While Chile has long been known for producing mostly cabenet sauvignon as well as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Bodeaux blends, syrah, and wines from their distinctive camenere grape, its pinot noir production is starting to make inroads and to receive growing attention. Several years ago a group of winemakers and producers in Chile chose to work together to share information and work collectively in the understanding of Pinot Noir, hence the name of the “Chilean Pinot Noir Project”. As such we at Burghound thought ir would be interesting to provide readers with an assessment of the current state-of-the-art regarding wine quality.
After years of trying, the collective conclusion by many growers was that Chile´s Pinot vineyards were initially planted in areas that were too warm. As such, cooler sectors were investigated and some ultimately planted in the mid-1990`. Now after 20 plus years of experience along with multiple viticultural trial and error experiments, it is increasingly clear that progress is being made. Couple that with many growers taking reconnaissance trips, and serving as interns, to domaines in Burgundy, Oregon Central Otago and California, conducting soil studies an the hiring of experienced winemakers, there is a growing conviction that chile`s pinot producers are finally on the right path to better understanding the true potential of their terroirs.
The wines submitted were primarily from the Casa Blanca valley, followed by a mixture from the Aconcagua Costa Valley, San Antonio Valley, Leyla Valley and Limari Valley with just a handful from the Traiguén Valley, Maule Valley, Empedrado Valley, Patagonia Valley, Bueno Valley and Atacama Valley. Some of the most well-known pinot vineyards to the north are Tabali and Quebrada Seca Valleys, and in the South there is a lot happening in Bio Bio, Traiguen and Pueblo. The Casa Blanca valley appears to be the most established at this time.
Conclusion: While there were some bright spots, the scores and commentaries will confirm that there is still work to be done. Depending on whether onde choose to view the glass as half full or half empty, the main problem was not so much a lack of quality of the underlying raw materials than just technically flawed wines. The good news is that wine flaws, such as heavy reduction with mercaptans, brett and/or volatile acidity are easily correctable. Moreover, like many emerging wine regions that are slowly improving the quality of their pinots, the vast percentage of the vines are still very young and thus better raw materials are almost certainly in the offing. Couple this with gradually improving viticulutal as growers continually refine what works and what doesn´t and the future remains reasonably bright. Whether Chile´s pinots will ultimately rival those of other nEW world regions remains to be seen but there is clearly reason for optimisn.
Villaseñor Vineyards (Talca, Chile)
2014 Pinot Noir – Puelo Patagonia red 89 Points
The Villaseñor family ancestors came from Spain to settle in a wine producing sector of the VIII Region of Concepción, where they began to produce wines primarily for their own consumption. The vineyards are located in rural areas with a significant winemaking heritage. Alvaro Cabeza is the head of winemaking projects, viticulture and the wine cellar. Elias Obreque is the oenologist and advising winemaker. For more information visit: www.villasenorwines.com
2014 Pinot Noir – Puelo Patagonia: (Osorno, Puelo Valley, 12%). An elegant, ultra-pure and airy red pinot fruit nose reflects additional notes of floral and spice nuances. The sleek, delineated and equally pure middle weight flavors possess a fine sense of underlying tension before culminating in a balanced, dusty and mildly dry finale. While the balance isn’t quite perfect, the mild dryness will almost certainly be rounded off by the proper foods. I would add that this is one of the prettiest wines in the entire tasting and if the balance was better, this could have been among the best wines submitted. 89 Points / 2019.