This region possesses ideal soil and climate conditions to produce excellent white and red wines of lower complexity, such as Pinot Noir and Syrah. However, there is one grape variety which stands out above all, and that is Chardonnay.
Concha y Toro arrived in the Limari Valley in 2005, and in that same year my adventure in the north of Chile began. At that time, these lands were planted with different grape varieties, including Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, these plantations did not produce the expected quantity or quality. The company’s agricultural team and oenologists believed that these lands had the ideal characteristics to produce certain varieties in an exceptional way, and we were not mistaken.
We believed in the potential of the Limari Valley, and in its perfect soil and climate conditions for the production of fresher white and red wines such as Pinot Noir and Syrah. Of all of the varieties, Chardonnay is the one that achieves its best expression. In these 11 years as head oenologist in the Limiari Valley, I have seen how Chardonnay expresses itself in the different parts of the Valley, where the proximity to the sea and soil type determine the styles that can be obtained within this variety.
But what makes a terroir ideal for the production of a grape variety? This depends on the intersection between soil and climate that enables the best expression of a certain variety to be achieved, and that is what we have been able to develop and enhance in Chile during recent decades. For example, when we talk about Cabernet Sauvignon, the valleys of central Chile immediately come to mind, and especially the Maipo Valley. For Carmenere, exceptional quality is obtained in the Cachapoal Valley. Finally, white wines and red wine varieties such as Syrah and Pinot Noir from Casablanca are highly renowned, as well as these varieties from the Limari Valley now as well.
Chardonnay has its origin in France, and is one of the most widely-cultivated white wine grape varieties in the world. Depending on its place of origin, it can produce wines with highly varied styles. In the Limari Valley, the climate and presence of calcium carbonate in its soil produce mineral wines with very good natural acidity. The expression of the grape and the minerality depend on the proximity to the sea, and the amount of clay and carbonates in the soil. In areas close to the sea with moderate amounts of clay in the soil (around 25%), minerality will dominate over the fruit flavors. If we add a high quantity of carbonates in the soil, this minerality will achieve greater expression. In inland areas with a greater quantity of clay in the soil, fruit flavors will take prescience over minerality.
The freshness of the Limari Valley and the minerality of its soils make this valley one of the best places in Chile to produce Chardonnay. As an oenologist, it does not require too much effort to produce an exceptional Chardonnay; we just have to ensure that we manage production, as favorable conditions for this grape variety are provided naturally. But despite this, it is still a challenging and elaborate task for the entire team that works in the valley. We must keep all of the variables that influence the process in mind, such as rainfall, frost, droughts and the correct growth of the grapevines.
Due to these favorable natural conditions, I believe that everything which can be planned for these lands, and all of the resources that can be invested in planting Chardonnay, is safe bet in terms of wine production and quality. At Concha y Toro, we will continue to work in this valley to keep surprising Chardonnay lovers with exceptional wines.