Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Pinot Noir's successful Chilean transplant

By JIM BEAUREGARD January 10. 2017 8:18PM

Last week, I mentioned that I plan this year to continue my look into Spanish wines and, by extension, wines of the Spanish-speaking world. I thought I would continue that theme today by taking a look at a combination of Old World and New — a French grape that is flourishing south of the equator.

For most wine lovers, when you say Pinot Noir, one thinks first of France, Burgundy in particular. Pinot Noir is the classic grape of this region of eastern France, and it has been cultivated there for centuries and brought to incredible heights.

As I have mentioned in the past, there are more than a few people on this planet who are on a lifelong Pinot Noir quest — to find the finest Pinot Noir they can, and, hopefully, to do so without breaking the bank.

So, what happens when a Pinot Noir vine makes the journey from Europe to South America? It’s different terroir, meaning different soil, different climate, different everything, but that doesn’t mean that magic cannot happen.

In Chile, the world turns upside down, as it were. For one thing, the seasons of planting and harvesting are reversed. That’s an important thing to keep in mind when considering the age of a wine. Harvest takes place in our spring and early summer, not in autumn as it does here.

Chile is famous in the wine world as having avoided the dreaded phylloxera plague that destroyed so many vines in France. Vines were introduced to Chile by the conquistadors in the 16th century (I suppose no Spanish conqueror wanted to be without a glass of red after a busy day of conquering).

Chileans did not stay in Chile after they freed themselves from Spain, but rather explored Europe themselves. One Chilean in particular — Silvestre Ochagavia Echazarreta — in 1851 brought some of the main French varietals back to his homeland, founding the Chilean wine industry.

The Casablanca region of Chile is just to the south of the city of Valparaiso. Close enough to the ocean to receive some cooling breezes, it’s a new wine-growing region, with the first vines planted there only in the early 1980s, but this has not slowed down a march to quality wine. That they can produce good Pinot Noir is a testament to the skills of their vineyard masters — Pinot Noir is finicky and more difficult to grow than, say, the more hardy Cabernet Sauvignon.

So, let’s take a look at a bottle of Chilean Pinot Noir that I purchased a week or so ago and see what it has to offer:

D. Bosler 2015 Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13% abv, $15.99, Harvest Market. Purple-ruby in color, with fast, thick tears, it has a clear rim, suggesting it is holding onto its youth. The nose is of medium intensity, with fruit predominating. It’s dry on the palate, as a Pinot Noir should be, with medium-plus acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, medium body and medium flavor intensity that includes ripe raspberry, strawberry and red plum. There is a tiny hint of cedar in the background too. Long finish. A good wine that is ready to drink now and that can be paired with prime rib, roasted meats, some red-sauce dishes. 86 points.

It is a well-established fact now that there are very good wines coming into the United States from South America that are very reasonably priced. Today’s selection would be a very good example. Enjoy!

Contact New Hampshire wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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