Philip Day discusses the VIK Wine and its capacity to change wine-drinkers’ perceptions of Chilean wine forever.
This detailed review of the VIK Wine includes history, viticulture, vinification and overview of the company’s wines.
In the main, Chile is known for its affordable and generally acceptable wines but not for many particularly interesting wines. The VIK Wine brand has set out to change wine-drinkers’ perceptions of Chilean wine forever. This unusual winery has set itself the aim to create a world-class red wine that combines the bold attributes of Chilean wines with the elegance of top-flight French vintages, by developing a wine blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.
With just four vintages thus far, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the expert wine-makers are already producing a remarkable stand-out product that has many global connoisseurs anticipating even greater things.
Established in the sweeping valleys, less than 50 miles (80 km) from the soaring snow-dusted Andes Mountains, which can be seen in the distance, whilst only 28 miles (45 km) from the coast, the carefully considered design of the winery is such that it has minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Its designers have succeeded in incorporating the most cutting-edge and advanced technology to make the business of wine production very efficient operationally, while also endeavouring to create a uniquely harmonious design.
The vineyard is only one aspect of the VIK Vineyard experience however, for although its location was carefully chosen to ensure the best possible quality of grapes for wine, the architecture and the arts displayed at the spa, hotel and restaurants were designed to holistically compliment and intimately interconnect with the bounty that nature provides.
The VIK Wine Vineyard is also beneficial for the local economy, being the largest employer in the area, while its kitchens are stocked with the freshest of ingredients, grown by neighbouring small-scale farmers.
For its visitors, the location offers a truly picturesque setting, as the vista of blue hills and mountains fade into the distance, the vineyards steal the show in the foreground while a tranquil lake curls seductively just below the infinity pool which juts out from the hotel.
At VIK Vineyard, the wines produced are the aesthetic expression of the holistic concept: fuelled by the passion of its workers; the result of the magnificently dynamic terroir, together with the application of viticultural and vinicultural best practices that knowledge, science and technology allows; demonstrating excellence in environmental stewardship, and the development of human and social capital through a special sensitivity to the environment as well as via artistic, cultural, gastronomic and architectural expression.
In short, the emphasis of the synergy between all that goes into the creation of a great wine and its hedonist consumption, focuses on the whole, a perfect combination of humankind and nature for neither cannot exist independently, nor be understood without reference to the other. For this reason, VIK wine can be considered Chile’s (if not the world’s) first ‘holistic’ wine.
It was back in 2004, that Alexander Vik, a Norwegian-Uruguayan entrepreneur, proposed the establishment of a world-class vineyard to produce a truly unique wine. To find the best terroir, he gathered together a team of oenologists, climatologists, geologists, viticulturists and agronomists to undertake a search throughout South America. French wine consultant Patrick Valette was hired to lead the team and based on their findings, they settled on the location of the remote Millahue Valley, which translates as “Place of Gold”, in the local Mapuche language, the indigenous people of central Chile.
Thus, in 2006 Alexander and Carrie Vik purchased some 4,325 hectares (10,688 acres) located in the interior of the valley encompassed by an incalculable number of gorges, which offered optimal climatic conditions for grape growing and a variety of unequalled microterroirs each of which with its own distinct exposure and cooled by coastal breezes would lend any grapes grown there the desired complexity Vik was seeking to make his signature world-class red wine.
After meticulous soil studies were carried out, together with a variety of meteorological and land exposure studies, the selection of the varietals and rootstock were implemented with the aid of Jean Pierre Mercier from Univiveros.
The varieties selected were, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which were then planted throughout the many valleys, always seeking to achieve the best harmony between the hydric balance, climate, soils and the varietal rootstock.
During 2006-7, Carrie and Alexander Vik organized an architectural competition among some of Chile’s best architects, to design the winery at VIK Wine Vineyard. The proposal from the renowned architect, Smiljan Radic, won the competition, a man who accepted the challenge of designing for the inspirational vision of the couple.
Following his selection as principal architect and designer, the VIK Wine team spent three years working alongside Smiljan Radic to refine and develop and enhance his original design concept and materials. From the beginning, the architectural aspect of the winery was a fundamental pillar and an expression of the Viks’ holistic concept of the vineyard.
The completed winery at VIK Wine Vineyard features a unique and unprecedented design, which is not only state-of-the-art, highly sustainable and technologically creative but also provides a visually stunning experience that promises to redefine the wine-making and wine-tasting experience.
Set amongst the mountains and sweeping valleys with the backdrop of the soaring Andes mountains in the distance, the winery has also been thoughtfully designed to have minimal impact on the landscape, while also striving to be exceedingly operationally efficient, through the implementation of the most advanced technology.
Completed just a few months before Viña Vik retreat, the majority of the winery is built underground, with only its uniquely transparent, stretched-fabric roof visible, as if caressing the valley floor below, that allows natural sunlight to permeate the winery enabling it to operate without artificial lighting. While architecturally intriguing, it is also ecologically sound, being elementally cooled by Pacific Ocean breezes during the day and by air emanating from the Andes, at night. Situated at its entrance, is an extensive, moving-water reflection pool punctuated with a granite boulder sculptural installation made by Smiljan Radic and his sculptor wife, Marcela Correa.
Built on the ridge of a hill, right in the middle of the property, the unique hotel, designed by Alex and Carrie Vik, with Uruguayan architect Marcelo Daglio as the architect consultant, is visible for miles around. The edifice is capped by an undulating roof made from bronzed titanium designed to reflect, in its construction and purpose, the valleys and mountains that surround it. Indeed, the golden colour of the building pays homage to the indigenous Mapuche name for the area, Millahue.
The open walkways and glass walls throughout the construction allow the surrounding countryside to be observed from every angle and the pool and terrace are perfect for sunset watching. Viña Vik retreat offers luxury full-board accommodation. The property features a seasonal infinity pool offering panoramic views of the vineyards and mountains, as well as a choice of two restaurants, Milla Milla and the Milla Milla Pavilion, and a spa and wellness centre, which utilises products made with ingredients from the vineyard and the local area.
The Viks’ love of contemporary art is evident everywhere, and they are serious collectors. Each suite at Viña Vik retreat features its own distinctive décor and the floor to ceiling windows offer its guests panoramic moutains views.
A stay at Viña Vik retreat, like all five-star experiences, is expensive. However, its guests will get what they are paying for and will want for nothing. With an extensive range of activities included in addition to fine dining in both Milla Milla and the Milla Milla Pavilion, the experience feels like a luxurious stay with a very wealthy friend. (Further information may be found at the website.)
Visitors are also welcome at the winery at VIK Wine Vineyard to experience the spectacular tasting room, where one of wine experts takes visitors through tastings of varietals by individual block, discussing the unique characteristics of each, as well as the various completed vintages.
Visitors to the VIK Winery are additionally invited to dine, drink wines and shop in the Milla Milla Pavilion, a sun filled restaurant, lounge and shop featuring floor to ceiling glass-walls offering breathtaking views of the vineyard, winery, Viña Vik retreat and of course, the majesty of the surrounding panorama.
All of these experiences though, are secondary to the serious business of producing a world-class red wine.
|Appellation / Wine Region||
Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Carrie and Alexander Vik
Total: 330 hectares (815 acres)
Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot
La Piu Belle
The vineyard is located in twelve valleys with distinct types of soil, ranging from poor, rocky soils; sandy and gravel soils; calcareous clay soils and fertile soils.
|Top Vintages Produced
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.
The VIK Wine vineyard is spread across twelve valleys, each with distinct soil types, hence the need at the planning stages of its layout to select the most appropriate plant rootstock for its desired characteristics best suited to thrive in each of these different terroirs. It is this variety and complexity that helps to create a unique and great wine.
At the VIK Wine vineyard, precision in the viticultural development of wines is fundamental, relying on state-of-the-art technology to help maintain a high density plantation.
Each lot of vines is pruned using the ‘guyot’ method, where most of the year’s growth is removed with the exception of one or two canes for the generation of the coming season’s fruiting canes and one or two spurs to generate replacement canes. Towards the end of September, de-budding takes place to eliminate any shoots or suckers that have appeared on the vine’s trunk that would take energy from the vine to grow, produce and ripen fruit, as well as choosing among the best buds and eliminating any spur shoots when these appear with more than one shoot per bud. The best clusters are selected during a thinning process that usually occurs around the beginning of December, while at the same time any superfluous leaves are removed to enable the grapes to receive more light and ventilation, creating the ideal conditions for their maturation.
The growing vines and the environment in which they are growing, are closely monitored by an irrigation system designed to deliver optimum hydric resources based on evapo-transpiration measurements (evaporation of water into the atmosphere from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants) which can also deliver the application of soluble nutrients, as required.
The vineyard benefits from typically consistent mild temperatures during the day and very cool nights and rarely suffers periods of excessive heat, frost or hail. It is a true paradise for growing perfect grapes, as the exceptional luminosity together with a scarcity of lengthy or heavy rain showers during the growing and harvest seasons are very important factors in maintaining the freshness of the fruit while ensuring mature tannins by harvest time.
Another important characteristic of the vineyard is the occurrence of a daily cooling Pacific Ocean breeze that arrives just after lunchtime from the local Los Lazos gorge. This breeze plays an essential part in maintaining a healthy vineyard because it reduces the ambient temperature by 2°-3°C, thereby cooling down the vineyard and prevents the grapes becoming dehydrated and reduces the risk of cluster mould.
It is this synergy and respect between man and nature, together with a concern for the environment to ensure sustainable development, which enables the team to holistically produce their cherished VIK Wine.
To ensure that only the best quality grapes are obtained, up to three manual harvests take place at night-time when the grapes are at their coolest depending on the maturity of the grapes.
The wine-making team provides similar great care during the production phase of the wine, respecting the distinct natural conditions of each parcel of the vineyard. All the grapes are fed by gravity into stainless steel tanks to preserve the freshness of the fruit and the aromatic precision of the wine, thereby conserving the balance of the wine. The vinification process of each tank is unique, being appropriately adapted in order to respect both the origin of the grape and the organoleptic definition of the tank contents (taste, colour and odour).
The pre-fermentation maceration takes place over 5 to 6 days, at a temperature of around 8°C and during the alcoholic fermentation stage, the contents undergo five daily pump-overs to allow the must to extract properties from the grape skins such as the aromas, tannins and colour.
Malolactic fermentation then takes place in all new French oak barrels. The wine-makers also perform a post-fermentation maceration of between 7 to 15 days depending on the year and tasting.
The resultant wine is now aged in new French oak barrels, for 18-24 months with racking taking place every 3 months.
To achieve the final blend, wines from many different blocks and varietals are assembled according to the œnologists’ vision for the wine and is only completed through constant tasting over many months. Once finished, the blend is returned to the barrel until the œnologist determines the blend is ready for bottling.
The vinification of VIK Vineyard’s wines requires great attention to ensure the transformation of its constituent grapes into an elegant, fine, expressive, aromatic, well-balanced, full-bodied, complex, and world-class South American Premier Grand Cru.
Since 2006 until fairly recently, Patrick Valette, served as the company’s chief œnologist and CEO. In December, 2016 he has assumed a new role overseeing Viniculture, Viticulture and Worldwide Brand Ambassador. The group’s other master wine-maker and viticultor is Cristián Vallejo, who was recruited to the team in 2007.
Indicative blend: Cabernet Sauvignon: 55%, Carménère: 29%, Cabernet Franc: 7%, Merlot: 5% and Syrah: 4%.
Alcohol content : 13.9 ABV.
VIK is a complex, elegant, holistic wine that presents the drinker with a pleasurable, harmonious balance between its tannins and aromatic freshness.
It is without doubt a world-class wine, suitable for long-term ageing, having the promise to become one of the best wines in the world. This singularly remarkable wine is the result of an elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes, chosen yearly in different combinations.
For those who may find the cost of VIK beyond their budget, the company has released a second label, Milla Calla, that enables them to sample their fantastic wines at a more accessible level.
Indicative blend: Cabernet Sauvignon: 47%, Carménère: 44% and Cabernet Franc: 9%.
Alcohol content :13.9% ABV.
VIK Wine Vineyard is also preparing to launch a third wine in 2017, called La Piu Belle. It will be launched in a bottle with a distinctive surreal label designed by Chilean artist, Gonzalo Cienfuegos.
VIK Wine in the news
- January 2017: Vinous rates VIK 2012 a 95 and Milla Cala 2012 a 91
- December 2016: Wine Review rates VIK 2011 a 96
- December 2016: VIK Vineyard, the world-class wine experience in Millahue, Chile, is delighted to announce the appointment of Andrés Izquierdo as CEO and General Manager and Gaston Williams as Worldwide Sales & Marketing Manager.
- May 2016: Wine Spectator rates VIK 2011 a 92
- April 2016: Wine Enthusiast rates VIK 2011 a 93
- October 2015: La Cav rates VIK 2011 a 97
Address: Viña Vik Retreat & the Winery at VIK Vineyard, Hacienda Vik, Millahue Sin Numero, San Vincente de Tagua, Tagua, VI Chile.
YouTube: Vik Retreats
For accommodation at Viña Vik, the exceptional 22 suite retreat at VIK Vineyard contact: email@example.com or telephone: +56 9 5668 4853
For more information about tours and lunches at the winery contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +569 5668 4853