People like to talk about “sauvage” or “wild” wines, but few are literal examples like Villalobos. Located in the district of Lolol in the Colchagua Valley of Chile, Villalobos is a 100% passion, 100% family project led by Enrique Villalobos, an artist, along with his wife Rita Encina, a professional ceramist, and their sons, Martin Villalobos, a civil industrial engineer, Alejandro Villalobos, a Professor of Philosophy, and Rolando Villalobos, also a civil industrial engineer.
The Villalobos project can only be described as beyond biodynamic viticulture. Their estate vineyard, from which the Silvestre Carignan comes, consists of entirely untrained and ungrafted bush vines. Planted in the 1940s, these are wild vines, a forest of fruit, where Carignan grows in bunches 18 feet off the ground. While the vineyard is dry-farmed, it's proximity to the river and clay soils (with quartz) make for incredibly fertile soils. Just 20 miles from the Pacific coast, the climate is warm and temperate, with diurnal shifts that range up to 20-degrees during the summer months. In addition to their estate vineyard, the Villalobos family also sources organic fruit from two local farmers.
The art of sculpture and the art of winemaking are intrinsically linked for the Villalobos’ family; wine is more like an extension of Enrique’s creative side than a traditional business. All of the Villalobos labels are painted by Enrique, and the winery is run out of his sculpture studio, the Valle de los Artistas. Located in the fields of Colchagua Valley just a couple of miles from the vineyards, the “Valley” is a unique artist collective and community space, featuring workshops and studios, as well as a small park, exhibition hall and community-focused gathering space.
Viewing winemaking as a creative bridge between nature and the human world, the Villalobos’ philosophy is rooted in low intervention farming and viticulture practices. Their vineyard operation includes draught horses, who prune the vines by nibbling the branches in the summer and, in full circle, contribute their nutrient-rich droppings as fertilizer in the spring. The estate vineyards have never been treated in the production process, growing free amongst native Chilean flora like maitenes, rosehip, culenes, pine trees, blackberry bushes that provide natural pest control. Woven among the thorny flora and fauna, all grapes are carefully harvested by hand by the Villalobos’ dedicated team of 20+ family and friends. In the cellar, the wines are aged slowly and naturally in neutral French oak barrels and steel, producing small amounts of terroir-representative wines. They are bottled without fining or filtration.
These are lighter, fresher examples of Chilean viticulture than we are used to tasting, but ones that still express a clear sense of an incredibly unique terroir; they not only represent something new for Chilean natural wine, but natural wine period.