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Chilean Vintner Shows Horse Sense with Outstanding New Wines

Viña Haras de Pirque, named after a horse-breeding farm, debuts 90-point Cabernet and Chardonnay in the United States.

James Molesworth
Posted: August 1, 2003

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. But what if you lead a horse to wine? Chilean Eduardo Matte is doing just that, by combining his passion for thoroughbred horses with an ambitious foray into the wine business.

Matte, a 57-year-old entrepreneur, completed construction on his winery in 2000 and named it Viña Haras de Pirque in honor of Chile's oldest horse-breeding farm, which was on the property when he bought it. Built in the shape of a horseshoe at apparently considerable expense (Matte would not disclose the actual amount), the winery is located in the Pirque region of the Maipo Valley at the top of the plain of the Maipo River. Pirque's well-drained, alluvial soils are particularly prized for viticulture.

The Viña Haras de Pirque wines, which are adorned with thoroughbred-themed labels, make their U.S. debut this month. They include the dense, loamy Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Elegance 2000 (90 points, $40) and Burgundian-style Chardonnay Maipo Valley Elegance 2002 (90, $25).

Matte's 1,500-acre estate still includes a horse breeding-and-training facility, but now encompasses 362 acres of vineyards as well. Planting began in 1992, and the vineyards are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Chardonnay, Merlot, Carmenère, Sauvignon Blanc and small amounts of other varieties. Initially the grapes were sold to other Chilean wineries, including Viña Caliterra, before Viña Haras de Pirque began to make its own wine with the 2000 vintage.

Winemaker Álvaro Espinoza is overseeing production on a consulting basis, working along with full-time winemaker Carolina Vásquez and viticulturalist Gerardo Leal. Espinoza, one of Chile's most talented winemakers, made a name for himself at Viña Carmen, and is now producing Santa Emiliana's Sincerity line along with his own Antiyal.

Annual production for Viña Haras de Pirque currently totals 18,000 cases, with plans to increase to 80,000 -- half of which will be earmarked for the U.S. market. In addition to the Elegance line, Viña Haras de Pirque also produces two other lines: a basic varietal line priced at $11 per bottle and the Character line at $15. All of the wines are single varietals produced entirely from estate-grown fruit.

Viña Haras de Pirque
Fundo La Rochuela
Casilla 247
Correo Pirque
Tel: (011) 56-2-854-7910
Web site: www.harasdepirque.com

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