Our first trip to Chile and Argentina was full of surprises. It’s no surprise to us that good quality wines are being produced in both countries that are terrific value. What was surprising is just how many wines are being made in both countries that are of excellent quality. Not surprisingly, we found some outstanding Malbec in Argentina. But to our great surprise Viu Manent in Chile is making its name with Malbec, a variety almost exclusively associated with its South American neighbor.
Located in Chile’s renowned Colchagua Valley, Viu Manent is a family winery founded in 1935 by Catalan immigrant Miguel Viu Garcia.
Initially Miguel, with his two sons Agustin and Miguel Viu Manent, established Bodegas Viu in Santiago but didn’t actually produce any wine. They purchased the juice, bottled it, and then sold it under the brand name Vinos Viu.
After three decades of dreaming about making their own wines, Miguel Viu Manent purchased the San Carlos de Cunaco estate in Colchagua where much of the wine the family sold under Vinos Viu was made, and in 1965 Viña Viu Manent was born.
The purchase of this particular estate was significant not only because it had 150 acres of some of the oldest vines in the country, but also because these vines were pre-phylloxera. The vineyard was planted using “Selection Massale”, which means cuttings from the best old vines from the same property are replanted. This French wine-growing practice is particularly preferable by winemakers whose primary goal is to truly express a vineyard’s unique terroir.
Over the course of the last 50 years, Viña Viu Manent has grown substantially and now owns 627 acres across three distinct vineyards within the Valley: the San Carlos vineyard at the estate, along with La Capilla and El Olivar, both in the Peralillo area but in different areas. The addition of these two properties brings diversity in characteristics through their soil and altitude. La Capilla is made up largely of limestone and sits at 230 metres above sea level, while El Olivar is made up of clay soil and large rocks with an altitude ranging between 150 to 280 metres.
Despite its phenomenal growth, the winery has remained in the family, now entering its third generation. In 2000, Jose Miguel Viu took the helm and still adheres to the family philosophy of making high quality wines that can stand on the world’s stage on their own merit.
At the heart of their winemaking philosophy is a commitment to the environment that is evidenced through their certified sustainable farming practices, in addition to their focus on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as a business. Viu Manent has been certified CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme) which keeps them accountable for measuring their greenhouse gas emissions and having as small a carbon footprint as possible from the time the wine is bottled to final delivery.
The winery produces 8 different wines made up of the usual suspects for the region: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère.
While the latter variety is what originally put Chile on the world’s wine map, we were surprised to learn that today Carménère only makes up a relatively small percentage of Chile’s red wine production. In the Colchagua Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is king.
At Viu Manent, Cabernet is still King in terms of production (as the sign in their tasting room proudly announces), but Malbec has become their flagship wine. Very surprising to us given that we (along with the majority of wine enthusiasts) usually associate Malbec with Argentina—an entire country that have made this variety their flagship wine. As we dug a little deeper into Viu Manent’s history with Malbec, we quickly realized it made a lot of sense. Not only were they the first winery to bottle and sell Malbec through Vinos Viu, they produce the most Malbec of any winery in Chile and have done so for many years.
More importantly, they make excellent quality Malbec including their highly acclaimed Viu 1 produced from their oldest vines in the San Carlos vineyard which is also Chile’s only Icon wine made of Malbec.
Beyond making great wine on a beautiful property, Viu Manent is a true destination winery that welcomes visitors with gorgeous vineyard views and warm, friendly smiles. The Rayuela is a very good restaurant on site that sits in front of the equestrian field, where shows are frequently held.
A horse-drawn carriage is readily available and a great way to explore the expansive vineyard while wine tasting and wine making classes are also available at the winery. But without question, the absolute highlight for us was participating in a cooking class with one of the country’s top celebrity chefs Pilar Rodriguez at her Food and Wine Studio, also located within the winery property.
Our first trip to Chile was notable on several different levels. Viña Viu Manent not only erased any pre-conceived notions we had about the quality of wine being produced in the country, but also with respect to varieties that do well in this particular region. It should come as no surprise that we firmly believe they have a very long and successful future for generations to come.
2019 Viu Manent Chardonnay Reserva
Approachable and easy drinking, we get notes of white peach and tropical fruit. The body is medium+ and there is a nice textured quality to the wine. Mineral notes add complexity and definition. Already in a good place this wine is meant for early enjoyment and has enough stature to compliment seafood dishes and light sauces.
2018 Viu Manent Malbec Reserva
With low tannins and moderate acidity this wine is all about fruit. Plum and black cherry are delivered on a medium+ frame. Fruity with some nice spice notes on the back end, this is the sort of red that works well as an aperitif. Easy to appreciate with its fruit forward style, this will satisfy a diverse group of palates.
2017 Viu Manent Cabernet Sauvignon
With this wine the intensity level takes a step up. Black cherry notes layer on top of a medium+ body that is well-framed by youthful, ripe tannins. There are good spicy notes on the long finish.
Bold and rich, showing the lovely texture that Carménère is know for, this was the most hedonistic wine in their line-up. Black cherry and plum combine with earthy notes to make a complex drink that shows seriousness and style. The body is medium+ and the tannins give it just the right amount of structure. There are good spicy notes that would this a great wine to have with bar be que.