vineyard experiment called Sundial Vineyard - vines planted in a radial formation

Viña Don Melchor presents the unprecedented Sundial Vineyard Project

  • Known for its unwavering commitment to excellence in its vineyards and wines, and driven by its constant quest to achieve the best expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Puente Alto appellation, Viña Don Melchor presents its latest innovative project: the Sundial Vineyard.
  • Guided by the visionary leadership of CEO and Technical Director Enrique Tirado, this vineyard represents another step forward towards sustainability, the preservation of biodiversity in the vineyard, and addressing the emerging challenges posed by climate change by contributing reliable scientific information on grapevine cultivation.
Sundial Vineyard experimental vineyard in Puente Alto

Founded upon its commitment to Excellence, Innovation and Sustainability, Viña Don Melchor presents its “Sundial Vineyard” project, continuing the winery’s quest to obtain the best and most unique expression of each of the 151 blocks of the Don Melchor vineyard. This sundial vineyard will provide valuable information on the relationship between orientation and planting density in vine cultivation and their effects on the microclimate conditions at the level of the clusters, and thus on their production and ripening. In turn, this project will show how that data can contribute to finding a new vineyard architecture to address the challenges of agricultural sustainability and climate variations, and this new knowledge will be applied in managing both the current vineyard and future renovations.

This experimental vineyard was established in 2018 with a massal selection of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Don Melchor Vineyard, planted on ungrafted rootstock over an area of 0.16 hectares. The “sundial” consists of 60 rows (900 plants in total), each 15 metres long and planted 50 cm apart in the centre and 200 cm apart around the perimeter in a carefully arranged radial pattern of vertically-trained vines.

Committed to excellence

Thanks to this project, several vineyard management practices have been identified that truly advance the company’s search for the best expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Puente Alto terroir. Vine orientation and planting density have clear effects on yields per hectare, water use, solar radiation, photosynthesis, temperature at the cluster level and the production of phenolic compounds, among other parameters.

“Based on these results, we have made some significant vineyard management decisions, which will no doubt be strengthened as we obtain more data and information in the future,” comments Enrique Tirado.

Indeed, the results of this study are expected to improve the management of the entire 125 hectares that make up the Don Melchor Vineyard, to achieve the highest quality clusters and the distinctive expression of this terroir in the wine.

“Don Melchor represents a constant quest for excellence. Each vintage of Don Melchor is the result of the best expression from each particular vintage and this Sundial Vineyard will undoubtedly add a new dimension to the final result of this wine,” affirms the winemaker.

Dedicated to agro-ecological agriculture

The Sundial Vineyard project also embodies Viña Don Melchor’s dedication to sustainability, representing a major step forward in its agro-ecological and biodiversity-friendly approach to winegrowing.

“This innovative project will enable us to introduce measures in our vineyard to overcome the challenges posed by a more variable and changing climate” explains Enrique Tirado, adding:

“Specifically, this Sundial Vineyard will guide us on such aspects as how to achieve better water uptake in the soil and more efficient use of this resource in the vineyard, and how to attain the highest and best quality phenolic compounds in the wine. It will also show us how to enhance the biodiversity surrounding the vines, and its particular relationship with the soil in each block, among other valuable information.”

Innovation-based progress

The pioneering aspect of this vineyard lies precisely in its radial orientation, which offers Don Melchor’s technical team the opportunity to explore the intricate relationship between row orientation and planting density, and their effects on microclimatic conditions at the cluster level—mainly temperature, solar radiation, level of photosynthesis and the quality and concentration of different elements in the grapes that are later transferred to the final wine. These factors play a crucial role in producing and ripening phenolic compounds in the grapes—sugar content, pH and berry acidity—all essential elements in the production of high quality wines.

Both the development of this Sundial Vineyard and the measurements and findings drawn from it have been a collaborative effort with Viña Concha y Toro’s Centre for Research and Innovation (CII), “which has provided precise and meticulous scientific support for the collection of all this information,” affirms Enrique.

With this new project, Viña Don Melchor reaffirms its leadership by crafting a wine that values history and the past, yet at the same time has a profound vision for the future, ensuring that excellence is achieved at every stage involved in producing its wines.

Viña Don Melchor

Viña Don Melchor is dedicated to the production of the icon Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor. The Don Melchor Vineyard is in the acclaimed Puente Alto appellation in Alto Maipo. It is situated on the third alluvial terrace of the northern bank of the Maipo River, at an altitude of 650 metres in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. After some new plantings in 2022, the vineyard now covers 125 hectares, most of it planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (93%), with the rest divided among Cabernet Franc (5%), Merlot (1%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Today, Don Melchor is recognised as Chile’s first icon wine that is distributed around the globe and is a genuine benchmark among the world’s premium wines.

The 2020 vintage is currently available on the market and has become the only Chilean wine to make the list of the “Best of the Best Wines of the World” by Robb Report, the most prestigious publication in the global luxury market. The 2021 vintage is the 35th in its portfolio and was only just released yet has already earned outstanding honours. These include a 96-point score from Wine Spectator, which is the highest this publication has ever given to a Chilean wine and is the fifth such score for Don Melchor. James Sucking has awarded this 2021 an excellent 99 points, and we must not forget the perfect 100-point score this renowned wine critic gave to the 2018 vintage as well. These honours once again demonstrate and reaffirm the excellent quality and unique expression of each vintage of Don Melchor.