Tag-Archive for ◊ Carmenere ◊

30 Jan 2009 Wine Valleys of Chile
Overview of Chile's wine valleys

Overview of Chile

Chile is long narrow country next to the Pacific Oceans.  The proximity to the cool Pacific Ocean allows creates some great growing conditions in the valleys closest to the ocean — cool breezes at night to cool down the vineyards while the ocean acts as a thermal reservoir to keep the top temperatures in a good range.  The wide diurinal temperature swings is great for varietals that require a good amount of acidity.

Here are the valleys from the north to the south of Chile:

Limari Valley — vineyards: Francisco de Aguirre, Casa Tamaya, Tabli, Soler
The valley itself is mostly known for white grapes varieties distilled to make Pisco.  New technologies are being used to be able to grow grapes in the semi-arid conditions.

Aconcagua Valley — vineyards: Errazuriz, Sena, von Siebenthal
The region is known for its pioneering of Syrah.

Casablanca Valley — vineyards: Casas del Bosque, Catrala, Indomita, Matetic, Veramonte, Vina Mar, William Cole, Carmen, Casablanca, Casa Lapostolle, Morande Kingston, Quintay, Santa Rita, Ventisquero y Vinedos Organicos Emiliana

Casablanca Valley is Santiago’s gateway to the sea — located between Coastal Mountain Range and the Pacific Range.  The earliest vineyards were planted 20 years ago and was selected to grow white varietals due to the cool climate.  Currently, the area is known for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Wine route information: Ruta de Casablanca, Phone: (56-32) 274-3933, www.casablancavalley.cl

San Antonio Valley — Vineyards: Garces Silva, Leyda, Matetic
San Antionio Valley is a very small growing area which is close to the sea (maritime climate).  The cool climate is excellent for Syrah which is helping to improve Chile’s repuation for Syrah.

Maipo Valley — Vineyards: Almaviva, Aquitania, Baron P. de Rothschild, Canepa, Carmen, Concha y Toro, Cousino Macul, Chocalan, de Martino, Domus, La rosa Odfjell, Santa ema, Santa Rita, Tarapaca, Undurraga, Ventisquero.

Maipo Valley is located between the Andes and the Coastal Mountains.  The Valley is considered to have three unofficial regions: Alto Maipo (closest to the Andes), Central Maipo (valley floor) and Pacific Maipo (closest to the ocean).  The valley has a Mediterranean climate with some climate adjustment based on the nearby geography (ocean or the mountains).  The Alto Maipo produce ulta-premium wines while the other regions produce softer, fruiter wines.

Wine route information: Ruta del Vino Maipo Alto, Phone: (56-2) 3350732, www.maipoalto.com

Cachapoal Valley — Wine Route: Altair, Anakena, Casas del Toqui, Chateau Los Boldos, Gracia, Lagar de Bezana, La Rosa, Morande, Porta, Saint Gobain,Torreon de Paredes.

Carmenere is ideally suited for this valley.

Wine route information: Ruta de Cachapoal, Phone: (56-72) 584360, www.cachapoalwineroute.cl

Colchagua Valley — Wine Route: Bisquertt, Casa Lapostolle, Caliterra, Casa Silva, Cono Sur, Vinedos Organicos Emiliana, Estampa, Hacienda Araucano, Laura Hartwig, Las Ninas, Los Vascos, Luis Felipe Edwards, Montes, MontGras, Santa Cruz, Santa Helena, Santa Rita, Siegel, Viu Manent.

The valley is known to produce Chile’s finest red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Malbec.  The valley is closer to the ocean so the cooling breezes at night help to maintain acidity in the red grapes despite the warm daytime temperatures.  The net results is a long, slow ripening period.

Wine route: Ruta del Vino de Colchagua, Phone: (56-72) 823199, www.colchaguavalley.cl

Curico Valley — wine route: Altacima, Aresti, Astaburuaga, Correa Albano, Chilcas, echeverria, Ines Escobar, La Fortuna, Las Pitras, Los Robles, Miguel Torres, Mario Edwards, Miguel Torres, Millaman, Molina, Pirazzoli, San Pedro, San Rafael, Santa Hortensia, Valdivieso.

The Curico Valley is the second largest producer of wine in Chile with strong representation by Chile’s top producers.  Miguel Torres brought modern winemaking techniques to Chile in the 1970’s.  The region grows 17 red varieties and 15 white varieties.

Wine route — Ruta Del Vino Curico, Phone: (56-75) 328972, www.rutadelvinocurico.cl

Maule Valley — Wine route: Balduzzi, Botalcura, Calina, Casa Donoso, Casas Patronales, Corral Victoria, Cremaschi Furlotti, J. Bouchon, Los Acantos, Hugo Casanova, Terranoble, Valle Frio, Via Wine Group.
The Maule Valley is largest producing valley featuring 43% of the countries total planted acreage.  The valley has diverse geography so there is no one style of wine the valley is known for.

Wine route: Ruta del Vino Valle del Maule, Phone: (56-71) 246460, www.valledelmaule.cl

Itata valley — Vineyards: Calina, Casas Patronales, Hugo Casanova, Via Wine Group, Casas Giner
The Spanish black grape Pais still predominates in the area.  The valley has some of the earliest vineyards in Chile.

Bio Bio Valley — Vineyards: Canata, Gracia, Guilisasti
The region is known for rain and colder weather.  The climate helps Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling to express near old world levels of acidity.

18 Dec 2008 South American Varieties — Carmenere, Malbec, Torrontes, Tannat
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Carmenere and Merlot cuttings were brought over from Bordeaux to plant Chilean vineyards in the 19th century.  The cuttings tended to be planted together in a field blend.  As a result, ‘Merlot’ in Chile can be any mixture of Merlot and Crmenere.  At the time of vineyard planting, the difference in the varietals was not known.  Carmenere does not like wet growing seasons or irrigation resulting in aggressive green bell pepper flavors.  Carmenere takes three weeks longer to ripen than Merlot, so it is much better suited to sites with longer, dry growing seasons.  Hence, Carmenere has not done well in Bordeaux. 

Carmenere tends toward low acidity giving it really sweet tasting-fruit.  When it is ripe, the fruit has blackberry, black plum and spice with an array of savory flavors (coffee, grilled meat, celery and soy sauce); the tannins are rich and round.  The flavor profile of Carmenere makes it a good blending partner with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Roughly 4000 hectares of Cabernet Franc in northern Italy (Veneto, Tretino and Friuli)  is actually Carmenere.

Recommended producers in Chile: Almaviva, Apaltague, Biwquertt, Casa Lapostolle, Concha y Toro, Errazuriz, Los Robles, MontGras and Veramonte.


Torrontes is Argentina’s specialty white varietal.   Torrontes varietal is actually several different varieties, some of which resemble Muscat-like aroma and some are similar to Gewurtraminer.  Torrontes aromas are floral, soapy and sometimes spicy.  The three main varieties going from most aromatic to least aromatic are: Torrontes Riojano (from the La Rioja province in Argentina), Torrontes Sanjuanino (from the San Juan province) and Torrontes Mendocino or Mendozino (found in Rio Negro and the northern end of Patagonia).

The variety seems particularly well adapted to the arid growing conditions of Argentina, especially the high, sandy Cafayate region.  The high altitude (1600m +) helps provide natural high acidity and assertive flavors.

Best producers in Argentina: Etchart, Norton, Michel Torino


Malbec is a native grape of south-west France.  It is also known as Cot in the Loire Valley and the South-West of France; in Cahors, it is known as Auxerrois (not to be confused with the white varietal Auxerrois of Alsace).  Malbec is one of the 5 varietals in the Bordeaux blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc).  Malbec in Bordeaux has had a rough time of it — graphed to less than suitable rootstocks, cooler climate.  Cuttings from Bordeaux Malbec where brought over to Argentina in 1862.  If you compare the current Malbec vines in Argentina with Malbec in Cahors, you will find there is a significant difference.  Malbec in Argentina has a much larger clonal range than in France.

Malbec prefers higher altitude sites (between 1000 and 1100 meters) and warm climates.  Malbec has a dark purple color, aromas of damson and violets with a soothing ripe tannic structure.  Oak aging can work well but tends to overwhelm the fruit characteristics.  In Cahors, the flavor tends to more dried fruit characteristics — raisins, tobacco and damson skins. 

Best producers in Argentina: Alamos Ridge, Alta Vista, Altos de Temporada, Anubis, Catena, Etchart, Medalla, Norton, Terraza de Los Andes, Michel Torino, Trapiche and Weinert.  Best producers in Chile: Montes, MontGras, Morande, Valdivieso, Vina Casablanca.


In Uruguay, Tannat is increasing in quality; it is marked by fine, ripe tannins and elegant blackberry fruit.  The newer French clones of Tannat tend to produce higher alcohol wines but are simplier than the wine from the old-vine brought over from France originally.

Best producers in Uruguay: Establecimiento Juanico, Castel Pujol, and Hector Stagnari.