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Chile’s reputation as the best wine producer of South America is undisputed, and is getting stronger with every passing year.  Although there are hundreds of wineries in the country, less than 10 of them produce the overwhelming majority of quality wines.

     Cousino-Macul is among the best wineries of Chile. Founded in 1856 by Louis Cousino who had the vision of importing French vines in 1863 with the objective to produce outstanding wines the winery is one of the major red wine exporters.  By 1870 a state of the art winery was built to accommodate growing demand/ Towards the end of the 20th century the brothers Cousino (Carlos, Arturo and Emilio) in charge of management decided to build a new up-to-date winery, surrounded by vast vineyards to meet their fruit needs.

     After searching for years, they decided to buy 300 hectares in Buin in the Maipo Valley, 32 Kilometres southeast of the capital, Santiago de Chile.  The new estate enjoys an ideal climate and soil (calcareous and rocky) meeting criteria for suitable terroir.  The estate will have 217 hectares dedicated to vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 115 hectares, Merlot 45, Chardonnay 23, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling 17 each).

     The vines of Buin vineyards are planted with direct descendants of the vines planted by Luois Cousino, since Chile is one of the two countries worldwide that was spared the phylloxsera vastatris. The other is Cyprus. L. Cusino had purchased Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot form Pauillac and Margaux, and Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from Martillac, all famous villages in Bordeaux. All vines have been preserved lovingly in the nursery in Macul.  Buin was particularly selected for its diurnal temperature changes that contribute immensely to the quality of fruit.

     The vineyards are tightly planted (3570 – 5000 vines per hectare) to ensure root competition), high quality, and reduced yield. Practically all Chilean vineyards require irrigation. Buin is no exception, but here management decided to install a computerized drip irrigation which helps regulate the amount of water each block receives. Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) is a scientific tool allowing winemakers to stress vines as see fit. In addition, vineyards managers are instructed to exercise rigorous green harvesting techniques in an attempt to better fruit quality.

     All vineyards are hand harvested and the fruit transported in small (15 – 25 Kilogram) baskets to avoid damage. Once the fruit arrives in the winery, sorters go through each bunch and remove rotten grapes. In Chile, summers are dry, and , if not all, vineyards require no spraying against common vine diseases encountered in regions with humid climates.

     Cousino-Macul’s Buin Estate is equipped with the best technologically advanced equipment and barrels consistent with the objective to produce superb wines.  This 350,000 case winery will start shipping 2004. Look for this estate’s wines in your favourite store.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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