Recently Tasted Chilean Pinot Noir
Chile is well known for its inexpensive red wine imports to the United States including blended reds and single
varietal wines of Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Less well known is the small cadre of Pinot Noir producers located in the Bio Bio, Casablanca, Calchagua,
Leyda and San Antonio Valleys focusing on small production, quality-driven Pinot Noir. Chile followed the
historical progression of California in that early plantings of Pinot Noir were located in the wrong places such as
the Casablanca Valley floor which is quite warm. Vintners eventually discovered the best cool climate sites
near the Pacific Ocean, similar to California’s Sonoma Coast.
A number of producers have recruited consulting winemakers from the United States and France. Some well-known
Chilean Pinot Noir producers include Cono Sur, Kingston Family Vineyards, Matetic Vineyards,
Veramonte and Veranda Winery.
Chilean wine regions are organized by valleys as shown in the map below.
Damon Levy of Vine Connections, a leading importer of Argentine and Chilean wine, recently sent me four
Chilean wines that are part of the new breed of cool-climate Pinot Noir from true coastal vineyards in Chile. I
found two of the wines very enjoyable. All the wines showed a significant oak imprint which may or may not be
to your taste. The wines are reasonably priced. Visit www.vineconnections.com for more information and
availability. The map below shows the location in Chile of the wines reviewed.
2010 Viña Aquitania Sol de Sol Traiguén (Malleco Valley) Chile Pinot Noir
12.5% alc. 300 cases, $35.
Vineyard planted by Felipe de Solminihac, the first person to plant a vineyard in Malleco Valley. He began with
Chardonnay in 1991 and added Pinot Noir 17 years ago. The winery’s Chardonnay is widely considered the
best produced in South America. Average age of Pinot Noir vines is 8 years. Aged 12 months in some new
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy nose showing rustic aromas of tobaccolaced
oak and black cherries with slight reduction. The wine was decanted, but the nose still never came
around. Mid weight flavors of black cherry and smoky oak with a hint of citrus-driven acidity on the dry,
somewhat lengthy finish.
2010 Clos Des Fous Latuffa Traiguén (Malleco Valley) Chile Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 250 cases (100 cases imported), $36. Malleco
Valley is cold and rainy, reminiscent of the climate in the Willamette
Valley. The soil is volcanic. Sourced from a vineyard which was an
old experimental vineyard planted by the government and neglected
until the Clos des Fous team started managing it. The Clos des Fous
team is Pedro Parra (a world renowned soil scientist), Francois Massoc (a
winemaker trained in Burgundy), Paco Leyton (vineyard manager), and Albert
Cussen (their mentor and backer).
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely appointed nose with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry,
smoky oaky, and baking spices including clove. The discreetly concentrated flavors of darker stone fruits and
berries are intriguing. Hints of chocolate and spice add interest. Plenty of oak character is featured, but the
wine has good Pinotosity and admirable delicacy.
2011 Amayna Leyda San Antonio Valley Estate Bottled Chile Pinot Noir
500 cases, $35. Vinified by the Garces-Silva family whose
vineyards are just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Vineyards were
planted in 1999 and 2000. The Garces-Silva family pioneered
boutique estate wines from Leyda. Leyda Valley is slightly warmer
than the coastal areas of Casablanca, but still possesses a cold
climate compared to the central valley zones of Chile. The name, Amayna,
loosely translates to the calm on the water or the calm before a storm and the
Garces-Silva family used this name because the vineyard reminded them of that
sensation and its proximity to the ocean. Aged in some new oak for 12 months.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Inviting array of black fruit aromas on the nose with hints of
oak-driven coffee and roasted nuts. Very Caliesque in character with rich, sappy flavors of black raspberry,
purple plum and dark chocolate with a modest oak overlay. Very plush, lush and velvety on the palate with
strong finishing intensity. The wine is said to have a saline quality due to its proximity to the ocean, but I was
hard pressed to discover this because of the prodigious fruit. A bit decadent for my taste, but everyone needs a
little debauchery once in a while.
2012 Boya Leyda San Antonio Valley Chile Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 1,500 cases, $22, screw cap. Also
produced by the Garces-Silva family but from sections of the vineyard that are harvested earlier. Average age
of vines is 4 years. Aged 6 months in third use French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Unpleasant aromas of stem, grass, and green pepper. On the palate, delicate red cherry and berry flavors are
featured underlain with a significant green herb and green bell pepper riff. Juicy, with nice balance and finesse,
but the unripe, vegetal flavors spoil the experience.