In recent decades, exploration and study of the different terroirs of South America has allowed local winemakers to produce a range of fine wines to please the most demanding palates.
As wineries discover that the art of assemblage is the best means of capturing the essence of their respective terroirs, red blends are increasingly attracting more attention.
Notable examples include those produced by Santa Rita and Carmen (Chile) and Doña Paula (Mendoza, Argentina), three innovative wineries with a focus on sophisticated, elegant wines.
Unfettered interpretation of the terroir
In Chile, the production of Bordeaux Blends is an age-old tradition which has much evolved in recent years thanks to a deeper and better understanding of terroir. This has given rise to unexpected cross-regional combinations, as well as blends of different varieties within a single region.
A classic wine that presents the elegance of the Maipo Valley with a dash of character from Apalta is Santa Rita’s Triple C 2019 (available from Majestic Wine at £24.99, for a limited time only). Oenologist Sebastián Labbé, describes it as “ our re-interpretation of the Bordeaux Blend, in which we combine the freshness of the Cabernet Franc and the structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon from Alto Jahuel with the mellowness of Carménère from the Apalta Valley”. Balanced and harmonious, Santa Rita Triple C is refined and full of flavour and character. .
Meanwhile, winemaker Emily Faulconer is exploring similar regions with her Delanz blends made at the Carmen winery. “Each of these wines is our interpretation of a specific vineyard, expressing local character through blends of what we believe to be their most representative grape varieties.”
Delanz Alto Jahuel 2020 is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine with dashes of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah from 10 different parcels in the Maipo Valley.The diversity of terroir ensures a ripeness that comes out in red and dark fruit notes, a lush palate and polished tannins. The first vintage of Delanz Apalta 2020 is predominantly Carménère with portions of Cabernet Franc and Syrah grown on granite-rich soils that bring compelling herb and dark fruit flavours to the broad, velvety palate.
Mountain blends, the Argentinian factor
In Mendoza, on the other side of the Andes, notable work has been done to study the effect of terroir on Argentine wines. Here, altitude is a key factor in determining each vineyard’s microclimate, exposure and soil composition.
Martín Kaiser, Director of Viticulture and Oenology at Doña Paula, is a specialist in Mendoza terroirs and has put his expertise to work in his Altitude Blends, an essential collection to understand the distinctive character of the three most prominent regions in Mendoza.
“At Doña Paula we make three high altitude blends, each from a specific vineyard,” he says. “Our goal is to present a clear expression of each terroir which is why they are named after the altitude of the vineyard. The colour of the label reflects the soil composition.”
For Doña Paula 969 2021 (Petit Verdot, Bonarda and Malbec) Kaiser chose grapes from Finca El Alto (Ugarteche, Luján de Cuyo), where the clay soils with some calcium carbonate lend a fresh berries and floral character, good body and gentle tannins. Doña Paula 1100 2020 (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) is made with fruit from a vineyard located in El Cepillo, south of Uco Valley, in sand-loam soils with gravel deposits and colluvial rock which result in a fragrant, floral profile and a fresh, potent palate. Finally, Doña Paula 1350 2020 (Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Casavecchia) represents Gualtallary, one of Uco Valley’s coolest terroirs where the soils are sandy with alluvial stone and calcium deposits and create a fruity, floral, balsamic profile with an intense, vibrant and linear palate.