Casablanca Valley, Chile’s premier cool-climate coastal region, offers wine lovers an elegant style of wine that’s uniquely indicative of the area. Here, the focus is on varieties that thrive in cooler temperatures including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and a rising production of Syrah.
Casablanca is a relatively new region for wine production, as the first vines were planted just over 30 years ago in 1982 by Pablo Morande, the winemaking veteran from Concha y Toro. As a result, the region is just now coming into its own, eclipsing even the great strides it has already made. Recent soil analysis, experimentation of plantings on higher slopes, and a focus on matching the best varieties to the climate have given Casablanca an image of prestige and innovation that shows through in the wines.
In every sense of the term, Casablanca is a classic cool climate, coastal region – the average temperature in the summer is 25C (77F) which is significantly cooler than other parts of Chile. Adding to the region’s already cool temperatures, mornings in Casablanca are generally foggy from the mists that settled the evening before that don’t burn off until mid morning. The middle of the day can be quite hot, but this doesn’t last long as the cool breeze from the north-sweeping Humboldt Current blows away the heat by late afternoon.
The strong winds help to protect the grapes from the development of botrytis and other forms of mold because they help to dry off the vines from the morning mists. However, strong winds can also negatively affect fruit set and if the valley gets too cool, the vines are put at risk of frost. Fortunately, the valley’s relative distance from the ocean and hilly terroir protect it from the full force of the winds and help to deter any potentially negative impact.
Unlike other areas of Chile, Casablanca Valley has no rivers. This means the valley’s soil has not been affected by water erosion in hundreds of years. As a result, these ancient soils consist of layers of clay, sand, and decomposed granite that are easy for vine’s roots to penetrate.
Due to the absence of an active flowing river in Casablanca, however, vines must be irrigated and water must be pumped from nearby wells to ensure they receive enough to produce adequate fruit. On the positive side, this lack of water acts as a natural controller of yield which helps to concentrate flavor in the wines.
Since the establishment of the area as a winemaking region by Morande, many other prestigious wineries have opened their doors in Casablanca including Santa Rita, Casas del Bosque, Morande, Kingston Family Estates, Veramonte, William Cole, Indomite, Vinomar, Casablanca,and Quintay. Casablanca is also a place from which many wineries outside of the region source fruit, particularly when they are focusing on the addition of a cool climate wine to their portfolio.
When is comes to cool-climate wines from Chile, the Casablanca Valley is top-tier. The region already produces fantastic wines made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and more whose value, like so many other wines of Chile, far exceed their price points. Still, as the valley continues to push the limits, it is evident that Casablanca Valley will continue to raise the bar of quality wine.