Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Wines of Chile: Casablanca Valley at Puro Chile

Pablo Morande first planted vines in Casablanca Chile in 1982 where he introduced Chardonnay, Riesling and in 1986 the first Sauvignon Blanc. He did this in a time and place where no one would have believed he would succeed. There was virtually no rainfall, poor vegetation, frosts in winter and extreme swings of temperature between day and night. But Pablo saw the similarities to Carneros California, and took the calculated risk. The qualities Casablanca had in its favor was its terroir. It is one of high humidity, 75% to 65% because of the proximity to the coast. And the valley forms with the Andes to create a perfect climate for fog which blocks solar radiation, especially in the western regions. In general the soil is clay and granite in the west and sand and loam in the east. The rest is history.

This past week we gathered at Puro Chile to sample 4 Sauvignon Blancs and 3 Pinot Noirs from the Casablanca valley, here are my tasting notes:

Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011
21 miles from the coast in the eastern section known as Alto Casablanca, visibly clean and clear, on the nose vaguely pineapple, honeydew melon with citrus lime, and refreshing flavors especially banana, some spice, verdant herbs and a creamy factor. 13.7% alcohol, a bottle costs $12 to $15.

Casas Del Bosque Pequenas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc 2011
In the western region about 10 miles from the ocean, the air is cool and soil is ancient composed of granite, volcanic matter and clay. After hand picking the juice is in contact with skins for 4 days, fermented in stainless steel then on the lees in barrels for 2 months. Liked this one quite a bit, showed earthy aromas of cat pee, with briny salt water, and passion fruit with flavors of spice, toast and melon. $25 per bottle with 13.7% alcohol.

Kingston Family Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc 2010
With vines first planted in 1998 this Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in combination of small stainless barrels, small jacketed tanks (that hold about 6 barrels worth of juice) and a few new oak barrels, just to add a little texture, and aged on the yeast lees.
Showing aromas of raw wood, a pleasant minerality, muted tones of grapefruit and citrus, good body and grassy flavors, and a good long finish. $17 per bottle, 14.3% alcohol.

Cono Sur 20 Barricas Sauvignon Blanc 2009
In this cool climate 2009 was apparently a hot year, yielding subtle aromas and clean fresh flavors exhibiting a tree bark green, which makes sense since this winery won an award as “Green Company of the Year” in 2011. Stainless steel fermentation, a nice bouquet of melon, ripe grapefruit, spices and a minerality with fresh fruit flavors. $15 per bottle.

Emiliana Gran Reserva Novas Pinot Noir 2010
The first Vineyard to go organic, sustainable and biodynamic, Emiliana produces this expressive Pinot Noir. They do a 4 day maceration using wild yeast, aging 8 months in French oak to yield a wine with strawberry aromas, soft clean fresh red fruit on the palate.

Quintay Q Pinot Noir 2010
Three different clones coming from farms in different regions of Casablanca, but preserving the identity of each terroir, 80% of the yield is aged in barrels. Red berries, fresh fruit, strawberry, cherries, floral hints, wet slate with an herbal finish.

Morande Edicion Limitada Pinot Noir 2008
15 months in half new barrel make this Pinot sing aromatically! It’s rich and complex with a perfume that’s intoxicating, red berries, cherries, licorice, strawberries, and raspberry. Outstanding Pinot Noir for the $22 pricetag.

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