By Eric Solomon & Steven Spanbauer
Early last week, we finalized the details on a new wine from Chile – our very first País made in collaboration with Marcelo Retamal and while we were waiting for our next Chilean shipment later in the year, Luis Gutiérrez stole our proverbial thunder and published details about Granito. But that wasn’t the only thunder in Luis’ survey of Chilean Wines, and two of the three winemakers he spotlighted as the most talented in Chile are in our portfolio – Marcelo Retamal & Francisco Baettig.
So how did this happen? How did Eric discover Chile, and why did we keep it quiet for so long?
It all started back in 2013 when Eric received some samples of Viñedos de Alcohuaz, a vineyard established only a few years earlier in the Alto Elqui Valley by the Flano family and Marcelo Retamal. These wines showed a remarkable balance between a generosity of fruit and an ethereal and mineral sense of place. They were unlike anything we had tasted before from Chile, sharing far more in common with what was emerging from the new wave of winegrowers in Spain. So despite the logistical nightmares of moving a hundred or so 6-packs of wine from Chile to the US each year, we knew that Alcohuaz was the right fit for our portfolio. A few years later, when Reta informed us he was working on his own project and planning to “retire” from DeMartino, he lined us up as his new importer when he launched RETA.
And when Francisco Baettig began planting his own vineyard in the far southern part of Chile with the intention of making Pinot and Chardonnay at the extreme edge of viticulture, our early successes with the northern and high-elevation extremes of Viñedos de Alcohuaz made us the best partner for Baettig Wines.
In the span of a few years, we went from 1 outlying Chilean property helmed by one of the most gifted and inquisitive thinkers in Chilean wine to three – all of which Luis Gutiérrez has documented in his most recent reviews of Chile.
What excites us about Chile now?
This is a question best answered by Carlos de Carlos, Francisco Baettig’s friend and business partner:
In May 2010 in a bar in London and in the company of my great friend and partner Pancho Baettig, the idea of Vinos Baettig was born.
Our vision: to make exciting and delightful wines that are connected to the land where they are made, where the cold weather, the rain, the volcanic rock, and the character of the people of the South of Chile are reflected in fine, pure, and austere wines with excellent aging potential.
Wines that could become benchmarks for Chilean wines in quality, image, and style.
That meeting was the beginning of a long road. The search for the ideal place (terroir) to source our Burgundy project – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the search for the appropriate plant material (rootstocks and plants) that would adapt to the cold and wind of Traiguén, the planting of our Los Suizos Vineyard with dry farming, etc.
Time passed, and today we can tell you with great emotion and deep happiness that the Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has just published its annual report ranking the best Chilean wines and chose:
– Baettig Los Primos Chardonnay 2021 – BEST WINE FROM CHILE and BEST CHARDONNAY (98 points)
– Baettig Los Primos Pinot Noir 2021 – BEST PINOT NOIR FROM CHILE (96 points)
It’s been 13 years, and we’re just starting out, but this recognition brings us renewed energy to continue on this adventure in Traiguén…
And our exploration of Chile continues this time with Bordeaux vines. We will soon launch our first Coronel de Maule Cabernet Sauvignon from our vineyard that rescues vines that are over 100 years old in the coldest area of the DO Maule
Thanks a lot for your tremendous support, and please feel free to share this news with your team.
–Carlos de Carlos, Vinos Baettig
These sentiments are the very essence of our motto, Place Over Process, an idea that isn’t empty marketing fluff but Eric Solomon’s guiding philosophy since he founded European Cellars in 1990. Congratulations to Marcelo Retamal and Francisco Baettig, and here’s to many more years of celebrating your hard work, persistence, and creative boundary-pushing.