The 2007 Viña Almaviva is not just any new release. Friou is excited about it. The 2007 is the first vintage that he made at the iconic winery after he was hired to take over from winemaker Tod Mostero that same year. Additionally, 2007 is shaping up to be another strong vintage for Chilean reds, perhaps not quite in the class of 2005, but excellent nonetheless.
“It’s a surprise, since 2007 was not a warm year,” Friou said. “You know, coming from Europe, you come to learn that the great vintages are the years affected by heat and by drought. In Chile, we have drought all the time, so you would think we have great vintages all the time.”
“But actually, the years of excessive heat in Chile result in ripening that is too quick, because we are always dealing with drought," he continued. "March of ’07 was more moderate, though, with sun alternating with some cloudy days. The climate was more balanced and the grapes ripened slowly.”
Friou also tweaked the formula for Viña Almaviva, so to speak, in the 2007 vintage. For the first time, the blend of 64 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 28 percent Carmenère, 7 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent Merlot contains fruit from outside the Puente Alto estate. Half of the Carmenère in the wine is sourced from the same Concha y Toro-owned Peumo vineyard that provides the fruit for CyT’s Carmín de Peumo bottling which, in just two vintages, has already become the standard for Chile’s signature grape variety (thanks in part to winemaker Ignacio Recabarren).
Based on my official blind tasting of the Viña Almaviva Puente Alto 2007, the wine is dense and dark with lots of black currant, braised fig and black licorice notes laid over loam and freshly-brewed espresso notes. It’s muscular but well-integrated, with the nice focus carrying through to the lengthy finish. It shows outstanding quality and excellent cellaring potential. The official review will be published soon.
Viña Almaviva is one of the few top Chilean reds that has an established track record. It debuted with the ’96 vintage and has earned outstanding marks, trending up along the way, in every single vintage. The more recent vintages show even better cellaring potential, despite their tendency to be more accessible when young.
“The earlier vintages were more austere at the beginning,” Friou said. “They have aged nicely, and we were nicely surprised by them. But now with more knowledge of the vineyard, the wines are better. They may be more supple in feel, but there’s more purity and better balance. I think they will age better than the earlier vintages did.”
It’s in that way that Viña Almaviva represents the new age of winemaking: yes, riper fruit, but with better purity and balance. In addition, the loam and iron notes of the Puente Alto terroir get to shine through. And the wine, of course, is in good hands with Friou.
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Mark Reinman — NJ — January 21, 2010 11:34am ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — January 21, 2010 11:50am ET
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James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — January 27, 2010 7:23pm ET
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