Elations and Elevations
hile is an ideal place to producewine. Her grape-growing regions arenaturally protected against phylloxera,the root-destroying louse that plaguesvineyards, worldwide. Chile is anked onall sides by environments phylloxera simplycannot penetrate: the Andes, the great PacifcOcean, and bone-dry desserts. Operationally,this gives Chilean wine makers the benefto not having to grat all their vines ontonaturally louse-resistant American rootstock.This eliminates a huge arming hassle, andprovides signifcant monetary savings.Another likely consequence o not havingto grat vines onto oreign rootstock is that thevarietal avour expression o grapes grownon such vines may be more “pure” than mostother places in the world. The growing regionshave yet another key advantage, since they’reusually very dry, but are also thoroughlysupplied with any needed water or irrigationrom the snowmelt o the Andes. (Grapesgrow best when water is applied only to theirroots, not their skins). Such advantages havenot gone unnoticed by the wider viticulturalworld. Attention, major oreign and domestic
Still roaming around South America,Keith Hoffmanbids Argentina adios and sets his sights, and quest for more epicurean goldmines, on Chile.
investment, and oreign viticulture expertisecontinue to ow. Indeed, Chile’s modern-daywine industry is now delivering on all o itsendemic advantages. In act, in 2004, Chileanred wines won the top two spots in a majorinternational blind tasting and the country’s stockin the present day continues to rise.Chile’s wine history began in the 16th-century when Spanish missionaries planted ared grape called “Pais”, a varietal similar to the“Mission” and “Criolla” grapes ound in Caliorniaand Argentina, respectively. All three o thesegrapes are thought to be descendents o a“black grape” brought to Mexico in 1520 by theSpanish conquistador Cortés. Pais remainedking in Chile until the current century whenCabernet Sauvignon muscled him out. TodayPais, while still making up 40 to 50 percento Chile’s vineyard acreage, is sadly a jug wineingredient. In 1851, Chile’s modern-day wineuture was born when yet another Spaniardimported cuttings o Cabernet Sauvignon,Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, etc.Many o the great Chilean vineyards, includingConcha y Toro, were ormed quickly thereater,and defne the country’s wine legacy to this day.Chile produces some antastic CabernetSauvignon, at least one astounding Pinot Noirand a host o nice whites. The real grape staro Chile, however, may end up being Carmenère.Just like Malbec in Argentina, the Carmenèregrape grows much better in Chile than it everdid in the vineyards o Europe. Both Carmenèreand Malbec used to be mixed in Bordeauxblends until the 1840s when the phylloxeraepidemic decimated European vineyards.Ater the plague was tamed, both the Malbecand Carmenère grapes were considered toomuch trouble to replant and completely ellout o avor. These castaways, however, remainlisted as two o the six “approved” grapes thatcan make up a Bordeaux blend. They maybe orgotten in their home tur o France,but they are giving Argentina and Chilenew nationally identities.In the vineyards o Chile, Carmenère waslong mistaken or Merlot, and it was bottledand sold as such. In 1994, mere minutes atermodern DNA analysis techniques uncoveredthat Chilean Carmenère was genetically distinctrom Merlot, the Chilean wine industry seizedupon a truly great idea. They stopped mixing up