Since its first vintage in 2002, Altair has gone on a journey of transformation, and the 2018 vintage marks its brightest transformation yet. Not only with a new image for the brand, but a refocus on bringing out the essence and star quality of Cachapoal Andes.
An early icon in the making
One of Chile’s early ‘icon’ wines, Altair was developed around its vineyard — an estate in Cachapoal Andes first planted by Viña San Pedro in 1998. Over time more vines have crept further into the foothills and onto rockier soils, totalling 70 hectares today — of which only ten are used for Altair. ‘The vineyard has a range of exposures and soils, and runs from 420 to 570 metres above sea level in altitude,’ explains winemaker Gabriel Mustakis. ‘We have 20 special blocks for Altair, which are each vinified separately before the final blend.’ The patchwork of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Carmenère vines can be seen on the new cobalt blue label of the wine, which shows the subtle contours and serpentine vine rows emerging from the Andes mountains.
‘Alto Cachapoal has a unique mountain expression — focused on red fruits and floral elegance, with a mineral, iron character,’ Gabriel adds. ‘It is a distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon — aromatic and delicate in the palate.’
A fresh vision for 2018
The 2018 vintage couldn’t be a better one to launch the new face of Altair with. Not only is it one of the star vintages of the decade for Chile, following a well-balanced and moderate growing season, but it also reflects a change in the winemaking philosophy. ‘We are now picking grapes a lot earlier to get that freshness and clearer vineyard expression,’ explains Gabriel, who joined as head winemaker in February 2018. ‘And we have focused on gentler extractions and less oak — although we are still making a wine that will evolve well for decades.’
The 2018 vintage spends 16 months in a combination of barrels, foudres and cement eggs, before resting as a final blend in 2,000 litre foudres for another 6 months. The result is a wine which is both age-worthy and long, yet silky and subtly layered with notes of blackberries, red bramble fruit, sweet spices and wild flowers. Most of all, it offers a mountain freshness and vibrancy special to Cachapoal Andes.
It’s been some time in the making, and Altair is now ready to let its star shine.