growing is situated close to the River Elqui, benefitting from deep groundwater. The Flaños were drawn to the area on account of the sandy, granitic soils and their initial hunch that the region was suitable for a vineyard was verified by a viticulturalist, Eduardo Silva, who concurred on the area’s potential. Amazingly, their vineyard lies at elevations ranging between 1,800-2,200 metres above sea level, making it the highest commercial vineyard in the world.
 
As this was virgin territory for fine wine production and given the varying altitude, the Flaños planted a broad base of largely heat-loving/tolerant vines, including Syrah, Malbec, Garnacha, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cariñena and Touriga Nacional. They also tried Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which didn’t survive in this challenging climate, but the rest (most of which are grown very successfully in Mediterranean Spain) thrived. A spring-fed reservoir is also used to prevent the vines suffering from too much water stress during the growing season and the vines are typically trained in pergolas so that the canopy of leaves is able to protect the fruit from the intense light of day. And of course, at this kind of altitude, the nights are cold despite the hot days – in fact the diurnal shift in temperatures can be as much as a remarkable 25 degrees Celsius! Patricio and Àlvaro have tended their vines according to biodynamic and organic principles since they were first planted, but they aren’t interested in pursuing certification. Today, they have 20 hectares of vines and have also planted white Rhône varietals, Marsanne and Roussanne. As you might expect, everything here is carried out in a non-interventionist manner; harvest is by hand, only indigenous yeast is employed in fermentation, which is carried out in traditional stone lagars or troughs. The wines are then aged in concrete eggs or in very large Stockinger oak foudres.
 
Frankly, their approach is paying dividends. Whilst I would have struggled to place this wine if tasted blind, I thought it showed beautifully, with a rare sense of purity and energy that I seldom associate with any Chilean wine. I will follow Viñedos de Alcohuaz with added interest over the coming years, as I can only imagine that they will push on to greater heights, in achievement that is, not in altitude!
 
Please see my full note below along with a note from Luis Gutiérriez on robertparker.com. By the way, 2018 is shaping up to be a very impressive Chilean vintage – one of the best in quite some time.

2018 Grus, Mezcla Tinta, Viñedos de Alcohuaz
£115 per 6 bottle case in bond

A complex blend of 51% Syrah, 16% Petit Verdot, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Garnacha, 5% Malbec and 3% Cariñena
Inky, bright in the glass, the aromas are all about fresh juicy red and dark fruits; a real melange, with notes of blackberry, raspberry and even plum, with hints of herbs and spice. Showing outstanding balance on the palate, this is a beautiful, effortless style, with such a more-ish fruit, wonderfully ripe yet retaining precision. The freshness renders this all the more enticing, there is a bright red fruit accent, like redcurrant or cranberry, allied to the layered blackberry fruit that dominates the palate. There is an unusual purity and pristine quality to this wine that is not typical of Chile and the tannins are so finely ripe that they are barely perceptible. Juicy, lip-smacking with that cool sense of ripeness. This just gets better and better in the glass so give it some air, particularly with Syrah dominating. 2021-2027. (SL)

94 points, Luis Gutiérriez, robertparker.com
The 2018 Grus is quite different from year to year, and in this cooler vintage, the blend is 51% Syrah, 16% Petit Verdot, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Garnacha, 5% Malbec and 3% Cariñena. The wines here keep moderate alcohol and very good freshness and acidity. This fermented with 20% to 30% full clusters in stone lagars and matured in a combination of concrete eggs, oak foudres and oak vats for 17 months. This is a lot fresher than 2017; it feels young and undeveloped, with a lot of Syrah character, in line with the 2016, floral and expressive. There is a nice herbal twist that develops with time in the glass. The palate is juicy and velvety, with round tannins and very good balance, long and tasty, hands down the best vintage for Grus since they started in 2014. 25,370 bottles produced. It was bottled in November 2019. Drink 2020-2025.
 
A really unusual find and a great glass of wine for this price.
 
Please let us know of your interest.
 
All the best,
 
Simon

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To request a wine, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Atlas team. We can be reached on +44 (0) 20 3017 2299, info@atlasfinewines.com or by submitting the form below. Please note that stock may be limited and is always sold on a 'first come, first serve' basis. 

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