23 April 2013 - webeditor - Errazuriz, Guest Blog, News & Events, Wine Talk

Wine Source Chile Guest Blog: Stuart George – Errázuriz Manzanar Estate, Aconcagua Valley, Chile

Wine Source Chile welcomes Stuart George, Wine writer and sought after wine competition judge, for his second post as our Guest Blogger this month. This week, he profiles Errázuriz and their cool climate wine ambitions.

 

 

 

Errázuriz Manzanar Estate, Aconcagua Valley

The journey into Errázuriz’s Manzanar Estate is not for the faint-hearted. The bumpy track that winds through the estate and reaches a height of almost 1,000 feet above sea level crosses a seemingly endless number of rickety old bridges that are barely wide enough to accommodate the 4x4s needed on these roads.

Manzanar is only 36 miles from the winery established by Don Maximiano Errázuriz in 1870, just outside the small town of Panquehue in the heart of the Aconcagua Valley. But in winemaking terms it is light years away from what was made at the then reputedly largest single wine estate in the world.

Errázuriz, as much as any Chilean wine producer, has actively sought out cool climate areas to create fresher wine styles. It manages, but does not own, the La Escultura Estate in Casablanca, which is a cooler and wetter region than the warm and temperate Aconcagua. Planted in 1992, La Escultura provides grapes for the Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, the Wild Ferment Chardonnay and Wild Ferment Pinot Noir, and the Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.

Cool climate viticulture “is part of the future of Chilean wine,” says Errázuriz winemaker Rodrigo Zamorano. “It gives the possibility to enhance the qualities of some varieties and to give different characters to other varieties. Cool climate areas were something that were lacking in Chilean viticulture but it’s a combination between different types of areas that will increase the qualities of Chilean wine. What it is true is that it’s the future of some varieties, especially white varieties.”

The hunt for cooler spots in Aconcagua led Errázuriz away from its sunny Panquehue heartland and towards the coast, where the climate is influenced strongly by the Pacific’s slow, shallow, and cold Humboldt Current.

The viticultural potential of the 2,587-acre Manzanar Estate near Concón, only 9.3 miles from the coast, was spotted by Errázuriz, which planted vines there in 2005. Manzanar’s heat summation is, depending on the exact spot, about 1,330-degree days; at Errázuriz’s Don Maximiano Vineyard near Panquehue, it is 1,727. As a point of comparison, Marlborough in New Zealand has, according to various sources, about 1,200-degree days.

Manzanar’s mean annual temperature is 61.34°F, significantly less than Don Maximiano’s 66°F, and not enough to ripen Carmenère consistently. Currently it is planted to 205 acres of Sauvignon Blanc; 84 acres of Pinot Noir; 71 acres of Chardonnay; 11 of Merlot; and eight of Syrah.

Annual rainfall averages 13.9 inches, more than Don Maximiano’s 9.8 inches, but this is concentrated entirely during the winter and the vineyards are still dry enough to mean that irrigation is essential—something that must always be borne in mind when seeking and planting new viticultural areas in Chile.

Low rainfall means few, if any, fungal diseases and no need to spray preventative chemicals. Organic and Biodynamic viticulture is relatively easy here, or at least easier than in some other areas. Errázuriz has worked with the University of Talca to explore sustainable wine production in Chile.

The prevailing soil type of the Aconcagua Valley is alluvial, especially the central part of the valley, though there are also some clay and clay-loam soils. At Manzanar the soil mostly comprises 16-24 inches of loam over a clay and rock strata. Yields are typically between 2- and 3.5-tons per acre, well within the average for what Errázuriz calls “high quality wine grapes.”

Since the inaugural 2008 vintage, five wines have been made from Manzanar grapes and released commercially: Sauvignon Blanc in 2010, 2009, and 2008; and Chardonnay Wild Ferment in 2009 and 2010.

Manzanar wines are labeled as “Denominación de Origen Aconcagua Costa”. This appellation is currently part of a review being undertaken by Wines of Chile to give recognition to this and other coastal wine areas. For the time being, though, it remains unofficial and Manzanar wines are labeled formally as Denominación de Origen Valle de Aconcagua.

The other varietals at Manzanar were vinified but “the decision on whether to release them as commercial wines will be taken further down the line. There are no plans at the moment to release the Pinot Noir or Syrah as individual wines due to the tiny volumes available and the fact that they are very useful cooler climate blending components for other wines”, explains Errázuriz’s UK brand manager Rupert Lovie.

Cooler areas such as Manzanar open up the possibility of new, more aromatic varietals being planted, believes Zamorano: “There is a potential for varieties such as Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache, Viognier, and maybe experiments with Riesling or Pinot Gris.”

“Aconcagua is undergoing a revolutionary change”, says Eduardo Chadwick, President of Errázuriz. “Over the past few years, new cool climate coastal vineyards with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir have been planted, giving birth to the new Aconcagua Costa appellation that will rival Leyda, San Antonio, and Casablanca. Aconcagua Valley will become a very versatile appellation offering cool climate Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir as well as full-bodied Bordeaux and Rhône blends.”

Zamorano feels that the search for cooler areas will not undermine the already-planted warmer sites. He points out, “Warmer areas are as good as cool areas for some varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. The important thing is to plant the correct varieties in the different areas.”

As Chile’s wine regions gradually become divided into three main areas—coastal, valleys, and Andes—Chadwick’s future plans for Errázuriz are simple: “To keep being recognized as the quality benchmark from Chile.” Errázuriz has scaled the heights at Manzanar—but it might go even further yet.

 

OUTSTANDING RECENT RELEASES

Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa 2009

Handpicked March 6–17. There was no pre-fermentation maceration and the entire winemaking process was in stainless steel tanks. There were three months’ lees aging before bottling. Made in a restrained style, this nonetheless has 14% alcohol, so there is clearly plenty of sunshine at Manzanar! It verges on the fatter style but finishes crisp and clean, with good length.

 

Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa 2008

Picked during the fourth week of March. Unlike 2009, three-quarters of this wine received a 6-hour pre-fermentation cold maceration. This Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon is a bit deeper in color and fatter and richer than the Max Reserva Sauvignon from La Escultura, with some herbaceous character. It copes with the 13.5% alcohol better than the Max Reserva wine. This has a bit more acidity than the Errázuriz’s 2009 wines from La Escultura and elsewhere, due to the natural acidity encouraged by Manzanar and also to the absence of any malolactic fermentation.

 

Chardonnay Wild Ferment Aconcagua Costa 2009

Spicy new oak on the nose, with a confected, almost “sweet” finish, created by a combination of glycerol (13.8% alcohol) and oak vanillin. Some sulfur also apparent on this new bottling.

 

To view Stuart’s first blog entry for Wine Source Chile, please click the link below :

Wine Source Chile > Wine Talk > Chilean Wine: Keeping ahead in the UK market

About Stuart George

Stuart George has 16 years experience of working in the wine industry. He is a sought-after wine show judge and has been a jury member at wine competitions in Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain. He has visited most of the world’s wine regions and worked harvests in France, Italy, and Australia. He writes extensively on wines and was UK Young Wine Writer of the Year in 2003. He was the major contributor to the best-selling 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die and Editor of the award-winning Finest Wines of Champagne and Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy. His website and blog is www.StuartGeorge.net.

 

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