Marcelo Papa – Amelia and Marqués de Casa Concha

By Published On: February 29, 2024
“It’s all about balance and terroir.”

In fall of 2023, the team at Viña Concha y Toro USA/Bonterra Organic Estates  – which represents and imports the Chilean wines into the United States – invited me to lunch at Napa’s Compline restaurant to dine and chat with longtime esteemed winemaker Marcelo Papa, the Technical Director (Director of Winemaking) overseeing two of the company’s most prestigious portfolios, Amelia and Marqués de Casa Concha.

The lunch included the wines we tasted that afternoon, the 2018 and 2022 Amelia Chardonnay (side-by-side) and 2022 Pinot Noir, D.O. Limarí Valley, and the 2021 Marqués de Casa Concha Heritage, D.O. Puente Alto, a Bordeaux-style, Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend.

Marcelo Papa earned his degree in enology from Chile’s Catholic University. He has enjoyed a long and storied career at Concha y Toro. In 1998, he began managing Casillero del Diablo. The following year, he assumed leadership of Marqués de Casa Concha. Since 2005, he has led the Maycas del Limarí Super Premium project. Throughout the decades, Papa has improved winegrowing and winemaking, making these selections some of the most coveted in the world. In early 2024, Guía Descorchados named Papa 2024 Oenologist of the Year.

Concha y Toro launched Amelia in 1993, to focus on Chile’s cooler northern region, Limarí Valley, where varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive. Amelia Chardonnay was Concha y Toro’s first foray into the ultra-premium white wine market. “In the soils of the Limarí Valley, lime and clay interact in a glorious way to produce top-tier Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” said Papa.

Marqués de Casa Concha is an esteemed brand, a portfolio of single-vineyard “noble” wines from Chile’s finest estates, earning ratings of 90+ year after year, both domestically and internationally – a true testament to Concha y Toro’s winemaking traditions. The name is the title King Felipe V of Spain conferred upon the family in 1718. The line includes wines like the aforementioned luxury Heritage blend, as well as super brand Chardonnay, Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and more.

The wines we tasted at Compline demonstrated Papa’s finesse at coaxing the best out of the vineyards, showing off terroir-specific characteristics – in harmony with the finest winemaking techniques.

2018 and 2022 Amelia Chardonnay (side-by-side), D.O. Limarí Valley
Papa treated us to both the 2018 and 2022 Amelia Chardonnays to showcase how well this Chardonnay can age. The 2018 was still bright and silky, even more so of the latter, thanks to bottle age.

2022 Chardonnay came from a single block – Block 9 of Limarí Valley’s Quebrada Seca Vineyard. The semi-coastal arid climate – combined with the vineyard’s clay and limestone soils and a long, cool growing season – yields a vibrant white – delicately creamy, thanks to 12 months in French oak barrels (10% new and 90% second use). Fresh, floral, and fruity with notable minerality and salinity, this delicious Chardonnay begs for freshly caught seafood and shellfish – baked, broiled, or steamed.

2022 Amelia Pinot Noir, D.O. Limarí Valley
This Pinot Noir – from the same vineyard as the Chardonnay – Quebrada Seca but Blocks 5 and 15 – and with same aging regime – 12 months in French oak barrels (10% new and 90% second use) – has found its true north – its authenticity – in this special place. The iron-rich clay soils of these blocks add minerality to this Pinot Noir overflowing with juicy red and black berry flavors – an ideal pairing with mushroom-based dishes like coq au vin, pork chops with creamy mushroom sauce, mushroom mac and cheese, and pizza.

2021 Marqués de Casa Concha Heritage, D.O. Puente Alto
What a treat it was to taste this Bordeaux-style blend made from Massal selection fruit from El Mariscal Vineyard in the Alto Maipo Valley. The semi-arid Mediterranean climate of this vineyard experiences a major cooling influence from the Andes, causing slow, even ripening. After 16 months in French oak barrels (35% new and 65% second use), this ravishing red is ready now, but will age up to 20 years. Rich and refined, it’s intensely flavorful – ripe blackberries and black cherries take center stage along a backdrop of barrel spice and silky-smoothness. Fire up the grill or the oven – you’ve found red and game meat’s best friend.

Papa – whom acclaimed wine critic Tim Atkin named 2019 Winemaker of the Year – says his winemaking prowess comes from two key elements. “It’s all about balance. I try to reflect terroir in my wines, bringing out the best characteristics from each vineyard I work with.” It’s a formula for success that continues to bring well deserved accolades to Papa and Concha y Toro.

About the Author: Elizabeth Smith

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Dr. Elizabeth Smith is a former college professor and wine club manager turned award-winning wine writer, copywriter, and marketer. Elizabeth is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Sacramento and Sonoma Chapters, the Circle of Wine Writers and the Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association. Connect with Elizabeth at easmith.net/contact.