Gonzalo Pérez has worked in California, but has a huge belief in the potential of his native Chile to create diverse and interesting quality wines, and indeed ‘diversity’ is a word that crops up time and time again in our conversation. “The strong concept of Anakena is diversity,” he says, and to that end the company has been investing in vineyards in various Chilean regions, with recent purchases of 145 hectares in Cachapoal and 80 hectares in Colchagua, plus new vineyards in Peumo specifically for Carmenère and Syrah. Most recently 50 hectares of vineyard in the northerly region of Leyda has been planted with cool climate varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Peumo is a new name for me. Gonzalo explains it is part of Cachapoal that, whilst not close to the sea like many of Chile’s ‘newest’ discoveries, is open to sea breezes. It has a soil that seems to specifically suit Carmenère: “Carmenère doesn’t like a really poor soil, but benefits from some richness,” he says.
Anakena also buys in some fruit from other areas like Bio Bio and Casablanca, again in the cause of achieving diversity in their raw materials.
Anakena’s wines have always seemed to me to be well-balanced and to have some elegance and restraint about them. Gonzalo seems pleased with this observation: “To sum up the Anakena style we want clean fruit, finesse over intensity, balanced wines and they must be food wines,” he says. “We are still working towards this with some wines, but it is a clear philosophy and one we’ve had from the start.” His belief in Chilean terroir runs though his conversation: “I will never make a wine in the cellar unless I have seen the vineyard, understood its geophysical character, and work in sympathy with that.”
Anakena have also developed a specialism in Viognier, which has become one of the mainstays of their portfolio. Gonzalo tells me they cannot keep up with demand for Viognier, and has been grafting some Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier in Cachapoal where it does really well, as does Malbec which he is also planting. In total Anakena produce 300,000 cases, with 50,000 coming to the UK and with a total of around 80% of all production exported. Now the challenge ahead is to increase quality and average price for their wines, but not to increase volume. Gonzalo seems like a man with a very clear vision for his wines, and the patience to make them the way he wants them rather than chasing specific volume targets.
Anakena Viognier 2008
Only free-run, or very gently pressed juice is used in this wine. Gonzalo says he is picking his Viognier a little earlier each year to retain acidity and keep alcohol under control. From the Rapel Valley, this has 20% barrel ferment for a short period before being re-blended and aged further in steel. It is the absolute essence of liquefied apricot on the nose, with little Botrytis-like touches of honey and marmalade. On the palate the fruit is just as bountiful and ripe, but acidity is good, and though the thick texture and opulence of the wine is unmistakable, this just hangs on to its savoury, food-friendly character. Absolutely delicious and a real bargain at the Wine Rack ‘three for two’ price. 88/100. £8.49, Thresher and Wine Rack, but buy three @ £5.99 each.
Anakena Ona Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Carmenère 2006 The sixteen months this wine spent in French oak weighs quite heavily on the nose which his thick, powerful aromas of vanilla, spice and fudge-like creaminess as well as copious, sultry black fruit. On the palate the power and grip of the wine continues, with rich, chewy tannins melding with bittersweet black fruit, the wood tannins adding a grainy depth and giving more spice and plummy depth to the finish. A plush and mouth-filling wine that is forward yet does have a bit of structure. 89/100. £9.99, Oddbins
Anakena Viognier 2007
Lovely nose, with juicy peach and apricot fruit notes. Just a background creaminess, with a touch of hazelnut. On the palate very nice texture, with a bit of grip and a fine, long finish with plenty of lemon rind tang and freshness. 88 Trophy winner at Wines of Chile, ‘best other White’.
Anakena Ona Viognier Riesling Chardonnay 2007
From Rapel, 35% Viognier, 35% Riesling from the coast and 40-year-old dry-farmed vines, plus 30% Chardonnay from Casablanca. All vinified separately, with Viognier and Chardonnay part fermented in oak. The nose seems oakier than the Viognier, but has a classy, rich, nutty character over the lightly waxy lemon and lime character. The palate becomes dry and racy, with a pithy grapefruit note and then the softening edge of the barrel too. Lovely length.
Anakena Ona Pinot Noir 2007
Comes from a granitic soil in Casablanca, with 6% Viognier, 6% Merlot and 3% Syrah. Fascinating nose, where the soft, slightly smoky strawberry fruit of the Pinot is joined principally by the Viognier, which gives a touch of floral and peach skin aroma. There is some coffee too. The palate has a very open, charming, strawberry fruit, with quite a tight tannin structure that adds a touch of liquorice, and a touch of spice that comes through, warming the finish. Also won a trophy in the Wines of Chile awards 2008. £8.99, in Oddbins.
Anakena Merlot Reserva 2005
From low-yielding vineyards planted in 1999, that yield 8,000 hl/ha in Rapel, alto Cachapoal. This is a very good yield for retaining balance and finesse without becoming too big and concentrated. Very fine, with a bit of sous-bois, but plenty of almost minty black fruit. A nice touch of cedar too. Lovely spicy, mouth-filling structure. Gonzalo does very little pumping over, as this vineyard gives lots of tannin. Nice savoury structure, with plenty of orangy tang, but lovely spicy length and grip.
Anakena Ona Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Carmenère 2005
From Cachapoal, 16 months in barrel, then blended and back into barrel for four months, using components form the single vineyards. Fantastic, deep colour, with lovely big, soft nose, with black fruit, cedar and a touch of forest floor character. There is a lot of complexity here, with a palate that is very powerful, but has a beautifully rounded, minty smoothness. Fine sour, slightly black olive constraint here, that makes this food-friendly and gives a lovely sense of balance and finesse. Spicy and fine, with a black cherry acidity. But certainly lives up to the Anakena style.