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Winemaker for Chile's Viña Carmen Strikes Out on His Own

Posted: July 18, 2001

Viña Carmen winemaker Alvaro Espinoza, who helped uncover the fact that CarmenËre had long been misidentified as Merlot in many of Chile's vineyards, has recently struck out on his own. Espinoza, who left Carmen at the end of 2000, has started his own project called Antiyal, a Mapuche Indian term that means "children of the sun."

The 1999 Antiyal Maipo Valley, due to be released later this year in the U.S. market, is a blend of CarmenËre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This is the second vintage (the 1998 Antiyal was not exported to the United States), and it will retail for about $20 a bottle.

The project is small in size: Espinoza sources his Cabernet from a 1-acre vineyard that surrounds his house and winery. The Syrah and CarmenËre come from other family-owned vineyards in the Maipo Valley. He only made 348 cases of the '99 Antiyal, but plans to increase production slowly to about 1,000 cases.

"To have the freedom to do the things I want to do, I need to keep it small," Espinoza explained.

Espinoza employs organic farming that helps keep yields low -- about 2 tons of grapes per acre. He also employs a vigorous selection process for Antiyal, using grapes only from the best plots of his vineyards and selling the rest of the grapes to other wineries. After vinification, he chooses the best barrels of wine for Antiyal and sells the remainder off as bulk wines. He then ages Antiyal for one year in 50 percent new French oak barrels.

The '99 Antiyal is a supple, yet fleshy wine, with notes of black cherry and smoke, and a mineral note that is typical of Maipo Valley reds. In a recent blind tasting, it scored 89 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.

In addition to his Antiyal project, Espinoza has been working with California's Jim Fetzer on his biodynamic Ceago Vinegarden project, and is consulting for Long Island's Macari Vineyards.

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Check out past ratings of Carmen wines.

Learn more about Viña Carmen and Alvaro Espinoza:

  • Aug. 17, 2000
    Two Chilean Wineries Are on the Move

  • Sept. 15, 1996
    Chilean Winery Revives Antique Bordeaux Grape Variety

  • April 30, 1995
    Great Values: A Cowboy at Carmen

    Read our recent tasting reports on Chilean wines:

  • March 31, 2001
    Coming of Age in South America

  • March 31, 2000
    South America's Peaks and Valleys

  • May 15, 1999
    Good News, Bad News From Chile
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