By now, Argentina has established a well-earned reputation for quality wine and, in particular, for intense, luscious fruit-driven Malbecs. Likewise, Chilean Carmenère is a testament to the winemaking abilities of Chile. However, both countries are quietly gaining ground with Pinot Noir.
In Argentina, the grape presently accounts for less than 2% of all plantings, with the vast majority of the nearly 4,700 acres found in Mendoza. But, a growing number of acreage is located in the Southern-most areas of the country in the Patagonian regions of Neuquén and Río Negro.
Chile boasts an even smaller allocation of its acreage to Pinot Noir – less than 3,000 acres – most of which is confined to its cooler climate regions of Casablanca, San Antonio and Bío Bío.
Yet despite these limited plantings, South American Pinot Noir is finding its way to North American shelves. And some of it is quite good.
A recent tasting of four South American Pinot Noirs provided the opportunity to compare and contrast some of these wines. Overall, they were redolent of fresh cherries and wet leaves, displaying a more fruit-driven and direct style than that found in more Burgundian examples. But, these wines are considerably less expensive than those and offer up a good option for value Pinot Noir.
Echeverria Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $14.00
Vina Echeverria was established by the Echeverria family, which dates its arrival in Chile to 1740 and its start in the wine industry to the early 1900s. This wine was very earthy in character, with cherries, wet leaves and good acidity.
Hacienda Araucano Riserva Pinot Noir 2013, Lolol Valley, Chile, $14.00
Hacienda Araucano, a venture from Jacques and François Lurton, maintains its primary estate in the Lolol Valley (a sub-region of the Colchagua Valley) that benefits from its exposure to the cold Pacific Ocean air currents. This fruit-forward wine displayed a candied fruit quality on the nose, with leafy and cinnamon notes on the palate.
Ritual Pinot Noir 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $20.00
The Ritual Wines label is a collaboration between winemaker Rodrigo Soto and consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs, with an exclusive focus on Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. With complex aromas and flavors of cherry, berry, leaf, spice and oak, this wine was intense and brooding.
Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2014, Patagonia, Argentina, $30.00
Argentine producer Bodega Chacra was established in 2004 when Piero Incisa della Rocchetta purchased an abandoned vineyard in Rio Negro, originally planted in 1932. Its “Barda” wine is a blend comprised of its single-vineyard wines as well as from its recently planted, ten-acre vineyard on the original property. Perhaps the most elegant of the quad, this wine displayed concentrated red fruit and wet leaves on both the nose and palate, culminating in long length.