MAULE: VIÑA J. BOUCHON… GREAT VALUE & PLEASURE FOR MONEY
A visit to VIÑA J.BOUCHON was already in my mind in the previous trip, but Maule was then much too far southwards for a quick visit. The name of the winery, J. BOUCHON, is locally known as ‘Jota BOUCHON’ (Jay Bouchon). It refers to the name of the current president and owner, JULIO BOUCHON. The history of VIÑA BOUCHON goes back to the end of the 19th century. A French pioneer from Bordeaux, Emile Bouchon, left the European wine continent that was ravaged by a small but devastating insect called ‘phylloxera vastatrix’. He arrived in Chile in 1892 and settled down in the historical heart of the Chilean wine history, the Maule Valley. Julio Bouchon Sr. gave the winery its fame and his name. He studied successfully agronomy at the University of Chile and oenology at the Bordeaux University in France. Nowadays, the next generation is aiming to make from the Viña J. Bouchon a modern, quality minded winery focussed on new markets. Julio Bouchon Lyon (a.k.a. Julio Jr.) was my kind host during this unforgettable visit. Why unforgettable? Because the winery at Mingre had been badly affected by the terrible earthquake in 2010 and wasn’t yet totally repaired. The old, historical part of the viña, build in colonial style with a lot of adobe, has been the most affected. It was really sad to see how terrible the damages were, but also heart-warming to see how strong the will was for every one there, to rebuild it and start again. During my visit in November 2010, the first room was nearly ready, and it was quite an emotional moment for Julio Jr. to be the first to sleep there again after the devastating earthquake. Fortunately, the modern vinification and storage part of the viña was not so badly affected, even if some big tanks seemed to have lost their feet and had some visible damages of the bodywork.
Viña J. Bouchon, right of the black arrow on the map
The Viña J.Bouchon’s vineyards are located on the coastal part of the Maule Valley. About 370 ha of older vineyards (> 60 years old) are blessed by a great (micro)climate: cool and rainy winter, dry and warm growing season with average summer temperatures of 20-32°C and about 50% humidity level, cooler nights and morning thanks to the ‘brisa marine’ (sea wind)… Irrigation is only used when absolutely necessary.
VIÑA J. BOUCHON produces three lines of wine. Fruit and terroir expression wines under J.Bouchon label; higher quality Reserva Especial terroir wines from specific vineyards and micro-climates, produced under supervision of the well-known Franco-Chilean oenologist/wine-consultant Patrick Valette (see also my articles about Patrick’s work at Neyén and VIK); a top icon wine, J.Bouchon MINGRE, made with the complicity of the same Patrick Valette as a tribute to the art of wine making. All wines come from the Maule Valley. My impressions of a quick tasting:
J. Bouchon sauvignon blanc 2010: fresh, fruity, floral, white and yellow fruit, a hint of exotic, refreshing citrus; juicy, fresh, very enjoyable, easy drinking and gastronomic wine, very well-balanced, slightly mineral in the finish. Good wine.
J. Bouchon chardonnay 2010: modern style (in the positive way), very fresh and fruity, apple, a bit of exotic fruits, honey… Very refreshing but not a light ‘unoaked’ type, this is a nice, medium-full, slightly mineral, juicy and very enjoyable chardonnay. Good wine.
Las Mercedes chardonnay 2009 (limited edition): Barrel fermented. Very well made, but not really my type of wine, too much caramel and butter in the nose. However, very fresh and juicy on the palate. I would drink it with pleasure but not buy it for home. Lots of people will love it. Good wine.
J. Bouchon rosé cabernet sauvignon 2010: Astonishing fresh, very fruity, floral and spicy rosé wine from the cabernet sauvignon! Not so heavy, and for Chilean norms, not too dry (I guess around 4 gr/l of residual sugar), a nice lunch wine! Good wine!
J. Bouchon merlot 2009: very aromatic, lots of ripe fruit and warm spices; very fresh, juicy, well-balanced, well-integrated oak accents, elegant minerality, soft and ripe tannins. Good wine!
J. Bouchon carmenère-syrah 2009: 50-50% blend partly aged in used French oak barrels. Great nose, very aromatic, toasty, floral and ripe fruity (NB: Julio Jr. explained to me that the subtle aromas of coffee and cacao were not coming from the oak aging, but seem to be a gift of the terroir); fresh, spicy, fruity and very juicy, nice minerality on the palate, medium-full structure, easy drinking and very enjoyable, gastronomic wine. Good wine!
J. Bouchon carmenère-syrah 2010: more spices and complexity in the nose than the one above (2009), here again the ‘terroir’ notes of coffee and cacao. Ripe fruity, fresh, juicy, seems even better in balance than the 2009. Great gastronomic wine! Good wine!
J. Bouchon cabernet sauvignon 2009: more ‘terroir’ than ‘varietal’ nose, with plenty of sun ripe red fruit, cassis, spices and a hint of toasted coffee. Good freshness and structure, well-integrated oak (partly aged on used French oak barrels), a hint of minerality, coffee and tobacco in the finish. Good wine!
Reserva Especial malbec 2008: from the Santa Rosa vineyard, produced from 100% malbec grafted on more than 100 years old, non-irrigated ‘país’ stocks! Fantastic nose, very sensual, ripe fruit, dried fruit, spices… On the palate, freshness, juice, a round, velvety structure and a ripe, sweetish, medium-full and very enjoyable taste. Well-balanced, soft tannins, well-integrated oak tones. Great gastronomic wine! Good wine!
Reserva Especial carmenère 2008: 100% non-irrigated carmenère, from the Santa María de Mingre and Las Mercedes vineyards. Aged for 8 months in used (2 years old) French oak barrels. Very complex aromatic, in layers that evolve constantly in the glass, lots of ripe red fruit, spices and again that ‘terroir’ chocolate and coffee… Amazingly fresh, juicy, fruity, soft and velvety, rich and complex, with a long, sensual and slightly mineral finish. Fantastic gastronomic wine! Good wine!
Reserva Especial cabernet sauvignon 2008: produced from 100% cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Rosa and Las Mercedes vineyards. 12 months ageing in new and used French oak barrels. Beautiful nose, lots of mostly black fruit associations, some black chocolate, spices and menthol (or was it eucalyptus?). Quite complex, powerful but fresh and juicy, with soft tannins and a perfect balance. Needs some air to develop its full aromatic power, but better should be to give it a few years more time. Good wine!
Las Mercedes cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec 2007 (limited edition): made from more than 60 years old vineyards. Fantastic nose, very complex, spicy and fruity, with still very present elegant oak tones. Fresh, fruity, spicy and dry on the palate, great structure, very well-balanced, fabulous gastronomic wine! Very enjoyable. Give it some more time to show its full power! Good wine!
J. Bouchon MINGRE 2007: a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, carmenère, syrah and merlot, all specially selected from the best plots and the best grapes, all coming from non-irrigated old vines. The vinification is perfectly respecting the basic quality of those grapes. This is quite a serious wine, but not boring at all! Very complex in nose and mouth, great structure, powerful aromas, great freshness, concentration and juice, very well-balanced, full-bodied, with velvety, ripe tannins, perfectly integrated oak tones (14 months ageing in French oak barrels) and a long finish. A great interpretation of the Maule spirit! Very good wine!
After this long (but quick) tasting, we went for a late lunch at the ‘casino’ (the cosy canteen restaurant) where I had the pleasure to meet shortly Julio Bouchon Sr. himself. Thanks to both Julio for the hospitality, the visit, the tasting and the tasty meal. I surely will try to come back and spend a night at the Mingre colonial family (and guest) house, to feel the spirit of Maule and Mingre’s life, on the Ruta del Vino Valle del Maule .