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Discover pioneer Villard winery in the heart of Casablanca!

Discover pioneer Villard winery in the heart of Casablanca!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have personally known the Villard family for several years now and I’m thrilled to announce that their sensational wines are finally available in the Czech Republic, thanks to their exclusive importer, Víno Delikatesy !

This year, prior to the somewhat unexpected emergence of the coronavirus, I had the good fortune to visit the Villard winery during my trip to Chile. 

Upon arriving at Santiago airport I was picked up by my great friend, Grant Phelps, famous New Zealand-born winemaker and owner of the  Hotel WineBox Valparaíso (also the first hotel in Latin America built entirely with recycled shipping containers) where I would be staying for the next two months.

Whilst staying at WineBox I was lucky enough to meet two other guests, Damon and Stephanie Little, owners of the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall.  As we all were here for the same reason (a shared love of fermented grape juice!) we decided to join forces to visit some of the local wineries. The following day we rented a car and drove 40 minutes to the Villard winery, located in the slightly off the beaten track Tapihue sub-region of Casablanca.

The is architecturally strikingly and also impressively perched on the hillside of the valley and whilst modern has retained a decidedly homely feel (yes, it feels like the Villard family literally live onsite!).  As you walk into the winery there is literally an entire wall filled with family photos spanning several generations !

Visits to the winery are by appointment only (forget about buses full of tourists!) and as a consequence once the gate was opened for us we were overwhelmed by a sense of calm and serenity.  

After ascending a wooden staircase we were greeted by a spacious terrace and our host, Alejandra Gutierrez, head of tourism for the winery.  After a quick introduction to the history of the winery we were given a  delicious glass of perfectly chilled white wine: the Sauvignon Blanc, Expresión Reserve. This is, in my opinion, an archetypal example of Casablanca Sauvignon which is crisp, tart and creamy at the same time.  Together the different components are lip-smackingly good ! 

After finishing our first glass we made the most of the opportunity to hang on the terrace and soak up the magnificent view of the Coastal Mountain Range directly behind the winery.  The winery site enjoys a privileged microclimate with a strong constant breeze which rolls in from the Pacific Ocean regulating temperatures and maintaining daily maximums below 28 °C, perfect for cool climate varietals like Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot noir. 

After we were escorted to the barrel room where we were explained the process and science of winemaking and barrel ageing.  Here emerged an interesting point regarding Villard - their quality control standards are so exacting that they don’t just buy already made barrels - in fact they purchase their own oak at auction, age it themselves and then make their own barrels (from both French and American oak). 

Soon it was time to hit the vineyard itself where we received a comprehensive explanation about each grape together with the different soil types and together how these form the unique terroir that is the vineyard. Once we had a grasp of the fundamentals Alejandra invited us back into the tasting room to deepen our understanding of the family’s wines.

On the massive wooden table in the middle of the room Alejandra had already prepared several delicious snacks together with the wines.  Once seated we were served the first wines (all accompanied by the magnificent view over the valley!).  The first wine poured was the Pinot Noir, Expresión Reserve. Whilst harvested relatively early for Casablanca (in March) it expressed the purity of the variety, with fresh and delicate tannins which combined to make for a totally delicious Pinot!

After we were poured the Syrah, Expresión Reserve followed by the L'Assemblage Grand Vin (a blend of five varietals).  We then tasted the Ramato (a wine made of Pinot Grigio) with an intense taste of candied oranges and a deep orange colour. This is a wine inspired by an historical style from Friuli, Italy and is neither rosé nor orange wine. This is  wine which literally warped our fragile little minds ! This wine is part of a small 300-bottle project by newly appointed winemaker (son of owner Thierry) Charlie Villard.  After 31 years it would seem that Thierry is finally ready to cede the day to day running of the winery to his son Jean Charles (Charlie). The world awaits with bated breath the new wines Charlie will create for Villard!   

So, be sure to enjoy a glass or two of these hand-crafted Chilean premium wines!

Salud!

© 2020, Photo by Viktorie Ducká

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