In search of land influenced by the cool sea air, Concha y Toro discovered a rustic soil. Today, a dense and winding vineyard extends over rocky ravines, surprising all visitors.
“It is unthinkable that in this solitude and on a dry surface decorated with rocks, grapevines can grow so spectacularly”, says Patricio Herrera about the Ucúquer vineyard. Located on the south bank of the Rapel River, in the homonymous valley, 14 km from the Pacific Ocean, this estate rises like a deck of lush vineyards 200 meters above sea level, captivating with its green hills and rocky ravines.
Land of hawthorns and goats
Assistant manager of the Marchigüe Valley Patricio Herrera, who is in charge of Ucúquer, says it was hard to imagine planting vineyards when the land was discovered in 2004: “It was a barren land with a typical coastal dry landscape of hawthorns, boldos, quillayes and litre, and small livestock consisting of wild goats and a few cows. You had to be very optimistic to envision vineyards there”.
Preparing the land to develop this vineyard required the winery to do a significant investment and to start from scratch. “We had to build access roads to reach the estate, install extensive power lines, a water network and a 20-meter long bridge to transport the grapes more easily”, recalls Patricio.
After a year getting the land ready, between October and November of 2005 the first 60 hectares of vineyards were planted. After a major expansion of the farm in 2011, Ucúquer reached a total area of 960 hectares, 345 of which correspond to vineyards.
A favorable climate for grapevines
The Ucúquer vineyard has a coastal Mediterranean climate -influenced by the ocean breeze coming from the Rapel River basin-, and maintains moderate temperatures throughout the year. This creates exceptional characteristics for the production of wine, comparable to those existing in certain areas of New Zealand, where white wines of known quality are grown.
During the summer months, the marine and river breeze cools the vineyards so the average daytime temperature never exceeds 25°C, and night temperatures are never below 6-8°C. “This makes grape maturity to be slow, maintaining their fruit and mineral characteristics until harvest, resulting in fresh wines with balanced acidity and elegant aroma”, explains Mario Miranda, winemaker of Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, both wines originating from this farm.
In winter, the temperature ranges are also moderate, not exceeding a minimum of 3- 5°C and a maximum of 14ºC, and although there is some frost between June and September, they never reach the higher areas of the valley, where the vineyards are.
“There’s always coastal breeze, which pushes the frost towards the lower parts of the valley, protecting the vine”, says Patricio. As for precipitation, these are concentrated in the winter months, the normal level being 380-400 mm of rain per year.
Clay, gravel and a dedicated agricultural work
This vineyard lays on granitic, clay soil, which is characterized by being poor in organic matter and with good drainage. Its composition includes red clay, gravel, and digging deeper, it becomes increasingly stony, with gravels. As Mario Miranda explains, “because these are not excessively strong soils, they help control the strength of Sauvignon Blanc which are, by nature, vigorous plants”.
The hills undulating the landscape of Ucúquer make its green vineyards to appear even more impressive. Located in Chile’s Sixth Region, in the northwest sector of Litueche, in the limit with Navidad, where the Rapel River is deep but calm, this high land flanked by reddish ravines always surprises its visitors.
“The landscape is breathtaking; the contrast of the winding vineyards with the deep stony ravines, which fall into pristine, sweet, emerald-colored waters is impressive”, says the winemaker, adding, “on clear days, you can even see the sea from the hillsides of Ucúquer”.