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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 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. Score: 85

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. Score: 89

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. Score: 90

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. Score: 82

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