Chile and Pinot Noir
On the main wineanorak site I've just posted an article on Cono Sur's Pinot Noirs. This Chilean producer has led the way with Pinot, making a very respectable and affordable entry-level wine that's widely available in the UK. But the question I am asking is this: can Chile make a world class Pinot Noir?
My answer (which can be disputed on a number of levels, not least, what constitutes 'world class', and who gets to decide?) is potentially, yes, but not yet. The problem I get at the moment is a sort of herby greenness, which is usally allied with sweet fruit. The combination of sweet ripe fruit with greenness is not a wonderful one. It's verging on Pinotage. The Cono Sur Pinots I tasted are nice wines that are good value for money, but they are not yet world class.
What does Chile need to do with Pinot Noir to take the next step forward? I think vineyard work is the answer. Somehow, winegrowers need to achieve homogeneous grape ripeness. The problem at the moment seems to be that as well as sweet, pure fruit with a degree of elegance, there is some green fruit getting into the same wine. I suspect winegrowers are leaving the grapes on the vine quite late in order to get ripeness, with some grapes getting very ripe and some barely ripe, resulting in the greenness plus relatively high alcohol levels.
How can this be achieved? I can only make suggestions that are guesses: I haven't seen the vineyards. The first is to look at yields. Chilean vineyards ripen late; perhaps lower-yielding vineyards would ripen earlier and more evenly. I'd look at how irrigation is used: if it's necessary, then I'd insitigate regulated-deficit irrigation where it is turned off at certain points to encourage proper ripening and higher quality fruit.
Then I'd look at getting the vines in balance. Perhaps they are too vigorous? Perhaps the day-night temperature differential is resulting in delayed physiological ripening and high sugar levels. Could work with the canopies be in order? Is there a need to address vine spacing? Could organic/integrated management/biodynamic principles help with vine vigour and balance? Who knows. I'm sure these are questions that Chilean winegrowers are already asking, if they are honest about where their wines are at the moment.