So my idea to have weekly spotlights seems to have been thrown for a loop. I still love the idea of spotlights, though, so I’m just going to continue a given spotlight for however long it takes me to complete, interspersed with other posts. The current spotlight on New World Pinot Noir has been fascinating for me, and while I originally did not plan to try a Chilean Pinot Noir, a reader convinced me otherwise. After tossing a few ideas around I settled on this, the 2005 Matetic Pinot Noir from the San Antonio Valley. Matetic is one of the most important producers in the region and is widely considered to make one of the best Pinot Noirs in Chile.
Chile has always been a particularly distinct region, being so isolated that it is one of the last remaining places on earth where the original vitis vinifera vines can be planted without grafting them onto Phylloxera resistant rootstock. While water is scarce, necessitating irregation in most regions, it is still extremely cheap to grow vines in Chile given the consistently even climate, almost total lack of rot, and cheap land. And, don’t forget that non-grafted vines are much cheaper to plant. Of course, with developing popularity comes increasing land prices and more and more foreign interest. In fact, many wineries in Chile have been started by jet-setting foreigners, one of the most important of which is the Spanish producer Torres who helped bring recognition to Chile in the first place.
While the Central Valley is by far the most famous and most important region in Chile, with its sub-regions such as Maipo and Colchagua, the San Antonio Valley (a subregion of Aconcagua) is one of Chile’s hot new regions. It is particularly interesting for white varieties and for Pinot Noir since it has one of the coolest climates in Chile, being so close to the coast. Casa Marin, for instance, makes my favourite Sauvignon Blanc in Chile with grapes grown in this region. This new region, first planted in 1997 and officially recognized in 2002, has infertile soils of of clay and granite that help add depth and complexity to the wines grown here.
Matetic is run by a Croatian family that immigrated to Chile over 100 years ago, made a fortune in ironworking, and bought the Matetic estate about 20 years ago. A massive 16 000 hectare property, the Matetic family started planting vines here in the 90’s and made their first wines in 1999. Matetic is unique in Chile not because it is organic, which is becoming increasingly popular, but because it has been a pioneer in taking up Biodynamics in the country – a form of vineyard management and winemaking that is becoming increasingly important as much as it is also controversial. The Matetic estate is only 20km from the sea, making it particularly exposed to the very cool Pacific breezes. Of course, this also makes the 120 hectares of planted property particularly well suited for growing cool climate grapes such as Pinot Noir. The diurnal temperature fluctuations make this property particularly good at maintaining natural acidity in their wines while also producing wines with big fruit flavours. If you are curious to view a bit of the estate, take a gander at this video shot by wineanorak writer Jamie Goode.
Now, to the wine! The nose is very Chilean with its distinctive funk, somewhat like an earthy and twiggy cassis bramble. Otherwise, underling the intense power of the funk on the nose are hints of cherry and earth. With air, the nose mellows and adds chocolate and more earth. The palate is both classic and unique: cherry twigs, and generally massive fruit. There is good depth to the mid-palate here with earth, twigs and a punch of spice. This is really flavourful, but also starts out with a hot chocolatey finish (it is 14.5% ABV). I found after a couple hours of air, however, the heat dissipated and the alcohol integrated well into the wine.
In the final analysis, this is unique wine, but it also doesn’t really taste like typical Pinot Noir. There is such a distinctive “Chilean funk” quality to it (similar to what you get w/ the cabs and the carmeneres down there), and I have to admit I am not a fan of that funk. I almost feel like it is a flaw, but I suppose it is something unique about Chilean terroir. That said, I do think this is elegant and tremendously structured and a very good value at $50. Also, many people actually like that distinct Chilean funk, and if you do you will probably love this wine. Most U.S. Pinots at the $50 price in Canada would not have this level of structure. I think this is a peculiar wine with aging potential and I think it’s an enticing hint at the possibilities of Chilean Pinot Noir. It doesn’t bowl me over, but it makes me think.
$50 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars