During the last glacial maximum, what is today the Casablanca Valley in Chile was at the extreme northern end of the Llanquihue glaciation. While most Andean glaciers pushed all the way down to the Pacific Ocean, in Casablanca the glacier stopped a bit short, leaving a massive hill of rubble (known as a moraine) along the coast.
The moraine has the effect of blocking breezes off the Pacific, which would normally be a bad thing for wine. However, with the Andes to the east, the prevailing wind is always whistling down from the mountains and through the valley on its way to the sea.
One side effect of the wind coming from the same direction for the last 22,000 years is in the adaptations of the local flora. Nowhere is this better seen than “El Espino,” the iconic hawthorn tree that sits in front of the Mirador tasting room at Casas del Bosque winery. Over the centuries, the wind has shaped the tree into a near-teardrop shape, with three-quarters of its branches on one side of its trunk.
The wind also keeps the local vines cool during the bright Chilean days, which, combined with the clay and granitic soils, makes for outstanding mineral Pinot Noirs and crisp, citrusy Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. Talented Kiwi winemaker Grant Phelps makes the most of the cool-climate grapes, pressing at extremely low temperatures (under 40 F) and soaking them on their skins for 7-11 days. The result is one of the best Sauvignon Blancs to come out of South America, consistently gathering ratings in the 90s while keeping the price around $15. With the heat of the Florida summer upon us, it’s an outstanding match for local seafood or just sipping by the pool.
Pete Shipley, Wine & Spirits Specialist – Gainesville