Woman From Famous Fine Wine Family Takes Winery In Organic Direction

The tall, thick stalk reached an unbelievable height through the base of long, light green leaves that fanned around its base as if they were presenting a rare jewel. Adoring the top of the stalk was an explosion of thin yellowish-green leaves that shot out with spikes, all together forming a big, closed-tulip shape with turquoise flowers nestled throughout, making it an otherworldly plant with no equal.  

The South American country of Chile is known for its extraordinary exotic beauty; its native plant, Chagual, is one of the many exotically entrancing natural aspects that grows on the central coast. It is an integral part of the biodiversity of certain areas, as a specific type of butterfly, the Mariposa del Chagual – the largest butterfly in Chile – feeds on the top of the Chagual when it is a caterpillar and then, when it turns into a butterfly, it pollinates the flower, helping the Chagual plant continue to propagate. This butterfly species is already endangered and if there were no more Chagual, these butterflies would become extinct; without these butterflies, these remarkable Chagual plants would cease to exist as well.

And so, a prestigious Chilean winery, Los Vascos, has decided to place an impressionistic drawing of the Chagual on their first two organic wines, which are aptly named after this incredible plant.

Los Vascos 

Los Vascos winery
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

Los Vascos is owned by the Rothschilds, the most famous fine wine family worldwide. One of the family members, Baron Éric de Rothschild, who has been in charge of the First Growth Bordeaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, since 1974, became fascinated with the vineyards of Chile in the 1980s. So, he asked the legendary head winemaker of Lafite, Gilbert Rokvam, to go to Chile to see what he thought of the vineyards out there. Gilbert found great potential in the estate vineyards of Los Vascos in Colchagua Valley, considered today the superstar wine region in Chile. However, it was unknown in the international wine world when Gilbert first surveyed the vineyards. It didn’t take long, once Éric de Rothschild bought Los Vascos in 1988, to attract major investment and make it the Chilean region with the top wine producers.

But Éric de Rothschild has a way of bringing great success wherever his energies are placed; when he was put in charge of Lafite Rothschild in the mid-1970s, the wines were having a lot of ups and downs in regards to quality and they were not living up to their place in history. Still, the same could be said for much of Bordeaux during that time. Not being one to rest on his laurels, as the wines still had no problems selling, he decided to make significant investments in the vineyards and winery, and since the 1982 and 1996 vintages, they have been making some of their best wines. Some argue that, today, they are some of the best wines on the planet.

The interesting thing about Château Lafite Rothschild is that it is located in the Bordeaux appellation of Pauillac, which has the largest number of First Growths from the 1855 classification with a total of three, and has several other esteemed châteaux that are classified. The great wines of Pauillac are known as big, well-structured wines that will last for many decades. Even though Lafite is certainly known as a wine with a long life, it stands out in Pauillac as the wine with the most finesse and, simply, the epitome of elegance that many other wineries have tried to emulate worldwide.

Saskia de Rothschild

Eric de Rothschild and his daughter Saskia de Rothschil
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

Over four years ago, Saskia de Rothschild, the daughter of Éric de Rothschild, took over running Los Vascos, bringing a much stronger focus on sustainable practices. Saskia is 36 years old and has a fresh, new energy reinvigorating this Chilean estate but she is experienced beyond her years. Not only has she worked at stellar estates in Bordeaux such as Château L’Evangile in Pomerol and Château Lafite Rothschild, but she has had her own career as an investigative journalist, interviewing inmates at La Maca prison in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, filming the first female U.S. Marines sent to the frontlines of Afghanistan and investigated the mining industry in Greenland, just to name a few. She has traveled extensively, going deep into the culture and ways of the people, like any good investigative journalist. So, it is important to her to express the unique qualities of the Colchagua Valley in Chile.

According to the estate director of Los Vascos, Philippe Rolet, they have been organically managing around 200 to 250 acres of vineyards over the past 10 years. Still, since Saskia has taken over, they have significantly increased it to 800 acres and in the future, they would like to manage all of their 1,500 acres of vineyards organically. As mentioned, she has spearheaded the production of their first organic wines, fittingly called ‘Chagual.’

Elegance In The Most Unlikely Places 

Worker on a horse on the Los Vascos estate Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

It always seemed an unbelievable feat how Château Lafite Rothschild, under the guidance of Eric de Rothschild, would be able to produce some of the most elegant wines in the world in the prestigious appellation of Pauillac, known for its power. And Saskia is already tapping into the elegance that is within the power of the wines made in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, just like her father, with a great estate director by her side, Philippe Rolet, to find even deeper nuances of a graceful quality, within an area known for generous fruit ripeness, that is exemplified in their ‘Le Dix’ wine. And, especially, their top red wines are undeniably powerful, just like Château Lafite Rothschild.

But power doesn’t always have to push its way into a room aggressively or fiercely demand attention, sometimes real power is quiet and reserved, unafraid to take its time, so, once it does slowly reveal its secrets to the drinker, it is a moment that is profoundly gratifying.

***Link to original Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2024/01/12/woman-part-of-the-most-famous-fine-wine-family-takes-winery-into-organic-direction/

Le Dix Wine
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos
2022 Los Vascos ‘Chagual’ Sauvignon Blanc Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Los Vascos ‘Chagual’ Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio, Chile: 100% organic Sauvignon Blanc grapes. They sourced these grapes in the much cooler coastal area of San Antonio from organic vineyards as they wanted a fresh, bright Sauvignon Blanc. Very refreshing nose of thyme and lemon peel with a zingy palate with flavors of lemon curd and mouthwatering acidity.  

2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc Photo Credit Cathrine Todd
2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Chardonnay. Stony minerality and white peach aromas with ripe apricots and hints of spice on a moderately rich body balanced by high acidity.

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Cabernet Franc, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Cabernet Franc. Crushed rocks with wild brambly fruit, a hint of fresh herbs and tree bark with a fine texture and a long, aromatic finish.

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère Photo Credit Cathrine Todd
Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Carménère. Earthy nose with dusty earth and tobacco leaf with richer fruit flavors on the palate of blackcurrant preserves and sage leaves with firm tannins that give shape to the generous fruit.

2019 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Colchagua Valley, Chile: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines and 8% Syrah. This is Los Vascos’ top wine that represents the best of the best of the Colchagua Valley, where the outstanding achievement of the Rothschilds in Chile can be best experienced. It is called ‘Le Dix’ as that is the French word for 10 and it was first released in 1998 to celebrate Éric de Rothschild’s tenth anniversary with Los Vascos. This wine is mainly comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon from 80-year-old vines that come from a vineyard called El Fraile, which means the Monk, and it is the oldest vineyard at Los Vascos. Floral aromas delight the nose with blackcurrant leaf and a touch of cocoa nib, and black cherries mingling with cinnamon stick and grated nutmeg flavors along the silky tannins with a broad body that finishes with great precision.

Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2010 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Cosechas Antiguas, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines, 10% Carménère and 5% Syrah. The “Cosechas Antiguas” noted on the label indicates that it has been cellared at Los Vascos under a wax closure, and so, the 2010 and below 2003 are both “Cosechas Antiguas” bottlings. Layers of complexity with cigar box, black truffles and wild mushrooms with juicy black fruit on the palate encased in breathtakingly silky, fine texture.

2003 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Cosechas Antiguas, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines. Intriguing smoldering earth and tantalizing cured meats, such as saucisson, with uplifting notes of anise seeds and fresh blackberry fruit with a lot of energy on the finish with a linear drive.

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