Visits by two winemakers who work on either side of the Andes provided some perspective on the terroirs being targeted in Chile and Argentina for ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and cooler-climate varieties, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Chief Winemaker Andras Caballero of Chile’s Santa Carolina has crafted an old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon inspired by the discovery of a long-forgotten stash of the winery’s 1959 vintage. The quality and beauty of the wine was a revelation to Caballero, who branded the icon wine in honor Santa Carolina founder Luis Pereira.
At 12.8 percent ABV, the 2012 inaugural release has a level of complexity and restraint that sets it well apart from more contemporary styles. Timed to celebrate the company’s 140th anniversary, the retro look of the packaging is as authentic as the wine style—the bottles are made from a mold of the original 1959 bottle.
Although it’s Cabernet Sauvignon–dominant, the wine style is informed by as many as 30 unidentified varieties that were discovered planted as a field blend in the company’s pre-phylloxera vineyards. Andras is in talks with researchers at U.C. Davis with the goal of identifying the varieties and has planted a massal selection of the vineyard at the company’s new winery in Totihue, located about 100 kilometers south of Santiago.
Fellow Santa Carolina winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen, Managing Director and Chief Winemaker for Finca el Origen in Mendoza, Argentina, was joined by Bob Mazzola, Western Regional Sales Manager for Carolina Wine Brands USA, for a tasting of Bertelsen’s current releases alongside a home cooked-meal of classic Cantonese cuisine.
A crisp 2014 Torrontés with white blossom, citrus zest and tropical fruit paired ideally paired with a whole steamed black cod, while the resolved tannins of a dark-fruited 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the La Esperanza vineyard in Vista Flores region of Uco Valley and a rich 2012 Gran Reserva Malbec from the now-mature and highest part of the same vineyard competed for best red with roast duck and earthy oxtail stew.
When asked about the progress Santa Carolina is making with finding ideal sites for Pinot Noir, Bertelsen pointed to the granitic clay soils of El Chaparro Vineyard in Tapihue, Casablanca, where he produces superb Pinot Noir from north-facing slopes and Chardonnay from the opposing south-facing slopes. Ventisquero’s Heru Vineyard, which was discussed here last year, is sited just across the road.