Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Puerto Viejo, Requingua, and the Maule Valley

Puerto Viejo is the workhorse line of wines from the Chilean concern, Vina Requingua.  Requingua (corner of the winds) also markets three other labels produced from their 1,000 hectare estate in Curico and ancillary properties in Colchagua and Maule.  On Thursday the 13th of September, Gail Avera of Lafayette Selections will be here to present three wines from the Puerto Viejo line and three from the higher tier Toro de Piedra line.  Since three of the six wines for Thursday are from the Maule (Mow-lay) Valley, that will be our primary subject of discussion here today.

The Chilean wine country is an eight hundred mile strip (32-38 latitude) just north of the middle of the 2,653 mile long strip of a country that Chile is.  The Maule Valley, one of the oldest wine regions of Chile, lies three fourths of the way down the eight hundred mile extent.  Maule is the most rural and least populated wine region of Chile and for that reason along with its relatively large size, it produces 50% of the better wines that Chile exports.  If this is the Languedoc of Chile, its claims to fame are its white wines and Cabernet Sauvignon and ironically, the sparsely populated Maule lies a mere 155 miles from the Chilean capitol, Santiago.

Wine history has been kind to Chile and the Maule Valley.  Spanish colonists are believed to have brought European grapevines to Chile as early as the 1550s.  Written documentation show French grapevines were delivered to Chile in the 1850s and thereafter.  Since the Phylloxera epidemic was about to break in Europe at that time, those exports were fortunate indeed for Chile and the Maule Valley because out of all of the wine regions of the world, Chile (and Argentina) are the only locations never infected by that plague.  Because Europe's wine industry was soon to be ruined by the infamous plant louse, European winemakers galore were soon to follow the vines to the new world jumpstarting the industry in Chile and elsewhere.

The Maule Valley discovered by early wine making pioneers featured the same Mediterranean climate with diurnal temperature shifts that European winemakers love.  Alluvial soils of clay and sand and rivers like the Maule, Colchagua, and Curico, all running westward from the Andes, would be ideal to plan around with that Chilean countryside actually being a 6000 meter elevated plateau as compared to the 800 meters at the coastal plain.

This kind of geology is not without its drawbacks however.  All of Chile is seismically active with Maule being especially so.  Every twenty to thirty years it experiences a major earthquake with the most recent occurring on February 27th of 2010.  That magnitude 8.8 event, the sixth largest ever recorded, centered just off the coast of Maule and killed an estimated 525 people in resort towns on the coast.  Two of the wines we are tasting Thursday night would have been is huge ageing barrels at that time.  Two of those barrels at Requingua did not survive that earthquake.  Please join us for the tasting.

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