Please the Palate Pick of the Week: Chilean Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

If you had asked me a week ago about Chilean wine, I would not have had much to say. It is not a region that I had explored and my familiarity with the wines was generally limited to the value wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. But after spending a week exploring Leyda Valley, Casablanca Valley and Limari Valley, three areas in the coastal region of Chile, I am enamored. Without a doubt the elegant Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from these regions are the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Chile is a long and skinny country. From north to south, Chile is approximately 2600 miles long. On the west side is the Pacific Ocean and only 110 miles across the country are the Andes, with Argentina on the other side. There are vineyards near the Andes, there are vineyards in the Central Valley (between the Andes and the Coastal Mountain Range) and there is the Coastal Region where vineyards lie between the Coastal Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean.

Leyda, Casablanca and Limari all benefit from what Veramonte and Ritual winemaker Rodrigo Soto describes as a “Mediterranean climate with the air conditioner on.” These regions enjoy wind due to their proximity to the ocean. Even in the summer, a breeze blows through the vineyards. These are sunny regions that do not receive much rain. Average temperatures are low and in comparison, when the coastal areas are 70 degrees, the central region will be 90 degrees.

The soil is another important factor to these wines. Granite is the main soil in coastal Chile with clay on top. The granite soil contributes to the wine’s vibrancy. There is also sedimentary and chalk. Ribbons of limestone can be found running through the soils but in Limari, there is Talinay vineyard, only 12 kilometers from the ocean (the closest vineyard to the ocean in all of Chile), that is entirely limestone.

Rodrido Soto described world class wine as being related to the mouthfeel and the wines I tasted this past week were about this. In general, the wines of Leyda and Casablanca are a bit more rich and round but with elegant acidity and the wines of Limari, due to the proximity to the ocean, are more linear and austere with minerality.

As I head home from this wonderful trip and plan stories that I will write about the interesting and passionate winemakers I met, I just cannot stop thinking about the tasty Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs I tasted.

As a teaser, here are some of the wines to look out for:

Undurraga’s TH stands for “Terroir Hunter” and are single vineyard wines that represent the diversity of Chile.

Matetic is one of only five wineries in Chile that is certified biodynamic and the EQ (Equilibrium) label of wines show a pure expression of Pinot Noir.

Kingston Family Vineyards is located between Algarrovo Beach and Valpariso so the organic vineyard benefits from dual ocean influences. The wine labels are named after the family’s horses – Sabino, Tobiano and Alazan.

Veramonte’s Ritual wines are cool coastal wines from selected plots from their organic vineyards in Casablanca.

Tabali has 300 hectares of vineyards on four properties in Chile with 82 of them being the Talinay Vineyard with limestone soils for mineral driven wines.

My mouth waters as I think about the delicious, and affordable, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that I tasted this past week. The coastal wines of Chile are most definitely the Please the Palate pick of the week.