Terroir: Vineyards in Chile and Mendoza

Zell, Germany on the Mosul River, courtesy of Wikipedia.

I learned a new word thanks to Argento Wine, publishers of The Real Argentina, who responded to my post on vineyards in Mendoza. Wikipedia says terroir, “was originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestowed upon particular varieties. Agricultural sites in the same region share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques, which all contribute to the unique qualities of the crop.”

Mendoza, Argentina photo courtesy of Jenny Mealing via Flickr.

Foreign investment in Mendoza has increased in recent years partly because Argentina promotes tourism better than Chile. The Real Argentina is an association of 6 writers providing useful info to their market and is impressive because it is difficult to recruit and organize writers. Mendoza’s success is impressive, too, because they publish an educational magazine, Wine Republic, and have attracted investment from the largest vintner in Chile, Concha y Toro, and Chilean Winemaker of the Year Aurelio Montes. Oxford Wine says:

Aurelio Montes’ great strength lies in his understanding of the terroir that he works with. He is convinced that great wine is really made in the vineyard: “I’ve been converted more into a vine grower than a winemaker; out of good grapes I can make either good or bad wine, but from bad grapes I can only make bad wine.” He believes that different grape varieties thrive at different altitudes and firmly believes that the Apalta Valley is the best area in Chile to plant red vine varieties.

Photo courtesy of Noah Sussman via Flickr.

Jason Wilson enthuses over Carmenere from Chile:

Winemaking in Chile in the 1990s was inferior, dominated by giant wineries such as Concha y Toro. The craft, however, keeps improving, and Carmenere from Chile is really starting to come into its own. At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to, having tasted about 70 of them over the past couple of weeks.

What I like about the best Carmenere is its distinctive pepper, spice and deep, dark fruit character, more plum than berry. When it’s good, there’s really nothing like it.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan of Wine Review Online says Chile produces poor quality Carmenere because vintners don’t allow the grapes to sufficiently ripen, so Chile will not be as successful with Carmenere as Argentina has been with Malbec. She prefers Inama Carmenere from Italy. Perhaps vineyards in Chile can learn from Italians.

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