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May 4, 2020

Cool climate wines are in high demand, as many of us seek wines that are on the lighter side but still have fruit and ripeness. We usually turn to places of high latitude for that, but on this show we tell you about an unlikely region for some of the best and yet most affordable cool climate wine around: the Casablanca Valley, San Antonio, and Leyda Valley -- all in a small area at 33˚south latitude!

Kingston Family VineyardsPhoto: Kingston Family Vineyards

Here are the show notes:

Both located in the far western coastal areas of the Aconcagua wine region, Casablanca and San Antonio are in mountainous coastal country that experiences cool to cold breezes due to the Humboldt current coming up from Antarctica. There are a handful of producers that make wines from these areas, but thankfully most of them are widely distributed so we have a chance to try these acidic yet fruity wines with little hunting around. 


Valle de Casablanca

  • Casablanca and Valparaíso are famed (at least in their homeland) and were voted, as a unit, as one of the 10 Great Wine Capitals of the world. The food, wine, and the ease of visiting vineyards make it an ideal destination. 
  • Until the 1980s, livestock grazed and grain grew where vineyards would soon pop up. It was then that Pablo Morandé, who was working for the giant winery Concha y Toro, realized that the Casablanca Valley had tremendous potential to make cool climate wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. 
  • Within a few decades the area was thriving. Producers set up shop, including:  Montsecano, Kingston Vineyards, Casas del Bosque, Veramonte, Loma Larga, Quintay, Cono Sur – and Pablo Morandé's Bodegas Re 

 The Geography/Climate

  • Casablanca is in the eastern part of Valparaíso province just 30km/20 miles from the Pacific Ocean at its furthest point.
  • At 33˚S, the Humboldt Current from the Antarctic is the only reason viticulture can work so well here. The area has cool early morning fog, which both depresses temperature and keeps the air most -- important in this water-deprived area. Cool afternoon breezes and regular cloud cover slow the ripening period of the grapes. It is so cold here that spring frosts can be an issue! 
  • Similar to Santa Barbara, in California Casablanca is a transverse valley – it runs east to west, funneling in cool ocean air and creating wines that are flavorful yet highly acidic.
  • Look for excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling

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San Antonio Valley and it's Zone, Leyda Valley

  • In province of San Antonio, only 55 miles (90km) west of central Santiago and south of Casablanca is San Antonio, which was planted a decade later than Casablanca, in the late 1990s. It is similar to its neighbor to the north, in that it is also heavily influenced by the effects of the ocean but here the mountains turn north to south again, and the area must rely on a closer proximity to the ocean and wind gaps in the coastal range to provide cool air. 
  • This is an up-and-coming area with a limited number of producers, many of them small. 
  • Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship wine but there is some great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wine as well. 


 The Leyda Valley is sub-region or zone of San Antonio

  • The valley is 9 miles from the coast and in some areas the vineyards are on the west (sea-facing) side of the coastal mountain range, so it’s quite a bit cooler than Casablanca, which is on the other side of the hills. 
  • The sharp diurnals, poor soils, and long growing season make Leyda's wine display fresh fruit flavors, ripe tannins, with high acidity.
  • Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Merlot shine here.
  • Unfortunately Leyda's growth is limited because it is so dry here. When winemaking began here, a 5 mile pipeline from the Maipo River in the south was built to irrigate vineyards. Those areas without water rights can't grow grapes, even if the exposures and soils are good. Until that gets resolved, Leyda will be limited to a few players. Viña Leyda and Garcés Silva are two wineries here – but Montes Alpha, Undurraga  and others source grapes to make wine from here.


These wines are all worthy of your time and attention! Go and get some! 

Kingston Family vineyardsPhoto: Kingston Family Vineyards


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