Disclaimer: These wines were received as samples for review.
It is not often that wine crosses my desk that possesses the holy trifecta: affordable, organic/biodynamic, and delicious. This was the case with the wines of Odfjell Vineyards of Chile. I wanted to speak to the winemaker and learn more about Odfjell and about making wine in Chile. Arnaud Hereu, chief oenologist/winemaker was kind enough to answer a few questions as I explored and tasted their wines.
Odfjell is a good example of sustainable viticulture and winemaking in Chile. When I asked Arnaud, why do you think that Chile is one of the leaders in the world for sustainability when it comes to viticulture and winemaking? He responded: Chile is a country that thinks of the future, a country always a step ahead. Chile is a country really connected to nature: the landscape, the fruit industry, even the mining industry in a way…they know that they have to keep their country in “good shape” for the next generation. Wine is an important aspect of agriculture, it is exposed outside of the country and I think it is important for us to show to the world that yes, we care about the future.
Odfjell was started by Dan Odfjell, a Norweigan shipping owner and avid traveler who was won over by a small corner of the famed Maipo Valley in Chile. Fast forward and today the business is lead by sons, Lawrence and Dan Jr. They now have 284 acres of vines in the Maipo, Lontué, and Maule Valleys and are 100% certified organic and biodynamic, producing 60,000 cases annually.
Lawrence, one of Dan’s sons, designed the gravity flow winery onsite. The system allows for extremely gentle handling of the grapes. The winery is situated on a hill above the vineyards. Carved into the slope, over 60% of the winery is underground. This subterranean environment naturally achieves low and stable temperatures for storage. The design incorporates a number of passive cooling strategies, such as: optimizing solar orientation and using 30cm thick concrete walls as thermal mass. Gravitational wineries ensure that during winemaking, pumping is reduced to an absolute minimum, thus avoiding unnecessary agitation of the wine. This gentle handling allows us to preserve all the subtle fruit characteristics from the vineyards for the final bottle.
On a (sort of) unrelated to wine note, they also breed Norweigan fjord horses on their estate. Dan brought them to Chile over two decades ago. These horses control weeds, provide better soil drainage, and transport grapes during harvest without compacting the soil. And they’re cute!
I asked Arnaud: Is there something special that you feel you can do/accomplish at Odfjell versus at another winery? He replied: Odfjell is paradise for a winemaker. The owners are really open to try new things. They trust the winemaking team. The vision of the Odfjell family is long term.
And now, let’s explore the wines of Odfjell Vineyards. I am not including my personal notes as I had a bit of a stuffy nose upon tasting and my palate was not up to snuff. But I can say that I did enjoy what I tried and even shared these wines with friends who were all impressed, especially with the Armador Cabernet Sauvignon at $15. Try getting something of that quality from California for 15 bucks?!?!?
2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Winey Notes: Ruby color with hints of violets. Red fruit such as strawberries and plums, as well as licorice, anise, and a touch of vanilla, chocolate, and mushroom.
2017 Odfjell Ordaza Carignan ($23)
Winery Notes: Ruby red in color with a hint of violet. Red fruit aromas of strawberries and plums appear on the nose along with licorice, anise, and a touch of vanilla. Perfectly balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and a long, refreshing finish.
2013 Odfjell Aliara ($44)
Winery Notes: Concentrated deep violet in color. The nose is attractive with a range of aromas from the different varieties in the blend, including hazelnuts, dates, and fried figs as well as floral notes (jasmine and roses). The palate is sophisticated, intense, and juicy; complemented by chocolate, coffee, and tobacco leaves. The finish is long with ripe and velvety tannins.