Koyle Wines was established by the Undurraga family in 2007, part of a new wave of winemaking in Chile that is surprising the world with the quality of its wines and the unique expression of terroir. Though a new business, in establishing Koyle the Undurraga brothers drew on their experience and expertise as 6th generation wine producers of one of Chile's largest family-owned wineries, Unduragga, where Max was in charge of production and finance, before the company was sold to outside investors in 2006. Meanwhile, Cristobal spent 7 years from 2000 working in Rosemount in Australia, Franciscan Estate in Napa Valley, Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux and Kaiken in Argentina, and channels his experiences into his roles of viticulturalist and winemaker at Koyle. Their passion is evident in one of Cristobal's favourite expressions, said with a Chilean-accented English: "Fantastic!"Undurraga brothers and their father starting from left: Max, Alfonso (President of Koyle), Rebeca, Alfonso and Christobal◆ What was winemaking like in Chile 30 years ago?Max -- 30 years ago, the Chilean wine industry was mainly based on Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in reds; Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in whites. But 30 years ago everything was mixed up. All the vineyards were in the valleys because it is flat, and they grew reds and whites side-by-side - there was no concept of terroir.Even in the vineyards in just one spot you could find the red or white varietals all growing together, and we picked them all together. It was the same in the winery, on the bottling line, and in the shop and restaurants.Bordeaux style was just a general label - it was a little more concentrated than Bourgogne style which was a little lighter.Today we harvest in March through May, but 30 years ago we programmed the harvest in October of the previous year. We'd say, "Okay, when I come back from vacation we will start harvest on March 15th." And that is when it stared, and we would finish harvest on May 20th. It didn't matter about the weather during vintage or if the fruit was green - that was a different problem. It was a different approach, very mechanical.At that time, nearly all wine was for domestic consumption, exports were just beginning. Domestic wines were sold in 700ml bottles, and export wines in 750ml. In a little countryside town, you would buy 5-liter bottles, and nobody controlled it, so you could buy it anywhere and everywhere.People would drink very local wines.Prior to 1990, there were only a handful of large branded wineries, all family owned, like own family company Unduragga which produced 2 million bottles a year in 2000. There were many, many other small wineries, but just making wine for local sales, or selling in bulk to the big wineries. The big wineries were buying grapes and selling wines from all parts of Chile, and had the brands and distribution channels.◆ Did you have distinct vintages back then?Max - We did, but it was a problem. For example, when we changed from the '95 vintage to the '96, we would introduce the '96 and owners of restaurant chains would call me and say: 'I have this wine here and it is different, I want the same.' And we would say: 'But it is a different vintage,' only to be told: 'That is your problem, I want to have the same wine.'' So we had to blend so the vintages tasted alike. These concepts are completely different from the way things are now.Cristobal - The way it worked at that time in Chile, the owner would buy land, always in the valley, very productive and they grew everything there - all varieties - in the same place. The climate - OK, soil - OK. People didn't look for something different.In the winery I remember the very old big vats made of Rauli, a beech wood from southern Chile that we used. They say we must leave the 'mother of the wine', so they would take out 80% of the wine in a given year for bottling and leave 20%, and then fill it up again when making the next year's wine. Almost like making port. It was very oxidized, the Sauvignon Blanc blend was almost orange. But it was the wine people were accustomed to drinking. In the beginning, this is the wine Chile started exporting.In the 90s the red was mainly Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. Many people overseas were talking about Chilean Merlot, because it had such a unique expression. But it turns out it wasn't Merlot, it was Carmenere which was only rediscovered in Chile in 1994. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Carmenere all come from the same variety, so the leaves are quite similar, especially Carmenere and Merlot, which were mixed together in many vineyards.In reality, Carmenere is a very late ripening variety, so it is picked 1 month after Merlot. But they were picking it early with the Merlot, so it was intensely green, with plenty of green pepper expression, blende with Merlot.Chilean Merlot was a big success in the 90s overseas, so it sparked the beginning of rediscovering within Chile of what we actually had, and to start thinking about finesse and the best terroir for different varietals.The 1990s was when the brands really started to grow. The change came from demands from overseas, from markets that wanted something different - single varietal, more fresh, or more fruity wines. And we began to bring in outside expertise in viticulture, vinification, winemaking equipment with the use of stainless steel, the use of smaller barrels to increase contact with the wine.◆ How did Koyle come about?Max - Chile has amazing growing conditions in the valleys, beautiful weather, the soils are rich, the land is unique. In the 2000s when we started going up into the mountains, we realized what we found there is far more exciting. Together with our father, Alfonso Undurraga Mackenna, we searched for the ideal terroir to make high quality red wines, finally deciding on our current property in Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua, in the foothills of the Andes mountain range. The characteristics of the microclimate and geology of the 1,100-hectare site were key factors in starting our project,and in our selection of vines that would adapt perfectly to this place. Our search for terroir was heavily influenced by Paul Pontallier, the late Managing Director at Chateau Margaux, where Cristobal worked for a year.Cristobal - Once we had found the land, we worked with 'Dr Terroir' Pedro Parra, who helped us identify five terroir macro-units, and today we have 80 hectares planted in vines. The Los Lingues vineyards climb up a hill in 3 terraces, from 500 meters up to 650 meters. The soils are 70% volcanic and 30% clay, with the mix varying the higher you climb.Terrace 1 for Reserva fruit, is 20-25% clay with small rocks the size of baseballs. Terrace 2 for Royale range fruit is 10-15% clay, with rocks the size of soccer balls, while the highest terrace 3 is 5-10% clay with rocks the size of basketballs, and fruit from selected spots go into our top Auma and Cerro Basa Ito wines. Each terrace has different densities of vines and yields, from 1.5kg per vine in terrace 1 to 800 grams per vine in terrace 3.From the beginning our focus was expression of place, and the ecosystem biodynamics to let the terroir truly express itself. It opens up the channels of communication with the land, without any chemical interference.Instead, in our vineyards we have chickens to eat the insects, and also feed the staff with eggs. Native hawks control the smaller birds who like to eat the fruit. We use natural compost for fertilization. We don't have any native predators larger than a fox.Max - Cristobal lives next to the vineyards, and walks in them daily,building his contact with the land. Of course it all takes time, from planting to the start of production is 5 years, to start getting high quality wines takes 10 years.The Los Lingues vineyards of Kayle (Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua in Chile)◆ How did you go about creating the new winery?Cristobal - I think in the winery the key thing is that it is all about the grapes, you are always creating to bring out their vibrant energy. I have many, many different processes for the grapes, to be able to control the specifics in the winery with many variables - the fermentation temperature, the size of barrels, aging time.Today in Los Lingues, we have 87 different fermentation units, each of which we can approach differently, many may be subtle, but I have that luxury. We have taken this specific approach for 10 years, it's like cooking in the kitchen when you have different things, and you're having fun, you are having a little here, and a little bit more there. It's tactile and inspirational when you are creating.I'm always searching for the people who are really leaders in their fields, in barrels and so on. It is all about specialization. So all our oak is French. I tried American, and also from the south of Chile. But the best quality oak comes from France. In the same way, the concrete eggs come from Michel Chapoutier from the Rhone in France with the help of Nomblot, a French company that has been making concrete vats since the 1920s.The whole wine world is moving towards finer wines - 50 years ago people didn't move around the world like we do today. You can see the trend in things as simple as water, as salt, as coffee. Things that were so basic - a glass of water was just that 50 years ago, but today in a restaurant you get a choice of bottles. It's the same in Japan with rice.People are asking for and associating produce with place. And it's the same with our wine in Chile.◆ Do you see the effects of global warming in your vineyards and harvests?Cristobal - In the last 5 years, we are picking earlier. Part of it is global warming, the annual rainfall is going down, the average summer temperature is going up, so while we are sensitive to reading the numbers, the biodynamic vineyards are much more responsive to adapting to the conditions. The good thing about biodynamics, the grapes in on our estate ripen earlier than our neighbours. Every year we are picking three weeks before our neighbours, because the vines are more sensitive. We really notice it in autumn, as the temperatures go down the leaves on the vines start changing with beautiful colours, while in the vineyards of our neighbours who use chemicals the leaves are still dark green. And with the first frosts they go from green to black.◆ What changes have you seen in fruit quality and expression as the vines get older?Cristobal - Like the internet today, in the vineyard we have a natural ecosystem - the animals, insects, roots of the vine all communicate. So as vines grow older, roots are going deeper, and communication is better. If you respect that, those vines will be more sensitive to and capable of change that happens, and the wines will reflect much more complexity. A plant that is born, lives and dies in one place is much more sensitive to the cosmos, and communicates.My father is old school, we use the agricultural calendar in the vineyard.When the moon is in the ascendant cycle, the tides are rising, descendent they are going down. It is the same with the fluids in the vines. So if you prune the vine in the descendant cycle, that cut doesn't cry. In the ascendant cycle, it will cry. There are magical things that happen. The closer we work with the land, the more and more opportunity it gives us for fine tuning and capturing our sense of place.