I had a quick sit-down with Francisco Baettig, winemaker at Chile’s Viña Errázuriz, earlier this week. Baettig and Viña Errázuriz are, like many winemakers and wineries in Chile, starting to explore the country’s cooler, coastal climates in search of new vineyard areas. But unlike most other Chilean wineries who have headed far north to places like Limarí or Elquí, or far south to Bío Bío, Baettig has stayed close to the winery’s home base in the generally warm Aconcagua Valley. By simply heading west along the valley, Baettig has his own cool, coastal area to develop and he’s developing a new vineyard just 12 kilometers from the coast.
There, working with consulting viticulturist Yerko Moreno (who also works at Veramonte in the Casablanca Valley), Baettig has helped oversee the planting of 230 hectares of vines, 50 hectares of which are Pinot Noir, along with 20 hectares of Syrah as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Planting began back in 2005, but the first commercial releases will be primarily from the 2010 vintage.
“They pushed for wines from the 2009 vintage, but I held them off. I really want to get as comfortable as possible before releasing wines from the new vineyard,” said Baettig. “I’m really happy with 2010 though. It’s a more elegant vintage with very good whites. I want fruit in the wines of course, but I’m aiming for wines that show elegance and freshness.”
Baettig is particularly enthused with the prospects for the Pinot Noir. He’s also working with Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, the Burgundy-based vigneron who’s recently teamed up with Pedro Parra on a new Chilean project.
A sample of the not-yet-released 2010 Pinot Noir, which underwent a native yeast fermentation, shows lively spice and pepper notes, with a silky cherry and plum profile and a subtle twang of minerality on the finish. It’s a stylish expression of Pinot and another example of Chile’s improving quality with the grape in general. (The sample was tasted non-blind, but without anyone from the winery present.)
So far, Baettig sees the 2011 season shaping up in a similar fashion to 2010. A cold winter was followed by a late spring and some problems with fruit set. Baettig said the crop will probably be 10 percent lower than normal.
But with the vineyard coming on line, Baettig now has more than enough new fruit to play with. And with the winery in a new facility since the 2010 vintage, the problems with brettanomyces and TBA taint which plagued Errázuriz previously are hopefully well in the past.
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Martin Palmer — Hong Kong — January 30, 2011 5:08am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — February 3, 2011 9:49pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — February 4, 2011 9:42am ET
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