Viña Los Vascos
Grapevines were planted in the north of Chile, in the 16th century, in the wake of Spanish conquistadors. Production expanded rapidly and the country was soon exporting to Peru, challenging imported wines from Spain. The Echenique family, of Basque origin, planted vineyards in the Peralillo area of the Colchagua province around 1750 and in the 19th century, the same family was part of the rapid expansion that took place in Chilean wines, at the initiative of a handful of pioneers who were inspired by the French model.
The first French grapes were planted in the Cañeten Valley of Colchagua in 1850 but when phylloxera ravaged Europe’s vineyards, Chile’s production increased dramatically. The vineyard area went from 9 000 hectares in 1870 to 40,000 hectares in 1900. The first exports of wines to Europe took place in 1877.
In 1947, production in the Cañeten Valley of the Peralillo region was reorganised and rationalised. Plots of land were cleared and prepared for planting, water supply and storage systems were put in place and cellars equipped with cement tanks were built. The resulting “Cañetenes” wines gradually built up a good reputation. However, the land reform measures that came into force in 1970 put a stop any further expansion.
Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) took over the Los Vascos estate (Los Vascos meaning The Basques, in honour of its Basque origins) in 1988. At the time, the property extended to some 2 200 hectares, of which 220 hectares were under vine.
The pioneering ambition of DBR (Lafite) in Chile was above all the result of extensive research into the potential of local wines. Many properties were visited and many wines were tasted before choosing Los Vascos, because of its location near the ocean and its exceptional soil. Along with ideal weather conditions, Los Vascos benefits from intense exposure to the sun, adequate water sources, semi-arid soils and little risk of frost. At an average of 130m above sea level and at just 40 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, the microclimate of Viña Los Vascos has everything to produce fine wines.
The 2000s were a period of transition, the grapes from the young vines abounded with adolescent vigour and this wild force of nature had to be tamed in the winemaking process. Gradually the young Cabernet Sauvignon vines settled down as they matured, and techniques evolved as our understanding of the terroir increased.
In parallel, a detailed analysis of the terroirs of older vines enabled potential plots to be identified and the Grand Vins to be developed: the Grande Réserve and, from 1999, "Le Dix". The range also expanded with a Sauvignon Blanc selected from the Casablanca Valley.
The late 2000s marked a new stage for Los Vascos, with a new generation of technicians at the helm and the maturity of the vines planted in the 90s. The knowledge of the terroirs accumulated over 20 years has been used to refine the qualitative approach in the vineyard and in the winemaking.
In the vineyards, the decision to adopt large-scale drip irrigation and to expand on the varietals palette contributed in bringing more expression, balance and complexity to the whole range.
Our initial intuition of Los Vascos’ potential for the production of fine wines has been confirmed. Los Vascos can be more confident than ever about the strength of its terroirs.
However, the pioneering spirit continues, and the pursuit of excellence requires passion and time. New high potential plots have been identified in the foothills; the technical team is already paving the way for the Grands Vins of tomorrow with new planting projects.