Visiting the Casablanca Vineyards of Terra Noble
The region of Casablanca, Chile hosts the variables for quality cool climate viticulture, with Sauvignon Blanc in the region particularly celebrated. The area also grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and small plantings of Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.
The water situation of Casablanca limits vineyard growth through the area. As it was explained to us, purchasing land is not difficult, but getting water to service it is. Without its own river, Casablanca must rely on water brought in and stored in reservoir, then partitioned between producers. Casablanca also sits removed enough from the Andes to not benefit from snow melt. In any particular year, the area tends towards less than 230 mm rainfall, occurring entirely in Autumn and Winter. With the growth of Santiago, a little more than an hour south, water has become an even scarcer commodity.
Last month’s frost devastated the region with all vineyards affected. Frost burns exposed vine shoots, so that any early harvesting plants are more likely to be impacted than others. To address such concern, producers prune Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to encourage later bud break. However, September’s frost occurred late enough for the region’s Chardonnay and Pinot to be impacted. Sauvignon Blanc in the area budded after the frost and so appears okay, however, plants are a month behind their normal growth cycle. This means frost could become a concern again towards the end of the season if maturity comes slowly.
Traditionally frost impacts lower areas with cold air pooling in the bottom of ground swales. During these times vineyard managers can turn on large fans that mix warmer air from above with the cool ground coverage, or can utilize a water misting system that freezes a coating over the plant effectively sealing the inner plant from harm. The recent frost was devastating for two reasons. Firstly, the cold air bank was over 22 m/72 ft high, surpassing the height of the fans so that mixing air amounted to cold with cold. Secondly, the frost cycle lasted more than a week ensuring that those relying on the misting system ran out of water before the end of the cold.
That said, producers in Casablanca are hoping for quality fruit on the vines still able to produce. The region offers a unique dry granulated earth composite of granite and clay with red top soils banded through. The effect is lower vigor as well as a dusty mineral finish on the wines, especially pretty on Pinot Noir.
Terra Noble grows their cool climate vines in the coldest portion of Casablanca, Algarrobo. They also grow wine to the south in Colchagua Valley, with a unique Carmenere terroir project (more on that in a future post). Casablanca suits their cool climate varieties as the valley opens to morning fog, followed by midday shine, and an afternoon wind that drops temperatures quickly. The combination of daily light affect with the cooling climate lends a sinewy structure to the vibrant flavor of the wines. (More on the wines of Terra Noble in a future post.)
To read Grape Friend’s write up on the Terra Noble visit: http://grapefriend.com/2013/10/16/a-radiohead-kind-of-vineyard/
Thank you to Francisco Matte, Gonzalo Badilla, Juan Carlos Castro, and Oscar (my apologies for not having your last name).
Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.
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