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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Chile is a place to pay attention to for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Meet some of the winemakers who are redefining Chilean wine with their Coastal Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. These winemakers are friends and colleagues who have studied together and worked together over the years. They are each focused on cultivating a distinct sense of place in the wines they produce. And, they share the common belief that if one succeeds, they all will succeed.
Rodrigo Soto of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, Neyen
“We need to focus not on what is new, but what is really good,” Rodrigo Soto explained. “I met Rodrigo last year and had written a story about him finding a sense of place in Chile. Well-spoken and insightful, Rodrigo is the president of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus and Neyen wines.
Veramonte was established by Agustin Huneeus in the early 1990s. Soto took the position of head winemaker in 2012 after working at Fetzer and Benziger in California, Wither Hills in New Zealand and Matetic in Chile.
Under his direction, Rodrigo converted Veramonte from a conventional winery to a biodynamic winery. His interests in organics began at university and ultimately became the topic of his thesis. To Rodrigo, biodynamics “is the best way to achieve quality and longevity” in wine. In addition, both organic and biodynamic farming practices lead to terroir-driven harvests.
As the perception of Chilean wine shifts from value to distinctive regionality, Rodrigo said that individual brands should be connected to one appellation. “Appellations need to be consistent. We need to establish them and be good at what we do.” Of the four labels produced by Veramonte, Ritual Wines are made exclusively from selected plots from the organic vineyards in Casablanca.
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.
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