Guy tending the Carménère vines
Guy tending the Carménère vines

Many people have a lawn in their front garden. Chile-based British expat Guy Hooper decided to plant vines instead: 626 of them in a surprisingly compact area, all red varieties: Carménère, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah. When I visited, most of the grapes were going through the magical process of véraison, where they change colour from pale green to purple.

Guy Hooper came to meet me in the leafy main square of Talagante, a 40-minute bus ride outside Santiago. A brisk, firm handshake and talk of rugby and cricket on the short drive to his home; all very stereotypical for two British expats. Then we drove through the gates, past the densely-planted vines in his front garden and parked outside the stylish house designed by his Chilean wife and it became clear that Guy is absolutely at home here. You see this with some expats; they adjust perfectly to their adopted homes, adopting the customs and speaking the language but, as soon as they meet someone of their own nationality, they switch right back into their native manner and language.

This ability to be at home with two cultures and languages must have been a great plus during Guy’s highly successful career in international sales at Chilean wineries de Martino, Tamaya and Veramonte over the last 20 years. Right now though, he’s taking a break and enjoying time with his family and his own wine, Hoops.

Véraison in the Carménère vines
Véraison in the Carménère vines

We toured his small vineyard and winemaking area. Everything is kept simple and as natural as possible. Powdery mildew is a problem and Guy applies sulfur to keep it at bay, but, other than that, he keeps intervention to the minimum – not even irrigating the vines. Like some of the biodynamic viticulturists I’ve talked to, he feels that the vines are stronger and better able to withstand problems if they are expected to fend for themselves from day one. His other major problem is birds. In fact, it is the thrushes which determine the final blend of each vintage – in 2011, they devoured most of the Carménère and Syrah grapes, so the 2011 vintage contains only Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The name Guy’s family have given to their home and their winery is Caviahue – a place for get-togethers and parties and each year they live up to this promise with their harvest festival. They invite family, friends and colleagues for the day and everyone takes part in picking and destemming grapes in a party atmosphere with a barbecue and wine.

Plastic fermentation bins in the winemaking area
Plastic fermentation bins in the winemaking area

So all the grapes are picked together on the same day and are put together in a big plastic bin, where they undergo a 24-hour maceration at ambient temperatures before being foot-pressed by the family. They are fermented with their native yeasts in the same plastic bin for 15-25 days and Guy does a manual punch-down twice a day. To avoid the must getting too cold at night, Guy lights a brazier of wood every evening and then puts a tray of hot embers under the tank to keep it warm. This is truly a labour of love.

After the fermentation, he leaves the wine over its skins for 2-3 days, then transfers it first into another plastic container to decant naturally for 24-48 hours, then to a used French oak barrel in the cellar at the heart of the house. Usually there is enough wine to fill one barrel plus a little left over to top up the barrel as the level drops. One barrel means 300 bottles, more than the family needs and this is the reason that Guy has started to sell his wine.

Bottling and labelling are a family affair too, a more or less manual process involving a small bottling machine, a compressed aircork machine and a heated coil capsule machine to put on the pvc capsules. Guy’s wife designed the labels, which she prints and hand-sticks on each bottle.

Tasting the wineWe sat down at a sturdy wooden table in a lovely cool terrace area behind the house and Guy opened three bottles for a vertical tasting of Hoops.

“What I’m looking for”, Guy explained, “is a light, fresh, fruity, soft and easy-drinking wine. One that goes well with food.”

The wines we tried certainly met that description – see my tasting notes below.

This was a vineyard visit with a difference; I was welcomed into the winemaker’s family home and met his wife and daughters and the family’s dogs.  However, for all the relaxed, friendly atmosphere, good humour and the improvised nature of the winemaking equipment, it is clear that a very professional approach has been taken to this small-scale operation and the results speak for themselves.  It will be interesting to see what project Guy Hooper and his family tackle next.

If you would like to know more about Guy Hooper and Hoops wine, you can get in touch by email at or check his twitter account @caviahuewines.

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End productTasting notes

Hoops 2010 – 43% Malbec, 36% Carménère, 20% Petit Verdot, 1% Syrah

Medium intensity. The nose has integrated well and is nicely perfumed, with a touch of farmyard and forest floor. Pleasant and easy to drink, with earthy notes and smooth tannins.

Hoops 2011 – 47% Petit Verdot, 43% Malbec, 5% Syrah, 5% Carménère

Aromas of blueberries, cherries and spices on the nose and the fruit comes through again in the mouth. Nice, fresh acidity and subtle tannins.

Hoops 2012 – 44% Petit Verdot, 30% Carménère, 21% Malbec, 5% Syrah

Again a lovely fruity nose with notes of raspberry leaf. Very easy to drink with light tannins and a long, delicious finish.

2015 barrel

Quintay visitor centre 2Welcome to the latest in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Quintay is a small, state-of-the-art winery with a modern, sleek design. It offers a personalized approach to each customer with services ranging from a lunch and cocktail menu to tours of the winery, with a tasting of their Reserva and Gran Reserva lines, to tours on horseback or even tours of the valley by helicopter.
Irina Axenova, Commercial Manager at the winery, adds:
The winery is right on Ruta 68; we always welcome people who just pop in on their way to the coast for a glass of wine. Visitors can also buy our wines at special prices, including our sparkling wine and our Sauvignon Blanc “Experience”, which are only available at our winery shop.
state of the art tanksViña Quintay seeks to make fresh, fruity wines that represent their terroir. They use their own grapes and produce four main varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
The winery has opted for microvinification, where each plot of grapes is vinified separately in small stainless steel tanks and then blended later, as necessary. The winemaker recently experimented with barrel-fermenting a batch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes to produce the wine”Experience”, which has earned critical acclaim.
  space for reflection
Tasting notes

Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Beautiful nose with herbal and asparagus notes. Fresh, acidic and long.

Clava Sauvignon Blanc Clava 2015

A more fruity and lighter-bodied Sauvignon Blanc featuring pineapple and peach notes among the classic citrus aromas. Very refreshing.

Clava Chardonnay 2014

Stone fruit and banana aromas; delicious in the mouth with fresh acidity. Long finish.

Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2014

Herbal note among the fruit. The oak influence comes through in the complex and silky mouthfeel. This is a well-balanced wine with refreshing acidity and a pleasing texture.

Clava Pinot Noir Rosé 2015

Copper-coloured with an intriguing nose of prunes and a slight floral hint. Drier than the nose suggested, fruity and light. Very refreshing.

Clava Pinot Noir Red 2014

A spicy nose with notes of forest floor, raspberry leaves and black tea. Fairly tannic in the mouth, acidic and that hint of forest floor present again.

Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2012

A different beast this; clearly older with almost orange hues. The nose is more intense, with some jammy notes and prunes. Nice mouthfeel, quite acidic and that hint of dried fruit present again.

Gran Reserva Syrah 2013

Very strong meat and smoke influence in the nose; close your eyes and you’ll think you are right by the barbecue. Big and tannic with lots of cigarbox and smoked bacon notes. Needs to be served with food.

The grapes are changing colour right now.
The grapes are changing colour right now.


Address: Ruta 68, KM. 62.5 La Vinilla Norte, Casablanca

Tel. +56 3 2260 9107


More information from Viña Quintay’s website

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kingston viewWelcome to the fourth in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Kingston Family Vineyards is a boutique winery, part of a farm which has been owned and run by the American-Chilean Kingston family for over a century.  The winery ranks highly on Tripadvisor and it’s easy to see why, with friendly, knowledgeable staff with impeccable English and lovely, peaceful areas to sit sipping a glass of wine while enjoying one of the best views in Casablanca.

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Balakireva.
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Balakireva.

There is a clear US feel to the winery and its marketing. Take this quote from the winery’s website for example:

Chile feels like a more dramatic version of California, with narrower valleys and much higher mountains. In many ways, the Casablanca Valley is analogous to California’s Central Coast, but somewhat colder. Even the plants look similar!

It’s therefore no great surprise that 70% of visitors to the winery are from the United States.

The winery organizes tours, tastings and/or lunch to suit the visitors, who should book ahead. Hattie Mills, National Marketing Manager for the winery says:

Although there are much bigger wineries in the Casablanca Valley, we believe we provide a unique experience (…). We have a blog where we like to write about places of interest around Chile, which we then share with our guests who are planning to visit us. And we are unique in offering shipping directly to the States from the vineyard.  Our American guests don’t have to take heavy bottles back with them in their luggage, they simply place an order at the vineyard and the wine gets delivered to their home.  For cases of 12 bottles, shipping is free.

When we arrived, a large group of American tourists on a cycling-winery tour were just leaving and they were in such great spirits, they burst into song. They had clearly had a fabulous time.

Tasting notes

glass of sauvignon blanc 2Tobiano 2009, Pinot Noir 

A lovely, fragrant Pinot Noir with aromas of liquorice, blueberries, strawberry jam and plums. Smooth and fruity in the mouth, nicely achieved tannins. Quite long in the finish.

Alazan 2008, Pinot Noir

This is Kingston’s premium Pinot Noir and it is certainly a bigger wine with a more complex nose featuring notes of  raspberries and spices and that touch of the farmyard so characteristic of Pinot Noir. A delicious fruity wine with nice, firm tannins and smooth acidity.

Lucero 2007, Syrah

Very smooth operator; a cool climate fruity Syrah rich in aromas of black plums, blackcurrants and cherries. The berries come through in the mouth too, together with a delicious acidity and smooth tannins.

Sabino Chardonnay

Lovely fresh nose with aromas of tropical fruit like bananas and pineapples, together with pears and a herbal hint. Very nice example of Chardonnay, beautifully rounded with just a hint of sweetness.

Helen among vines 2FACTFILE

Hijuela El Maiten S/N, Valle de Casablanca, Chile.

Open Monday to Sunday with tours at 10.30, 12.30, 2.30 and 4.30

Tel. +56 9 9230 2917, +56 9 9746 2727



More information from Kingston Family Vineyards website.

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countryside settingWelcome to the third in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Loma Larga is the boutique winery which pioneered red wines in an area where the main focus is on whites so this is one of the best places in Casablanca to taste Chilean cool climate Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, as well as the varieties more usual in this area, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

The winery has captured the attention of international wine critics like Jancis Robinson, who described Loma Larga Cabernet Franc 2008:

“Very dark crimson. Complex nose with more than a hint of mature St-Émilion about it. Very pure varietal flavours with some fresh bloodiness. Fully mature and surely much better value than any red bordeaux they are selling at the same price? Absolutely ready now and with a spine of Casablanca acidity but very worthwhile. (…) Both luscious and very digestible.”

I have been to many different wineries in Chile but I keep on coming back to Loma Larga, partly because I know Alejandra, the Tourism Manager, but also because the wine is always great and the quality of the guides is among the best I’ve encountered. They are truly passionate about wine and you can ask whatever you like, no matter how detailed, and they’ll do their best to respond.

Living roof
Living roof

The winery building is worth a look: you can walk over the living roof of vines, which helps keep cool the barrel room underneath.

This is a small winery in a pretty countryside setting, so it is best to book ahead. There is no restaurant, though you can organize a private lunch there, and the shop just sells their own wines. There are a range of different wine tasting options. You can also organize a helicopter ride or horseride.

Helen tasting Loma Larga winesFACTFILE

Camino Lo Ovalle, km. 3, Casablanca, which is reached from Ruta 68, the main road between Santiago and Viña del Mar/Valparaíso.

Tel. +56-32 2742098 / +56 964186574

The winery is open Monday to Sunday between 9.30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

You can reserve by phone or email:

See their website.

Click here to read my interview with Alejandra Gutiérrez of Loma Larga.

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The concrete amphora-shaped tanks.
The concrete amphora-shaped tanks.
vines 2
Photo credit: Alexandra Balakireva

Welcome to the second in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Bodegas RE is a relatively recent venture by Pablo Morandé and his family.  This is a bold venture in every way and that is its biggest appeal to visitors: if you’ve been to a few other wineries, here you’ll see something a little different.

To begin with, instead of stainless steel tanks, Bodegas RE have clay amphoras and concrete amphora-shaped tanks, where many of the wines are made with minimal intervention.  This is a winemaking team that likes to experiment with different grapes and techniques and some of their results are outstanding – check out their new orange wine Enredo made from Gewürztraminer and Riesling, for example.

balsamic process 2One of my favourite aspects of the visit was seeing the production of balsamic vinegar made slowly in oak casks – the product is a million miles away from the balsamic vinegar you buy in the supermarket and I stocked up in the shop.

Love it or hate it, you can’t fail to notice their bold marketing campaign featuring the letters “RE” – among their wine names are Enredo and Renace, for instance – while other wines are named by mishmashing the names of the grapes that are in the blend (Pinotel, Cabergnan etc.).

The facilities are well-designed for visitors with seating areas and a pleasant area for tastings. The shop is well-stocked with wines, balsamic vinegar, liqueurs made at the winery, together with a range of Chilean gourmet foods and crafts.

Tasting time
Tasting time. Photo credit: Alexandra Balakireva.

Tasting notes

Pinotel 2014 (95% Pinot Noir, 5% Muscat Rose)

Slightly orange, floral, sweet nose. Fresh in the mouth, with a slightly bitter note in the finish.

Chardonnoir 2013 (55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir)

Light golden wine with a medium nose of apples and citrus fruit. This wine compares well with the Pinotel, having more body and acidity and being longer in the finish.

Cabergnan 2009 (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carignan)

Intense ruby wine. Herbal notes, figs and cherries on the nose. The mouth has lots of body, big tannins and good acidity. Very nice; one to pair with steak.

Syragnan 2013 (90% Syrah, 10% Carignan)

Intense purple colour. A lovely fruity nose with raspberries, cassis, blueberries. Lots of body in the mouth, moderate, smooth tannins and nicely rounded.

Vigno Viña Roja 2009 (100% Carignan)

Ruby colour. Liquorice, cherries and figs on the nose. A sour edge to it, but big tannins and smooth acidity. Less body than many of the other Vignos. (More information about the Vigno concept here.)

Renace 2013 (100% Carignan)

Purple colour. That classic sour cherry nose. In the mouth, smooth, acidic and earthy.


Camino Lo Ovalle, km. 1, which is reached from Ruta 68, the main road between Santiago and Viña del Mar/Valparaíso.

Tel. +56 32 274 1234 / +56 9 934 59 114

The winery is open daily (except some public holidays) between 9.30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

You can reserve by phone or email:

See their website.

For other articles about Casablanca wineries, check out:

Win:win - Parents can enjoy a picnic and glass of wine in the shade while their kids play.
Parents can enjoy a picnic and glass of wine in the shade while their kids play.

cement eggWelcome to the first in a series of Casablanca winery visits: House, Casa de Vino, part of Grupo Belén, is principally a wine tourism experience, though a limited edition, high-end Syrah named Tiraziš is made here by renowned winemaker Sven Bruchfeld. 

The location has been designed with tourism in mind and is hard to fault. The single-storey building is accessible with ramps for wheelchairs. There are picnic tables in the shade of a line of trees right next to a children’s play area, making this one of the best winery options for families with children.  Mum and Dad can sip a glass of wine in the shade while keeping a close eye on their kids.

The shop is well thought through, selling a range of wines, including some limited edition wines by new winemakers, gourmet food items and Chilean handicrafts and it was doing brisk trade the day we were there. The restaurant was busy too.

We opted to do a tasting rather than a tour and the Chilean guide spoke excellent English and made the tasting entertaining and enjoyable. There were a range of different tasting options, enabling us to taste the wines that we were interested in.

Tasting notes

Janine Murray gives her opinion of the wines.
Janine Murray gives her opinion of the wines.

Mancura Gran Reserva 2012, Casablanca

80% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot

Lovely, smooth red wine with lots of fruit and spice, pleasant acidity and a hint of bitterness on the finish.

Morandé Gran Reserva Carmenère 2012, Maipo

Classic Carménère nose of green pepper, red and black fruit, dark chocolate. Fresh, smooth mouth with big tannins.

Morandé Black Limited Edition 2012, Maule

Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne, Carignan, Roussanne,

Very classy Mediterranean blend, smooth and powerful with notes of cigarbox, leather and cherries.

Malmau Malbec 2013, Maule

Fruit forward nose with aromas of violets and tobacco intermingling with cherrries and other berries. This is a lovely mouth-filling red wine with big tannins and fresh acidity.


Ruta 68, KM. 61, Casablanca

Tel. (56) 32-2754701

Restaurant open Tuesday to Sunday 11. a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shop and Tour Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

You can reserve tours, tastings or a visit to the restaurant through the website. The website does not offer an email address.

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