Maule Region is Chile’s VII Region located at 260 km (160 mi) south of Santiago, thecapital of Chile, and is considered one of the country’s most traditional wine regions with 50.574 hectares, 43% of the national total cultivated vines. The Maule Valley represents a 66% of the region with 33.000 hectares of vines.
The Valley presents one of the greatest geographic diversities of all of the Chilean wine regions and has four geographical milestone units: the Andes Mountain Range, the Intermediate Depression, the Coastal Mountain Range, and the Coastal Plains. These four zones provide a broad diversification of soil and climate types from north to south and from east to west. From the coast toward the interior valleys and the Andes Mountains, the climate varies from Coastal to Warm to Cold.
Closest to the coast, mild temperatures, scant rainfall, and maritime cloudiness predominate throughout the entire year. The area registers greater humidity and lower daily temperature oscillation than the rest of the districts. In the interior valleys, that run parallel to the Coastal and Andes Mountains, the climate presents well-defined seasons with a warm, dry summer, a significant difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures, and a cold, rainy winter. Close to the Andes the temperatures drop sharply and precipitation increases.
Annual Average rainfall in the valley is of 670 to 700 mm and mostly comes during the winter making for generally more concentrated wines than in other wine regions of the world where rain is year round. This lack of rain helps vintners to control vigour and berry size, as well as to maintain ripening. Irrigation is fundamental for grape growing in the Maule Valley.
Snowmelt from the Andes is the primary source that flows into the Mataquito and Maule rivers: This water is diverted to irrigation canals that surround the valley taking it to where it is needed. Drip irrigation systems are then used to technically irrigate specific vines. Maule Valley soils are primarily clay-loam and have good characteristics for vine growing.
They are generally young soils in evolution with little profile development and textures that vary from clay to sand to stones. As is true of the climate, significant differences can be observed in the soils of the coast, the interior valleys, and the Andes.
The soils near the coast are derived from marine terraces and present a reddish-brown color. They generally show a predominance of granitic rock with a deep layer of clay and greater evolution and lower fertility than the soils of the interior of the valley. The soils between the Coastal and Andes Mountains are primarily alluvial with moderate development, greater fertility, with mixturesof clay, silt, and sand, and depths that vary according to zone and wind exposure. Finally, in sectors closest to the Andes soils are heavier in texture and in some cases derived from volcanic ash.
SAN RAFAEL ESTATE
VIA Wines’ emblematic San Rafael Estate is located in the geographical area of San Rafael in the Maule Valley, close to the Andes Mountains and the Descabezado Volcano.
Since 1994 550-hectares have been planted predominantly to red varieties. In 1998 VIA’s organic project commenced totaling today 38 hectares planted to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
The climate is “Mediterranean” and is characterized by its distinctly marked annual seasons. The summer is warm and dry with temperatures that reach a maximum of 33°C (91ºF) during the day and a relative humidity that does not exceeds 55%. A broad differential between daytime and nighttime temperatures that ranges from 15° to 18°C (27º–32ºF) allows for a slow and homogenous ripening of the grapes. The absence of rainfall during the summer and early autumn guarantees favorable health conditions.
San Rafael winters are cold and rainy, with high temperatures that do not surpass 16°C (61ºF) and lows of 2°C (36ºF), which allows for an optimal accumulation of cold hours, along with a relative humidity no greater than 88%. The lack of rainfall during the spring and the summer months makes careful drip irrigation an necessity from flowering onward. Water resources come from the Mataquito and Lontué rivers.
The vineyard presents two significant topographic characteristics. One sector is flat and dominated by the “Pangue” soil series that belongs to the family of fine loam soils developed in low and depressed positions. These soils present a superficial loam to fine sandy-loam texture toward the interior, grayish-brown color, and a moderately intense depth that allows deep vertical root development.
The soils that form part of the flat sectors of the San Rafael Vineyard are considered young and in evolution with a medium to high fertility and good humidity with a moderate drainage and low surface drainage with presence of groundwater levels in some sectors. These soils are strongly influenced by the position and exposure to wind. Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Merlot are planted in this sector of the property.
The fertility and good water holding capacity of the soils promote vigor and thereby enhance the mineral characters and some green notes specifically for Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Since Merlot is very sensitive to dehydration the flat areas of the vineyard have better conditions for its development.
Leaf management is required to control herbal characters. The other sector has a sloping topography dominated by the San Rafael soil series that also belongs to the family of fine loam soils developed on intermediate terraces. These soils present a loam to clay-loam texture with a reddish-brown surface color that turns yellowish-red toward the interior.
As these soils advance in depth they become mottled with black stones and a volcanic tuff that sometimes prevents water from passing and that determines moderately superficial horizontal root growth. These soils are considered to have greater evolution, scant depth, slow permeability, and medium to high surface drainage. The varieties Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Malbec are preferably planted in soft hills, as the less fertility and humidity of these soils control the vigor emphasizing fruity notes.
Some varieties that outstand in San Rafael’s terroir are Pinot Noir and Syrah in reds and Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier in whites.
The Pinot Noir has successfully surprised in the vineyard showing a great potential thanks to the Andes Mountain cold influence and the soil humidity.
Syrah is another variety that has show a great potential, resulting in wines with good alcohol degree, sweet aromas and soft texture with balance acidity.
The Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier have demonstrated their ability to adapt to San Rafael’s soils resulting in wines that have surprised by their volume, good alcohol content and aromas.
Through years VIA´s vintners and winemakers teams have worked to identify the varieties that match the San Rafael Estate soil characteristics, finding a balance between variety and soil that best express the tipicity of each one.
Chief Winemaker Carlos Gatica
Carlos graduated from the Catholic University of Chile in 1997 with a degree in Agricultural Engineering and a specialization in pomology (fruiticulture) and enology.
He began his career in 1998 as a winemaker at Viña Santa Rita, where he honed his professional skills and obtained great experience in making large-volume wines. He later became Santa Rita’s Enological Manager and was in charge of the company’s three primary lines of wine: 2 Medallas, 120, and Medalla Real until 2016.
Over the course of his career, Carlos has participated in crushes in major appellations in France and in Spain.
In November 2016, Carlos joined VIA wines as the Enological Manager to lead the department and shape a first-rate winemaking team capable of leading the industry.