My Own Personal Wine Regions
LET'S SEE HOW WELL YOU ALL KNOW ME.
First question: What is my favorite movie?
Second question: Where did I grow up?
Last question: Of our wine stash, which grape varietal is represented the most?
Let’s see how you did . . .
Casablanca, San Antonio, and Pinot Noir.
What if I told you that there is a magical place in Chile where two neighboring wine regions go by the name of Casablanca and San Antonio, and that both of those regions specialize in Pinot Noir?
Now the title to this blog post makes sense! Enough about me, let’s go learn about the wines.
Chile is 2,670 miles north-south, and its vineyards cover 870 miles north-south. That vast distance results in varied climate, topography, and soil structure.
Three geographical features influence Chile’s wine production: the Pacific Ocean, the Andes, and the Coastal Range. As we will discuss below, the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Range significantly influence the wine regions of Casablanca and San Antonio. Yet, these regions are too far from the Andes to benefit from the nightly cool air or water for irrigation descending from the mountains.
Historically, Chile earned its red wine reputation from affordable Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère. But as new wine regions emerged, new varietals showed incredible promise. Case in point, Pinot Noir.
Chile has four main wine regions (from north to south): Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Central Valley, and Southern Region. Aconcagua has the following subregions: Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, San Antonio Valley, Lo Abarca, and Leyda Valley (which is a zone within San Antonio Valley).
CASABLANCA & SAN ANTONIO VALLEYS
© Wine for Normal People
Casablanca and San Antonio are both newer wine regions in comparison to some of the regions we’ve explored here on Teakwood Tavern. Casablanca was established in 1982 and San Antonio in the late 1990s.
© Southern Explorations
The Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt Current flows up from Antarctica and carries much colder water along the Chilean coast. Accompanying the cold water are winds blowing cool air inland and fog cover. Both Casablanca and San Antonio benefit from the Humboldt Current. The morning fogs slow grape ripening and the afternoon winds cool the grapes, both of which help the grapes retain acidity and aromatics.
The Coastal Range rises near the city of Arica in the north, and extends to the Taitao Peninsula in Patagonia. Rivers, which flow out to the Pacific, divide the Range. Its highest point is 9,842 ft. The cold, humid air and the fog from the Humboldt Current settle into the valleys between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Range.
Alluvial soils dominate both regions; however, the make up of the soils differ immensely. For example, the soils in western Casablanca have a higher proportion of clay, due to the proximity to the coast; while, eastern Casablanca’s soil is predominately sandy. San Antonio's soil is typically comprised of red clay on granite.
Pinot Noir is the most planted black grape variety in these two regions. In general, it is produced in a high acid style with ripe red fruit and herbal characteristics.
Chile’s vines are phylloxera free, which means grafting is not necessary.
Chilean wine law
Traditionally, Chile’s wine regions mimicked the country’s administrative and provincial divisions. These regions cover vast landmasses and are not uniform in terms of terroir or climate.
Chile’s geographical indication system is named Denominaciones de Origen (DO). For example, you will see the “San Antonio Valley D.O.” on labels for wines from the San Antonio Valley.
In 2013, a new classification system arose. This model categorizes vineyard sites based on transversal division from east to west (i.e., based on their distance from the coast). Costa (coastal), Entre Cordilleras (between the mountains), and Andes (mountain areas) may appear on the wine labels in conjunction with the traditional regions and subregions.
Wines we enjoyed for educational purposes
Chono, 2017 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Costa, Virtuoso Selections LLC, $12
This dry wine was medium bodied and had medium plus acidity. Flavors and aromas of black pepper, smoke, strawberry, toast, red plum, tobacco, wet stones, and blueberry were prevalent. The tannins were medium minus. The alcohol was 12.5% ABV. The finish was medium.
Ritual, 2016 Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Gonzalez Byass U.S.A, $18
This dry wine was medium bodied and had medium plus acidity. The wine showcased flavors and aromas of earth, mushroom, flint, red cherry, raspberry, forest floor, and barnyard. The tannins were medium but soft. The alcohol was 13.5% ABV. The finish was medium plus.
Corralillo, 2015 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Quintessential, LLC, $22
This dry wine was medium bodied and had high acidity. The wine had flavors and aromas of rhubarb, cranberry, mint, anise, lemongrass, mushroom, and red cherry. The tannins were medium. The alcohol was 14% ABV. The finish was medium plus.
One of my favorite reasons for studying wine is that it transports me to far away places I never knew existed. I remember the first time I read about Casablanca and San Antonio; I was immediately mesmerized with these wine regions. Cool climates that produce quality Pinot Noir seemed too good to be true. When we tasted the three wines above, my journey was complete. I was convinced.
All three of these wines were exciting to drink. The $12 Chono drinks so much more nuanced than a standard $12 bottle, which is not something that we buy because of too many disappointments. The Ritual and Corralillo were incredibly complex and had wonderfully elongated finishes. They too were bargains.
If you enjoy cool climate wines at affordable prices, then grab some Pinot Noir from Casablanca and San Antonio. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Sending love, as time goes by,