Caballo Loco - the Chilean icon


Every so often, events take place that change history. Over 20 years ago, the viticultural industry experience a revolution in Chile. New factors came together: the use of the French oak barrels, technology and access to precise information about weather and soil, changed the way wine was made. It is in this context that a unique wine with exceptional quality was born: Caballo Loco, a wine that gathers the best varieties, vintages and valleys of Chile; a wine that is made in a unique oenological process that reserves half of each release in order to be blended with half of the next version”.  Viña Valdiveso

Valdivieso dates back to 1879 when Alberto Valdivieso founded Champagne Valdivieso, the first company in Chile and South America to make sparkling wine. More than a hundred years later in the late 1980s, the company expanded in a new direction when it began commercial production of still wines - as Viña Valdivieso – at their Curicó Valley winery in Lontué. Valdivieso wines have since had a very successful career, triumphing in major world markets and achieving the highest honours in international competitions. These achievements are not an objective in themselves, but rather the result of the search for superior quality wines that are both distinctive and attractive.

Here at Exel, we are huge fans of Valdivieso’s work. Chilean wines in the UK - with some justification in some quarters - can come in for a sceptical press and less-than-spotless reputation; they are, in short, often seen as putting quantity, affordability and simplicity over quality and complexity ... and all too often seen as house wines and supermarket fare.

Such a view, you can comfortably forget here.

The upper echelons of Valdivieso’s wines (see below) and – especially – the Caballo(s) Locos turn that reputation on its head, offering iconic (in the case of the Caballo Loco) and formidable wines, without compromise to quality, yet still at price points that the Old World – and much of the New World - seems unable to offer.

All of our wines from Valdivieso/Caballo Loco appear at the foot of this page. You'll be hard pressed indeed to find these cheaper in the UK!

(‘The’) Caballo Loco (NV)

Valdivieso's top wine and stable star, the Caballo Loco, is known around the world. Each year, it changes merely its edition and, technically, not its vintage. It brings together every Caballo Loco made since 1992 (the year of version 1), in what is, effectively, a solera system (as used for sherry and brandy de Jerez).

The idea for the Caballo Loco was inspired by the legendary Ribera del Duero, Vega Sicilia Único Gran Reserva, which is produced using the solera method. This is the winemaking technique used for sherry and Brandy de Jerez production, in which barrel-aged wines from different years are progressively and fractionally blended for reasons of both complexity and consistency.

The first Caballo Loco was produced in 1994 (Caballo Loco 1) and made from a blend of 50% of that year’s vintage with an aged blend from 1992. Since, each edition is unique, containing 50% of the current vintage and 50% of the previous edition, which is kept back especially for blending. The resulting wine is bottle-aged for at least 18 months before release onto the market, and being a blend of wines from different years, there is, of course, no vintage on the label.

The grapes for the premium Caballo Loco come from four different vineyards in central Chile. The blend of the new wine varies each time it is made. Number 1 for example was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir, whilst later editions have contained varieties as diverse as Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. Only Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are ever-present, these being blended with the best grapes from the other varieties that were most successful in the particular year (and best suited to create the intended balance of the Caballo Loco).

At Exel, we offer version 17. More detail, including technical sheets (for such a technical wine), appear on our product page.

The result is a wine of great concentration, quite unlike any other on the market. There is intense mature berry fruit on the nose and richness on the palate with velvety tannins, and so many layers of flavours that the wine is almost impossible to describe in detail. The secret blend of grapes from different vintages create intense aromas of dark cherry, coffee, and rich fruitcake. Full bodied on the palate with a beautiful lingering structure.

It is a unique - some say crazy - wine, which is quite incomparable. It has great aromatic and flavour complexity, with an ageing potential of at least 10 years.

At Exel, we are delighted to be able to be one of the UK’s few outlets for this wonderful wine.

Caballo Loco 17 NV


Caballo Loco Grand Cru

The four Caballo Loco Grands Crus were created by Valdivieso to show the different wines, terroirs and valleys that are the fundamental components of the icon Caballo Loco wine. For this reason, specific wines from specific valleys were born – inspired by the French cru concept which differentiates a terroir with very specific characteristics - where each strain/blend reflects the maximum expression of that valley.

One can arguably see these wines as understudies for the "true" Caballo Loco, but they are far more than that, being quite superb - and full-throttle - wines in their own right, made with all the care, attention and know-how of the NV/"solera" version.

They vary from the velvety-rich 100% Syrah of the Limari valley - through the Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends (with Carménère and Cabernet Franc respectively) of Apalta and Maipo - to the intriguing 4-varietal Sagrada Familia (a single-vintage, single-valley proxy – and arguably the nearest match – for ‘the’ Caballo Loco).

All are intriguing, ageworthy and carry the full richness that one would expect of a premium Chilean/New World wine.

The Caballos Locos on show at a recent trade tasting

Valdivieso Single Vineyard and Single Valley Lot (single-varietal) wines

Most definitely not to be outdone by the Caballo(s) Locos, these wines should not escape your gaze. Valdivieso has a wealth of vineyards and the quality of their terroirs is shown by their Single Vineyard and Valley Selection wines (the latter known as Single Valley Lot in older vintages). Both ranges encapsulate everything at which Chile excels: rich, vibrant flavours and smooth, glossy textures - and the wines deserve the multitude of gongs they have picked up in recent years. Well-travelled Kiwi winemaker, Brett Jackson, has settled in Chile and much of Valdivieso’s success in recent years can be credited to his talent.

At Exel, we list 3 white and 5 red varieties (white: Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; red: Merlot, Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon, Carménère and Pinot Noir) under one label or the other. All, we find, are excellent and popular; most beloved by Exel shop customers are the super-quaffable Valley Selection Merlot (in particular) and Chardonnay, while the sumptuous, super-ripe Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc and intriguing Sauvignon Blanc (on account of its oak barrel fermentation) stood out most to the tasting team at Exel.

Finally, we also list the delightful Eclat Botrytis Semillon 2013 dessert wine and the super-value Brut NV sparkling wines from Valdivieso.

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