Chilean Miracle Wines

A BRIGHT NEW STAR FROM CHILE: ALTAÏRSideral Botella y Caja

The Chilean Grand Cru touched by heaven and earth

Wine On Line Rating: SIDERAL 2002 & Altaïr 2002, “A+”

A new star rises on the wine world’s horizon with the launch of Altaïr, the ultra-premium Chilean wine with a Grand Cru pedigree. Bridging two hemispheres, Laurent Dassault, executive manager of Saint-Émilion’s Grand Cru Classé Château Dassault, has joined forces with Guillermo Luksic, chairman of Quiñenco, the holding company controlling Viña San Pedro, Chile’s second-largest winery. Together, they have created Altaïr Vineyards & Winery, an enterprise born with one purpose—to craft the ultimate Chilean Grand Cru.

“In 2000, I met Guillermo Luksic on a business trip to Chile,” says Dassault. “We rapidly made the decision to unite our respective competences and to create together a great Chilean wine.” By June 2001, a 50/50 partnership was in place between Château Dassault and Viña San Pedro, bringing together the Bordeaux winemaking tradition of Dassault with Luksic’s knowledge of the Chilean wine industry and Chile’s terroir, and Viña San Pedro’s international distribution network. “This agreement represents the shared vision of two families joined by our passion for wine and our fervent desire to create a fine wine that represents the virtues of both our countries in the demanding international markets,” says Luksic.

Continuing the North/South collaboration, Dassault and Luksic engaged noted Bordeaux oenologist Pascal Chatonnet and Chilean oenologist Ana-Maria Cumsille to bring the best of their two worlds together.

Inspired by the heavens

Altaïr is named for a star in Aguila, the Eagle Constellation. This distinctive star has a light so pure and intense—ten times more luminous than the sun—that it can be seen in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Soaring in the night sky, it is also the apex of the famed Summer Triangle, with Vega and Deneb comprising the other two points. From the Arabic “Al Nasr al Tair” (which means “flying eagle”), awareness of the star Altaïr and its constellation can be traced back 8,000 years to the Sumerians, who used it in navigation.

The Greeks had an eye on the Eagle as well: Greek mythology holds that Zeus, disguised as an Eagle, swept up the Trojan Prince Ganymede to be cup-bearer to the gods on Mount Olympus—a sort of Olympian sommelier, pouring out the “nectar of the gods.” To celebrate this occasion, Zeus created the Eagle Constellation, with Ganymede honored nearby as the constellation Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.

Rooted in the earth

To craft Altaïr, a wine that embodies both the excellence of French winemaking techniques and the best Chilean terroir, Dassault and Luksic built a spectacular, state-of-the-art winery tucked into the foothills of the Andes mountains in the Totihue Valley, a small area located in Requínoa county in the larger DO of Alto Valle de Cachapoal. Here, vines up to 15 years old cling to previously uncultivated, hilly slopes of gravely soil pitched up to a 35º angle. The 70 hectares (144 acres) of vines are planted at a density of 4,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, depending on slope and exposure, at an altitude of 600–800 meters (2,000–2,600 feet) above sea level. The Andean influence—sunny days followed by cool breezes that glide down the mountains in late afternoon—allows the grapes to ripen slowly, giving them both fine, ripe tannins and fresh acidity. Yields are kept low at less than one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of grapes per plant.

The winery itself has its roots in the earth. Designed by Chilean architect Samuel Claro to complement and integrate with the surrounding landscape, the discreetly low-profile building is nestled into the hillside, with half of the structure underground. Together with stone walls and a massive roof, this allows near-perfect natural temperature control in the cellar. The uneven terrain made it possible to design the winery around gravity flow, with the harvest unloaded a full 4 meters (13 feet) above the cellar floor, allowing the grapes to fall naturally into small bins that are transferred to the tanks. All operations at the winery, which has a maximum capacity of 600,000 liters (158,500 gallons), are carried out using gravity to assure the gentlest handling of grapes and must. The winery incorporates the modern—gleaming stainless steel tanks, gravity-flow design, meticulous temperature control—with the traditional, utilizing classic French oak barriques and featuring walls of local Chacabuco stone (moss stone).

This graceful melding of the new and the traditional is echoed in the winery’s serene and spacious interior, which was decorated by Paula Gutiérrez. Contemporary furnishings play against natural materials such as leather, raffia, wood, and slate to create a harmonious environment, equally suited to observing activities in the high-tech cellars or looking out at the breathtaking mountain scenery.

The 2002 vintage of Altaïr—the new winery’s flagship wine, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère—displays an intense, deep red color. Chatonnet describes it as beautifully concentrated on the nose, with warm notes of forest underbrush and black currant preserves. Swirling releases powerful but subtle notes of toasted pine, tobacco and cedar wrapped in red fruit evoking raspberry and black currant liqueur. The palate is rich and balanced, with elegant tannins and a long, silky finish. Altaïr is a powerful wine, with great cellaring potential.

A sister to Altaïr, but very much its own individual, is Sideral, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère plus Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Named for the concept of sidereal time, which expresses the movements of stars and planets in the universe, Sideral 2002 has a dense, purplish color. On the nose, Chatonnet finds smoky notes, hints of spice, and black raisins. With swirling, the wine displays fruity aromas of compote and red currant over a base of vanilla and cigar box. The mouthfeel is rich and full, yet with an agreeable freshness and minerality that carry into the finish. Sideral is accessible and open, easier to taste and enjoy while young, yet with the ability to develop over time.

The first commercial vintages of Altaïr and Sideral were launched in the US market in March 2005. Suggested retail prices WERE $55 for Altair and $25 for Sideral.

SIDERAL 2002

Excellent Value & Food Friendly

Technical Notes: The 2002 vintage of Sideral is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and a 10% blend of Carmenère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot. This wine is made from vines up to 10 years old, planted on hilly, gravely soils. Density ranges from 4,000 to 10,000 plants per hectare, with yields kept to slightly more than one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of grapes per plant.

The grapes were hand harvested in early morning, then the berries were selected and sorted at the winery. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks, with a long, traditional maceration. The wine aged in 100% French oak casks for a total of 12 months with barrel-to-barrel racking; it was bottled in December 2003; and 2,500 cases were exported to the US.. DO: Rapel Valley. ABV: 14%.

The Vintage: The 2002 vintage was difficult for producers in the southern regions of Chile such as Curicó, Maule and Bió-Bió, which saw rains at harvest time. However, the more northern regions such as Casablanca, Maipo, and Cachapoal—where Altaïr’s vineyards are—had mild, dry weather that allowed gradual ripening, improving freshness, acidity and concentration over the hotter 2001 vintage.

Tasting Notes: Sideral 2002 has a dense, purplish color. On the nose, it shows smoky notes, with hints of spice and black raisins. With swirling, the wine displays fruity aromas of compote and red currant over a base of vanilla and cigar box. The mouthfeel is rich and full, yet with an agreeable freshness and minerality that carry into the finish. Sideral is accessible and open, easier to taste and enjoy while young, yet with the ability to develop over time.

Serving Suggestions: Sideral is exceptionally food-friendly and will enhance the enjoyment of everything from a juicy burger or simple goat cheeses to wild boar, roast chicken with thyme, or prime rib.

(RELEASE) Suggested Retail Price: $25

Altaïr 2002

If you have never tasted a $200 wine, here’s your chance to enjoy one of equal quality at about ¼ of the price.

Technical Notes: The 2002 vintage of Altaïr, the flagship wine of Altaïr Vineyards & Winery, is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Carmenère, and 7% Merlot. This wine is made from vines up to 15 years old, planted on gravely soils with inclines up to 35 degrees. Density ranges from 4,000 to 10,000 plants per hectare, but yields are kept to less than one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of grapes per plant.

The grapes were hand harvested in the early morning, then brought to the winery in small bins. At sorting tables, a preliminary hand sorting removed leaves and any undesirable grapes. After destemming, a two-part table allowed any undersize grapes to fall out and workers to remove any remaining stems or flawed grapes. The grapes were lightly crushed, then a small, mobile hanging tank moved the must into a larger tank below for fermentation. Four to five days of cold maceration was followed by a cool, traditional fermentation in wooden tanks, with pigeage. Malolactic fermentation was 100% completed in barrel. The wine received gentle, barrel-to-barrel racking as it aged in 100% French oak barrels for 15-18 months. Altaïr 2002 was bottled in January 2004; and 700 cases were exported to the US. DO: Cachapoal Valley; ABV: 14%.

The Vintage: The 2002 vintage was difficult for producers in the southern regions of Chile such as Curicó, Maule and Bió-Bió, which saw rains at harvest time. However, the more northern regions such as Casablanca, Maipo, and Cachapoal—where Altaïr’s vineyards are—had mild, dry weather that allowed gradual ripening, improving freshness, acidity and concentration over the hotter 2001 vintage.

Tasting Notes: Altaïr 2002 displays an intense, deep red color. It is beautifully concentrated on the nose, with warm notes of forest underbrush and black currant preserves. Swirling releases powerful but subtle notes of toasted pine, tobacco and cedar wrapped in red fruit evoking raspberry and black currant liqueur. The palate is rich and balanced, with elegant tannins and a long, silky finish. This is a powerful wine, with great cellaring potential.

Serving Suggestions: Serve at cellar temperature. Decanting of 45 minutes is recommended. This complex wine pairs beautifully with rich meats such as leg of lamb, grilled steak, or venison; it is also a match for duck prepared with savory or red fruit sauces, or roasted game birds with herbed brown sauces. Or try it with strong cheeses such as aged cheddar, Asiago and Huntsman.

Suggested Retail Price: (PREVIOUSLY) $55

The URL is:  www.altairwines.com.

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