Viña Falernia Syrah Reserva 2010, Elqui Valley, Chile

Drunk September 2015 @ home

Viña Falernia syrah reserva 2010

The winery

Viña Falernia was founded in 1998 by Aldo Olivier Gramola. The Aldo Olivier’s family was originally from a small village in northern Italy (Trentino Region) called Dimaro. In 1951 Aldo’s father (Don Lino) decided to leave the country to move to Chile in May 1951 taking advantage of a development deal between Italy and Chile. The family arrived in the Coquimbo / La Serena region.

Aldo got married and he changed from La Serena to a small village located in Elqui Valley, called El Tambo, part of the Vicuña common.  The Falernia project was born in 1995 after he met his cousin Giorgio Flessati, an oenologist working in the Trentino region of northern Italy. 

Viña Falernia is located in the Elqui Valley between La Serena and Vicuña, 520 km (323 miles) to the north of Santiago and it is at present Chile’s northernmost wine estate. 

The soils in Falernia vineyards are composed partly of rubble which has eroded from the Andes mountains and deposited by glaciers and wind, and partly of alluvial sand and silt deposited by the river. While stony, gravely soils are regarded as poor for most crops, their excellent drainage qualities make them perfect for wine growing. The climate is semi-arid (average annual rainfall is 80-100 mm) making drip irrigation indispensable during the spring and summer months. The vineyards benefit from currents of cold air which descend from the high mountains at night., causing a dramatic contrast between day and night time temperatures during the ripening season, from 27-32°C (80.6-89.6°F) to 10-12°C (50-53.6°F). 

Viña Falernia comprises around 320 hectares of vineyard (800 acres), plus 100 hectares (250 acres) with long term contracts. The vineyards are located in several sites of the Elqui Valley, with very different climate conditions.

The first site, Titon vineyard, lies at an altitude of 350 meters (1070 feet), 18 km away from the ocean (11 miles). Day temperature there reach a maximum of 24/ 25º C (74ºF) during the summer and 9- 10ºC (48 /50ºF) at night time; In the morning there is often fog until 10/11 am. The actual size is 125 ha (312 acres) under vines.

The second site is just around the winery at the end of Puclaro lake (an artificial dam built by the government in 2003 for supporting the irrigation in the valley and guarantee water supply of the cities of Coquimbo and La Serena as well). Altitude is 515 mts (1570 feet). Climate conditions are very different, it is drier than Titon, warmer and with few foggy mornings (due to the lake, that changed the microclimate). 

The third site is close to Vicuña, where there is a young planting called “Pedregal”, 30º South /70 45’F at 560 Mts. (or 1680 feet): 40 has (100 acres) planted on the old bed of the Elqui River with a very stoney soil perfectly suited to Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards is in transition to organic certification by IMO SWITZERLAND.

The fourth site is an old vineyard called “Huanta” or “Guanta” that is a rocky valley at an altitude between 1700 and 2070 meters (5185- 6320 feet), one of the highest vineyards in the world. The climate is very dry with a big difference between day and night temperatures.

Huanta Vineyard

These geographical features have kept at bay the phylloxera, and aphid which devastated most of the world’s vineyards a century ago, as well as downy mildew mould. The fact that pests and diseases such as these are kept at bay makes the use of chemical sprays and insecticides to protect the vines and grapes largely unnecessary.

Jamie Good visit to Falernia video

The wine

Hand picked grapes from two vineyards in the Elqui Valley, Titon and Huanta with very different soil and microclimates. Using cold maceration prior to fermentation on the skins in stainless steel tanks. After malolactic fermentation, 50% is aged in small French oak barrels for 6 months. tasting notes

A full bodied powerful wine, with big fruit and notable pepper and spice on the nose and on the palate. There is a hint of dark chocolate on the finish giving a slight bitterness with mint elements. 

For the price this cool climate Syrah is very good particularly with a barbecue. Be sure to serve the wine at the right temperature 18 degrees or so.