With the introduction of yet another Casas del Bosque listing to the WineTrust range – their excellent Chardonnay Reserva 2013 – we thought it timely to do a blog on this rising star of the Chilean wine industry.
Where it all began…
Tucked between the Andes and Pacific Ocean lies the exciting Casablanca Valley region of Chile: pioneers of a Renaissance in the country’s wine production. The importation of technology made wine making practices ever more sophisticated, while home-grown talent began to realise the potential this area had to offer.
Heralded as Chile’s first “cool climate region”, its northerly location and proximity to the tropics may appear surprising; at 33°S, vineyards are more equatorial than any in Europe. The pièce de résistance is in fact its geographical location, with the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean aiding the vineyards in the form of cool morning fogs, cloud cover and stiff coastal breezes.
The result – unique possibilities to produce fresh, aromatic, modern styles that have served to revitalise the Chilean wine market.
“Casablanca is fast becoming one of Chile’s most acclaimed areas for cool-climate wines made from naturally low-yielding vineyards set on well-exposed granite slopes with fine red clay soils… varying elevation, exposure and coastal influence conjuring a tapestry of microclimates. So far, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc have been the standouts. Many more are set to come.” Peter Richards MW. writing for Decanter Magazine, 2009
“I well remember on my first visit to Chile in 1996 and driving through the tunnels from Santiago which opened up into this wonderful (Casablanca) valley – it was almost an Alice in Wonderland experience. In those days nearly all the plantings were juvenile vines and most of the wineries and reception centres were in the process of physically being built. The energy, investment and excitement in the area’s potential was really something to behold” Nick Adams MW
Representing this flourishing region in WineTrust’s selection is the esteemed Casas del Bosque; translated to “Houses of the Forest”. The winery was established in 1993 amongst the Casablanca’s ancient pine and olive plants. Like the Conquistadors of the 16th century, Casas del Bosque were amongst the trailblazers to first plant vines in virgin soil, before vineyard cultivation soon gathered momentum in this nascent region. Today, famous for its aromatic whites, Casablanca is fast building a similar reputation for refined reds – especially Syrah and Pinot Noir.
At the helm is the Solari family, who have managed the estate from day one and are now well renowned as a leading light in the valley. Casas del Bosque is a strictly family enterprise, who pride themselves as a small, boutique winery; having said that, they have imported the New Zealander and renowned enologist Grant Phelps who oversees the production process. With output averaging 90,000 cases a year, this restrained level of production allows for close control on quality and authenticity – and today they are rightly regarded as one of the region’s leading producers!
The main varietals include Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, and from the reds Syrah and Pinot Noir, with 80% of production being exported. Meanwhile, small amounts of Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon are also cultivated in the nearby Rapel and Maipo valleys. Principally red wine regions, the combination of hotter Mediterranean weather and mountain breezes allow for the sustained ripening of grapes – creating wines of great structure and concentrations – although a range of microclimates afford the production of fruitier, softer wine from milder conditions.
The estate boasts some impressive technological feats, such as wind generator machines that control frosts by raising the temperature over five hectares by as much as 2 or 3 degrees! Also to hand is a sophisticated irrigation system that allows specific treatment for individual grape varieties, soils and microclimates. For example, controlled water stress is performed on red varieties, restraining water droplet size aiding the concentration of flavours and aromas within the fruit. Also to boot is a 2500 sq. metre cellar, equipped with sixty state-of-the-art Italian stainless steel tanks and fine grain French oak ageing barrels.
To top off this impressive enterprise, Casas del Bosque are active members of the local and Chilean community, contributing to the DarHogar Project in Casablanca – providing furnished, ready to use homes for families living in sub-standard accommodation – and charitable ventures such as La Fundación Las Rosas and La Fundación María de la Luz, non-profit organisations that supports Chile’s disadvantaged senior citizens and youth respectively. The winery also supports sporting development, having endorsed the national Paralympic athlete Jorge Migueles, who competes in skiing and triathlon.
WineTrust’s Casas del Bosque selection
Here at WineTrust, we have selected three stellar examples to come from the estate: the Casas del Bosque Syrah Gran Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva and Chardonnay Reserva – award winning lines illustrative of the new exciting era for Chilean wine production. For founder Juan Cuneo Solari, he had always dreamt of running his own vineyard producing the best quality of wines; we believe his wishes have been realised and the family now represents the highest calibre of producers to come from this thriving region, if not the country.
Exceptional wine and perfect New World expression of the “Shiraz” grape – blackberry, black olive and lifted black pepper spice. Soft and creamy texture with fine vanilla oak. Sumptuous and refreshing red!
Hand harvested grapes are subject to whole cluster selection, before destemming and further, individual berry selection. Cold soaking precedes fermentation at controlled temperatures and 7 day maceration. Aged in a mix of new (60%) and second fill (40%) French oak barrels for 12 months, with a further 3 months aging once bottled.
Ideal with lighter red meat and game dishes. Spot on with a leg or rack of lamb; try (seasonally) with pheasant – either oven roasted or in a casserole. Another option is breast of duck with a cinnamon sauce.
If your enjoy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, you will love this. Stunning example from Chile’s leading cool climate valley – boldly aromatic and intensely fruity … made by Kiwi winemaker Grant Phelps who has been producing wine in Chile for over 13 years
Grapes are harvested at night to capture the grape’s full fruit potential and acidity. The cool Sauvignon bunches are crushed and left in skin contact for 4 days at just 1⁰C; this helps to extract all the exotic aromatic notes that this grape is renowned for. The vast majority of the wine is made in stainless steel but a small (4%) proportion is barrel fermented and blended back to add a touch of weight and texture. This is complemented by 6 months lees aging.
Cracking summer aperitif but a good foil for baked and BBQ fish, or an asparagus and goat’s cheese tart.
Our latest addition to the WineTrust and Casas del Bosque range.
We were genuinely surprised by the quality and style of this Chardonnay, especially for the price. Punchy peach fruit and a tropical feel are tempered by a medium body, lovely mouth feel and texture and, above all, freshness and balance. The vanilla oak is really polished and unobtrusive leading to a savoury and satisfying drink overall.
Crushed skins and juice were then left to cold soak for 4 days, to extract important aromatic elements, then the free-run juice was drained by gravity and about a ⅓ was cold fermented in stainless steel, with inoculated yeasts. Following fermentation this component was aged for 11 months on gross lees (without stirring). The remaining ⅔ of the blend was fermented in mix of new (25%) and used (75%) French oak barrels. The wine was then aged in oak for a period of 11 months with regular stirring of the lees. The two component parts when then blended, lightly filtered and bottled.
Serve with good old roast chicken, done with garlic, lemon juice, lemon thyme and pancetta.