Chile has a long history as a wine producing country, with Spanish colonists bringing vines with them as they settled the country during the sixteenth century. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Chile flourished as a major wine producing country. During this time there was significant investment in modern winemaking equipment and upgraded winemaking technology, which gained Chile an international reputation for producing good quality, easy drinking wines. Chile had arrived on the world winemaking map.
Chile is a long narrow country, with natural boundaries of the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. This unique setting blesses Chile with ideal growing conditions to produce very fruity wines that are able to fully express their varietal character. The main wine producing area in Chile is in the Central Valley, stretching south from Santiago, with smaller finger valleys running east to west from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean producing more premium wines.
The History of Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group
The history of Luis Felipe Edwards Wines dates back to 1976, when Luis Felipe Edwards Snr, (Senior) purchased the large Fundo San José estate in Puquillay Colchagua Valley, a prime wine-producing area in Chile’s Colchagua Valley.
In the early 1990s, Luis Felipe Edwards Snr decided to produce wine under his own name and so he built a modern winery equipped with the latest state of the art technology. Today, Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group is the largest 100 percent family-owned wine company in Chile. Luis Felipe Edwards Snr is still actively involved in the management of the winery along with two of his sons, a daughter, and two sons-in-law. Since the 1970s, Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group has continued to acquire more vineyards in the Colchagua, Maule and Leyda Valleys as well as expanding the original Fundo San José.
It has been clear for some time that the best quality red wines were grown on hillsides of the valley. Recognizing the potential for creating something very special, Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group decided to push this principle to the limit and started planting vines on the top of the high hills of the Colchagua Valley, at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level, making these the highest vineyards in the Colchagua Valley. The high altitude is the inspiration for the name of the LFE 900 hilltop project.
This bold vineyard project of transforming steep arid mountaintops into high quality vineyards involved many challenges. Supplying water to the vineyards involves 3,500 meters of pipelines passing through eight pumping stations, which supply water to 25 kilometers of drip irrigation pipes. All of this has been accomplished with a high degree of environmental sensitivity, including replanting most of the trees and shrubs that have been conserved in their natural state.
To date a total of 130 hectares have been planted on the top of the hills, of varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Grenache Noir and Viognier.
At the same time as the LFE 900 project was being undertaken, Luis Felipe Edwards Snr was investing in the coastal Valley of Leyda, an exciting, emerging region for growing the premium white varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and the red grape Pinot Noir. LFE’s “Marea de Leyda” estate, whose vineyards are currently the closest to the sea out of all the vineyards in the Leyda Valley, is planted predominantly with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, with smaller plots of Chardonnay and Syrah.
Leyda was not the end of the growth of Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group, as we headed south to the Maule Valley and acquired 400 hectares of land located 30 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean, close to the coastal range of mountains at an altitude of 120 meters above sea level. This patch will be planted this year, mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Carignan, hoping to be harvesting the first grapes by 2013.
Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group’s main focus has always been on quality. Every glass of our wine reflects our family values of care, tradition and quality, while always striving to improve. Improving every glass of wine requires investment in every step of the process: finding the best vineyard sites, vines, personnel and the most upgraded equipment. Our outstanding international senior management team consistently works towards continual improvement.
Our modern winery is equipped with the most updated European equipment to ensure that Luis Felipe Edwards wines will always meet the highest international quality standards. This includes state-of-the-art bottling and labeling machines, high technology pumps, filters, pneumatic presses and cooling and heating equipment. All Luis Felipe Edwards winemaking and bottling processes are environmentally friendly and certified to international standards.
Currently, the company exports brands including including Luis Felipe Edwards, Santa Luz, Don Cayetano, Terra Vega, Don Julio, Alto Los Romeros, Autoritas and Claro, to over 50 countries. Luis Felipe Edwards award winning wines are recognized internationally as one of the Chile’s leading wines, produced by skilful local winemakers and assisted by top international consultants.
The company’s kosher project began in the late 1990’s when an importer from Israel approached us at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France, requesting for our wines to become kosher certified. He was well familiar with the quality of our non-kosher wines. That was the spark that ignited our kosher wines campaign. Israel was our initial kosher market which then expanded to France, Morocco, Canada and finally to the United States, where we have just finished a working agreement with a previous importer.
Today Luis Felipe Edwards Wine Group is the main producer of kosher wines in Chile and is the largest wine exporter to Israel under two brands – Terra Vega and Don Julio. We are proud of our kosher wines, produced with the same care and attention to detail as our award-winning non-kosher ranges.
Our kosher certification process is supervised by the Orthodox Union and its kosher Chile representative, Rabbi Shoshan Ghoori. OU certification and its highly regarded OU symbol is recognized throughout the world as a statement of quality and integrity. We know that OU certification adds an extra level of credibility to our highly sought after line of kosher wines.
We produce different wine varieties; all of which are dry wines, under different brands of products. Most of the brands are mevushal, which means that the wine undergoes a very fast pasteurization in which the temperature of the must is elevated rapidly and is then rapidly decreased. With the former, we avoid simmering the must and the resulting loss of flavors and aromas.
The entire process is handled by the OU team to ensure the kosher status of the wine. They are present in the winery to physically tip the fruit into the crush, and for all subsequent processes through fermentation and bottling.
Rabbi Ghoori commented that, “It is a pleasure working all these many years with this excepcional and aristocratic family-run winery. From their executive front office in Santiago to their professional team at the winery, they have made the normally difficult process of producing quality kosher wines a smooth experience that we always look forward to with gusto.”
Or, as they say in Chile, “Me gusta ese vino – I like that wine.”
Rabbi Shmuel Singer is Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator for Luis Felipe Edwards wines.