Media Coverage

A centenary old pure Malbec, rediscovered in southern Chile thanks to the climate
May 6, 2016
Crédito: Karen Corby

The temperature increase has converted the south of Chile into fertile ground for the development of good wines, optimizing unique strains that are only found in this area of the country, as a centenary Malbec.

Fourth largest wine exporter, with 52.9 million cases sold in 2015, Chile has traditionally cultivated its vineyards in the wide valley of the central region, almost 700 km long.

But for a decade, favored by climate change, crops were extended southwards to reach the regions of El Maule and Biobio, sheltered by the coastal mountain range, many volcanoes, valleys and sparkling lakes and rivers.

"Thanks to an increase in one and two degrees (temperature), a grand part of the wine crops can move further south ,"  said Pablo Zamora to the AFP. Pablo is the chief science officer at the innovation center for agriculture in wine of University California-based Chile.

A dozen winemakers have already installed themselves in southern Chile, where we find the southernmost wine near the town of Chile Chico in the heart of Patagonia, where they produce a type of Pinot Noir.

Further north, near the Chillán volcano, and about 450 km south of Santiago," there is basaltic (volcanic rock) ground that vinify in different ways with Cabernet, Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, or Pinot strains " affirmed Francois Massoc, Chilean-French enologist.

The winegrowers trip to the south has not gone without surprises. On their way they found unknown or forgotten strains, since for years the producers focused on the central region.

One of these great discoveries occurred near the town of San Rosendo, in the Biobio region (about 520 km south of Santiago) , where producers for years elaborated a table wine of very low value, called 'Pipeño' by mixing this Chilean strain with other unknown strains.

But when the enologists began arriving in the area, they discovered that it was actually a kind of 100 year-old Malbec, a wine that would have been traditionally produced in Argentina and France and taken to San Rosendo by French settlers in the XIX century.

According to experts, there is no Malbec whose plant and root is as pure as that found in southern Chile. In the United States, for example, it was possible to produce a grafted Malbec to support the phylloxera that ended with the production of inbred strains that existed in France in the nineteenth century.

The Chilean Malbec "is a Malbec that is genetically 100% pure" affirmed Massoc.

In San Rosendo, seven hectares of Malbec and a few other plants of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were found, turning the area into a gene bank of these types of grapes, which has caused great interest in Europe and in the United States, whose strains have been affected by the heat.

"Europe and America are concerned because their Cabernet Sauvignon is not holding temperatures, so there is a problem of genetic material and they have to find answers to solve it," Maximiliano Morales told AFO. Maximiliano is an an agronomist who leads the venture Strategic Node Chile Viticulture 2.0, supported by the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) which seeks to promote these strains.

Two Chilean winemakers have shown interest in acquiring the grapes, while foreign producers have expressed their curiousity to know if this Malbec has unique properties due to its age and genetics.


Source: Miguel SANCHEZ | AFP