Elqui valley is Chile’s northernmost wine region; it is located about 523 km (325 miles) north of Santiago, the capital of Chile, at southern latitude of 30° and between 71° and 71.5° longitude West. Oriented East to West, the Elqui Valley begins as you enter from the Pacific Coast into La Serena area, and continues on to the high altitudes of the Andes up to Agua Negra Pass, way to Argentinean border (San Juan region), at 4754 m (15600 ft.) above the sea level. Due to this unique orientation, the variance of terroir in the valley is striking, and provides a spectrum of environmental elements that hugely diversify its viticulture.
Soil and Climate
The unique climate conditions that the Valley owns such as, coastal breezes, temperature extremes, solar radiation, phototermic index, rainfall amount, plus altitude and soils, altogether with vineyards management, are the most important elements that influence the quality of the grapes produced in this valley and help sculpt the character and originality of Mayu wines.
Microclimates and Altitude
There are three distinct microclimates of the Elqui Valley - Coastal, Mid-Valley, and High Mountain Range – with Mayu vineyards planted throughout all three. Not only do these areas vary in daily weather patterns and temperatures (the cooler, foggier coastal climate versus the warmer, drier mid-valley) they also have different altitudes. Mayu vines are planted between 350 m (1150 ft.) all the way up to 1925 m (6320 ft.), where our La Huanta Vineyard stands proudly as one of the highest vineyards in Chile.
There is also a significant fluctuation in temperature in the valley between day and night time. Throughout the summer, days reach up to 30°C (86°F) and drop back down to 10°C (50°F) at night; a difference of 20°C (36°F) in one 24-hour period! The number of days with this notable temperature range, together with solar radiation, have a very significant influence on aromas and ripeness of tannins; the intense heat and solar radiation during the day creates darker colors and thicker skins on the grapes (a protection mechanism from the sun), which are essential for complex aromas and quality of tannins in the wines. Meanwhile at night, the significant drop in temperature slows the fast maturation of the grapes from the heat of the day, keeping the grapes’ freshness and preventing over-ripening. Together these extremes create the prefect balance for the grapes’ growth cycle, and ultimately cause the depth and complexity of the flavor profiles found in our wines.
Sun beam quality takes a primary role as well, having a fundamental influence on leaves photosynthesis process to get the best ripening level. The atmosphere in the Elqui Valley is one of the cleanest and clearest on the planet, luring the world’s best astrologists to the observatories of the area (including the Tololo Observatory, the largest in the southern hemisphere). While perfect for stargazing at night, Elqui’s skies are ideal for viticulture by day. With an immaculate sky and a high UV radiation index from the desert sun, our grapes have a resulting color, flavor and polyphenol content that are incomparable to any other wine region in the country.
The soils in our vineyards, although all diverse, have three characteristics in common: rich in minerality, poor in fertility and excellent drainage. From there, the soil diversity expands depending on the location and orientation of each vineyard. Even within the same vineyard you will find soil differences. For example in the El Tambo region, on the flat land there is more gravel where the Pedro Ximenez grows, while in the Syrah section the soils are much more calcareous, and the Pinot Noir grows in a calcareous gravel soil. With an Average Rainfall of 3.4 inches per year (less than one inch in 2012!), in addition to high altitude winds and a strong sun, meticulous drip tube irrigation is indispensable on all vineyards in this semi-arid Valley. Luckily the scarcity of water means the vines will not get oversaturated with water during ripening and harvest, leading to a deeper concentration of flavors and aromas in each grape.