Chile's wine regions
Loma Larga, Casablanca Valley
visit of the day was to one of the wine estates that’s making
waves in the Casablanca Valley. Loma Larga (which translates as
'long hill') is a striking operation. Owned by the Diaz family, it's
a 700 hectare estate in the Casablanca Valley, with a sizeable
vineyard area of 147 hectares. Of these, 37 hectares are new
plantings that aren't yet producing. We met with Patricio Diaz (the
owner, who still works as a big shot lawyer in Santiago), his son
Felipe (CEO) and winemaker Emeric Genevière-Montignac.
red grapes, which unusually for Casablanca make up half the vineyard
area, are Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a
little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. Loma Larga was the first estate in
the valley to plant Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec. The whites are
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. Quite a few of the
grapes are sold – around three-quarters, which is apparently very
profitable business. In terms of actual production, this is the only
winery in Casablanca making more red wine than white.
estate was purchased in 1994 but five years' research preceded the
first plantings in 1999. Soil analysis was undertaken across the
property, and along with temperature (which varies quite a bit from
block to block), this was used to decide what was planted where. The
first wines made were in 2004 (12 000 bottles) which increased to
100 000 bottles in 2006. The aim is to increase production to 300
000 bottles. 95% of sales are export (Justerini & Brooks are the
Diaz family are green-minded, and want to preserve the fauna and
flora on their estate: they’ve achieved 'Lotus' certification for
good environmental practice.
a tour round the vineyard, we came to the winery, which is an
incredible modern construction (see top and above). Indeed,
it’s the first winery I have seen where there’s a vineyard on
the roof. This is best seen from the aerial pictures. Basically, the
winery is built into the hillside, and towards the rear of the roof,
there are vines which seamlessly merge into the hill. Inside,
everything is very clean and modern.
explains that he’s trying to do a natural vinification. The grapes
are hand-harvested into 10 kg boxes, and there's a selection of
berries after the destemmer. Most fermentations are done in 5000
litre tanks, which means it's possible to keep almost all the
vineyard blocks separate.
(right) says he uses lower sulfur dioxide levels than many,
working at 2-3 g/hectolitre whereas 5-6 g/hl is more common. He's
tried a tank without any sulfur dioxide and reports that it is
working pretty well. 'There is no brett here', he adds. 'We only
process our own grapes'. They can work with lower levels of sulfites
because the grapes have good hygeine and the winery is easy to
clean. Barrels are racked directly by gravity with nitrogen. 'We are
very respectful of the must', Emeric reports. ‘We employ high
technology, but we use the old ways – like a small winery’.
coming to Chile Emeric worked in France for 8 years, in the Sourth
of France (Rhône) and Margaux. 'I came to do a harvest in Chile and
didn't go back', he says.
Larga Sauvignon Blanc 2007
nose is crisp and grassy with powerful herby fruit aromas. Grassy
palate has high acidity and crisp herby flavour. 88/100
2007 (tank sample)
fermented with 30% new oak. No malolactic. Tight minerally nose has
some toasty richness and spicy apple and pear fruit. The palate has
some breadth to it with complex bready notes and some minerally
2007 (cask sample)
pure, vibrant raspberry and blackberry fruit nose. Beautifully
perfumed. Lovely focused palate showing ripe, fresh fruit with great
intensity. Pure fruit and good structure. 89-92
2007 (tank sample – hasn't been in oak)
pure focused nose with summer pudding fruitiness. Sweet, intense,
focused dark fruits palate with a lovely spicy, meaty edge.
Brilliant, vivid wine. 90-93
Franc 2007 (cask sample)
rich, ripe, dark blackcurrant fruit nose with a minerally, gravelly
edge and nice oak. Tannic on the palate with oak evident. Ripe,
expressive and quite serious. 88-91
2007 (cask sample)
portion was fermented in new oak barrels. Lush, dark and fresh with
bold sweet fruit that has a fresh peppery edge. Really intense and
quite tannic. Polished, modern and focused with lush dark fruit.
This will be blended with the Cabernet Franc and is apparently very
different to the regular Syrah. 90-92
and ripe with lush, pure blackcurrant fruit and a hint of greenness.
Soft-textured palate has smooth but appreciable structure. Smooth,
ripe and distinctive. 90/100
dark fruits nose showing intense blackberry and blackcurrant
character, as well as a bit of spiciness. The palate shows intense
sweet dark fruits with great purity. A soft, approachable wine.
after the tasting, a bit of a treat. Felipe Diaz has a helicopter
(his father, Patricio, jokes that this is the reason he still needs
to work in Santiago as a lawyer, to pay the bills), and he takes
three of us for a flight over the estate. Then after a quick refuel,
he gives us a ride to our next appointment, Matetic in the
neighbouring San Antonio valley. There's a short film of the Loma
Larga estate from the air below.
CHILE'S WINE REGIONS
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