October 15, 2012

Phylloxera free

I guess most of us wine lovers know that there are just a few locations around the world not yet invaded by the wine louse. That is the phylloxera vastatrix, the little destroyer who loves to feast on the vine's roots. When a vitis vinifera is the victim, it is sentenced to a cruel death.

I think of Chile, where the whole country is free from phylloxera. What a lucky coincidence, that the decision to bring vines from France came before France was infected. 

In 1851 a Chilean entrepreneur, Sylvestre Ochagavia, in co-operation with the public agricultural school Quinta Normal, imported cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from France.

Among the Merlot cuttings where also some Carménère. But that was not discovered until almost 150 years later, in 1994 when a professor from Montpellier scrutinised the plants. Carménère is really not that found of the colder climat of Bordeaux where it has its roots, sensitive of coulure, giving low yields. But in Chile, it is happy, and has become something like the "grape of Chile". On its on rootstock, just as its vinifera relatives.

The vines of Chile are thus grown on their own roots. No grafting on American rootstocks. So, do we feel any difference? On the nose, the flavour?

I can, at least sometimes, spot a juicy character that I associate with Chile. Especially in the Cabernet Sauvignons. But I guess that is more a result of the terroir and the vinification, than the nature of the vines.

Well, my point is not really to make this a tasting challenge. Rather to reflect about the specific nature of the Chilean grapes and the wine made from them.

One of my favourite producers are Montes. Why not pour a glass of Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, or any other of their lovely varietal wines? Enjoy it and consider the uniqueness of its origin. Grown in a phylloxera free soil.

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