Casa Lapostolle is one of a handful of producers who have slowly but surely pushed the status and the quality of Chilean wines upward,
to compete at premium price levels with wines from across the globe. For many Chilean houses this has been through partnerships and inward investment from North American and
European wine businesses. Casa Lapostolle is a perfect case in point: their wines are pitched slightly above typical Chilean prices, but the quality is superb and has been recognised as such -
particularly their Cuvée Alexandre Merlot which regularly sweeps the boards in competitions and with pundits, as one of the world's greatest Merlots. Casa Lapostolle is in fact part of
the family-owned French Marnier-Lapostolle group, producers of the famous Grand Marnier liqueur.
I met up with Cyril de Bournet, Managing Director of Casa Lapostolle, to taste through their range of wines over a very fine lunch in
that steak-lovers paradise, the Champney Inn near Edinburgh. |
Cyril, a member of the Marnier-Lapostolle family by marriage, explained that although Casa Lapostolle was founded only in 1994, the vines on their estate property are quite ancient, with the vines for Cuvée Alexandre being around 60 years of age. The family, who make wine and own the Château de Sancerre in the Loire, had been searching for a new business in Chile and spent many years visiting and researching potential sites. Cyril claims that almost as soon as they saw the ancient, gnarled grey vines and fine exposure of the Apalta vineyard, tucked into a corner of the Rapel Valley, they knew they had found the ideal spot and, potentially, had struck gold.
Although a permanent winemaking team is in place, the appointment of French winemaking guru Michel Rolland as chief oenologist was a key
element in their strategy. Rolland consults all over the world, for some of the very best wines and is a huge favourite of Robert Parker. Rather cleverly, Casa Lapostolle
has retained him exclusively in Chile, where he is responsible for the management of the vineyard, the purchasing of winemaking equipment, crucial decisions such as when to harvest,
the handling of the grapes, and of course, the finest details of vinification, ageing and bottling of the wines. They have recently begun to produce a single vineyard flagship wine, "Clos Apalta", which wasn't on show here (though I've tasted it previously), but the Cuvée Alexandre reds in particular are extraordinarily fine wines in their own right.
Casa Lapostolle own the vineyards from which they source around two thirds of their grapes, the remainder come from contracted growers. The winery in the Rapel Valley, built only a few years ago, is pretty much state of the art with temperature-controlled equipment and movement of wine by gravity rather than harsher pumping. French oak barrels are used for maturation, a high proportion of them new.
The whole operation at Casa Lapostolle seems to be of terrifically high quality, and quite visionary within the Chilean context. Certainly this is borne out in tasting. Regular Wine Pages readers will know of my great admiration for these wines, so it was a real treat to taste and chat about them on this occasion. These wines are available quite widely in the UK: First Quench outlets, Oddbins (Cuvée Alexandre reds), Majestic and Safeway all carry at least some of the range, but Casa Lapostolle's UK agent, firstname.lastname@example.org, should be able to advise of local stockists. The regular wines are around £7.00 retail, the Cuvée Alexandre around £11.00 - £14.00 (£5=$7.50US)
White WinesSauvignon Blanc 2000