Friday, October 13, 2017

Learn About Wine: Wines of Chile (and therefore the world) Part 1

Let's design a country for wine production shall we?

What if you could design a country from scratch whose primary purpose was wine production? What kind of qualities would that country have? Let's ignore everything else and focus purely on optimized quality wine production. We won't delve into too much detail behind each and every point here, but simply list them for now. We can go deeper later.

Brainstorming:  Ideas for an Ideal Wine Producing Country:

1. Appropriate climate: plentiful sunlight, nice daily temperature swings.

2. A large range of average temperatures (within the ideal range for grape growing of course) to cover "warm climate" grapes through "cool climate" grapes. Allow for large wine designations within the various given climates for resulting wine styles.

3. Pockets of isolated sub-climates that can trap heat from sunlight (aka a form of "meso-climate")

4. Plentiful sources of water

5. Good inclined vineyard sites for exposure to sunlight and quick drainage of water  (usually associated with river valleys and mountain foothills)

6. Relatively short distances between vineyards and wineries, reducing travel time, but also coincidentally providing the benefit of proximity of cooling coastal breezes in the vineyards.

7. Isolation from other major wine producing regions to reduce contamination by pests and disease

8. Space optimization, i.e. little "wasted space"  (i.e. not contributing to wine production)

9. Plenty of seaports to choose from for exporting the wine produced

10. Human resources that improve quality over quantity instead of the other way around. 

Additional comment: Point #10 dovetails with the manipulation of the wine trade by the dictatorial Pinochet government that stunted and strangled the potential of the country's wine industry. This kept talent and investment away from Chile for many years. Good for everyone that those days are long over. 

So, we already know that we're talking about Chile here. 
Take a close look at this map of Chile's wine regions:

For the Extremely Geography-challenged, that's South America (sorry)

Chile is a very narrow and elongated country, with disproportionate exposure to ocean breezes, a dominant cold antarctic ocean current, a huge mountain range along its eastern border, a smaller mountain range down its center, and many many river valleys. Almost every major wine region in Chile is named after a river valley.     ...What's not to like?

As we examine Chile as a perfectly designed wine producer, we can learn a lot about grape growing, wine production, and the wine trade in the process.

That is why you're reading this, right?

Stay tuned for Part 2

Until then......

Marc Soucy  FWS  CSW  WSET


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