Thursday, September 8, 2011

"The Wines of Chile" by Peter Richards MW

Some excerpts from the excellent book by Peter Richards MW 
  • Chile's climate is governed by two major factors: its mountains and the ocean. Variations in altitude and exposure create differences in local climate (in the Andes, for example, higher means cooler and wetter). In central and northern parts, which are of most relevance to wine, the ocean plays a crucial role in determining the weather, primarily because of the cold Pacific water mass known as the Humboldt Current that runs northward along the coast from southern Chile.
  • During the grape growing season, conditions during the day time are usually warm and dry, turning cool at night.
  • Chile is often described as a viticultural paradise.
  • Soils are varied in texture and profile but are mainly alluvial clays, loams, sands, and silts on the flat land with gravel and stony content near rivers or in piedmont areas, and decomposed granites and raised maritime sediments in the hills.
  • Viticultural expansion has led to re-evaluation of Chile's wine territory. Where before the general rule was taht north equates to warm and dry, the south to cool and wet, it is now clear taht the east-west axis is of more significance in viticultural terms.
  • Water and irrigation are of increasing importance in Chilean viticulture. Irrigation is needed in most of the country's vineyards because the growing season is so dry.
  • Downy mildew is rare but Oidium and botrytis are common, especially in rainy vintages and in more humid areas such as near the coast. Viruses such as leafroll are also present.
  • One viticultural curse that has yet to afflict Chile is philloxera. The vast majority of Chile's vineyard is not planted on rootstock (95% at the of writing)
  • Machine harvesting is prevalent for the simple wire-trained systems, although the relatively low cost of manual labor means that hand harvesting remains widespread.
  • Although there are variations between varieties and regions, bud-break usually takes place in September, flowering and fruit set in December, veraison in January. Harvesting begins in late February or early March and continues until May.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile's most planted grape variety by some distance, accounting for over a third of the national vineyard and nearly half of all red wines.
  • Overtaken by Chardonnay as Chile's most planted white grape in the 1990s, Sauvignon Blanc is now reasserting its claim to be the country's top white variety.
  • Chile has been relatively succesful in producing middle-of-the-road Chardonnay made in a ripe style often with a touch of oak.
  • Around three-quarters of Chilean wine production in any given year is red. The rest is almost all dry white, with a small but growing amount of rosé. Some sparkling wine is produced, mainly for the domestic market. A few sweet wines are made in a mid-weight style.
You can buy the book here: "The Wines of Chile" by Peter Richards

Cheers,
LA

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