Top of the to do list while we were in town was Concha y Toro, the second biggest winery in the world, and the easiest winery to visit by public transport from Santiago. As was the case with a lot of wineries in South America, the only way to do a wine tasting was to join a tour. In the case of Concha y Toro, the tour wasn’t cheap, but we had high hopes for the wine tastings.
The Concha y Toro tour started with a walk around the gardens of the estate. The grounds were huge and felt more like a park, as you looked out across the rolling green hills and up at the towering autumn tress.
After seeing the old manor house, we headed down to a large area covered with grapes of almost all the varieties you could think of.
This was a fun area, specifically set out so visitors could compare the vines and grapes of varying varieties. With a stunning mountain backdrop and blue skies, we really enjoyed our time wandering through the vines sampling the various grapes. The difference in the grape varieties was really interesting, from different tasting grapes to the variety of colour in the leaves.
The first wine tasting was in an outside courtyard, where we tried one of their white blends. Our guide told us about the wine to set us up for what we would be tasting. We were certainly ready to taste their wine, and then he poured… Well I say poured, I think trickled the wine into the glass would be a better description. The partners in wine looked at each other in confusion, we didn’t expect full glasses at a tasting, but hoped to get more than a splash that barely touched the sides. The wine itself was pleasant enough, but was a bottle we’d seen available at the supermarket. Not what we’d come here to try. Unfortunately this would be the theme for each tasting.
We set off inside, again passing amazing scenery and architecture within the grounds, making our way down into the cellar where we were told we’d learn the story of how Casillero del Diablo or the Devil’s Cellar got it’s name. Then the lights went out and a recording started to play, telling us the legend of the cellar along with sound and lighting effects. It was really bizarre. Personally I would rather my entrance fee went on better wine tasting than a bizarre few minutes of 19th century ghost stories. And it was such a shame as the cellar itself was beautiful and had so much history. It didn’t need to be cheapened into some kind of theme park experience.
After leaving the cellar we headed upstairs for our final 2 tastings. Again we were poured the smallest amount of wine and finished the tour very disappointed. Overall it was an interesting way to spend a few hours as the grounds themselves are beautiful, but that wasn’t what we came here for. We came to learn about their wine, and for the money we paid we had expected more WINE on our wine tour. Oh well. We did get to keep the wine glasses we tasted out of, which was one positive, although the challenge would be to see how long we could keep them in one piece.
The final disappointment came when we thought we’d pick up a bottle or two of their more premium wine to taste between the four of us at home, only to find them selling their wine at crazy prices. I’m more than happy to pay to taste wine as it takes away the feeling of obligation to buy a bottle, but we left feeling very spoiled by the excellent cellar door experiences we have in Australia, where it’s rare you have to pay for wine tastings and you can usually try as many wines from the tasting list as you’d like.
Heading home, we stopped at the more upmarket supermarket and splurged, picking up a few really nice bottles of wine (none from Concha y Toro) so we could continue our day of tasting. It’s just a shame our apartment wasn’t haunted so we could re-live the whole experience. Not.