As part of our ongoing series of profiles on some of the great winemakers in Italy, we try to take as varied a look at the Italian wine industry as we possibly can. On top of looking at the producers with the most history behind them, we also want to highlight a few newer additions to the industry and demonstrate that the new generation of Italian winemaker is just as dedicated to producing quality wines that will delight your senses.
However, we also want to take a look at some great winemakers from outside of Italy, is a great wine is a great wine regardless of the country of origin. This week that means taking a virtual tour of one of Argentina’s most interesting new winemakers – Bodega Chacra.
Bodega Chacra is located in what is known as the Rio Negro Valley of northern Patagonia, which is located some 600 miles south if the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, in the arid Argentine desert. This would not immediately strike you as the best place to host a vineyard, however the Neuquen and Limay rivers combine to create a perfect location for the continued growth and the expansion of the company’s vineyards as they both converge in the Rio Negro area. Couple that with irrigation thank to a series of channels excavated by British colonists in the early 19th century and you have a lush landscape set against the desert.
As you would expect from a desert, the overall climate is quite dry, with the area only experiencing about seven inches of rainfall every single year. While this means that the vineyards must rely on the irrigation that was previously mentioned, it also means that there are fewer issues with the vines and a consistent temperature.
The story of the vineyards used in Bodega Chacra’s wines dates back to 1932, though it is only in the last decade or so that they have started to see regular use again. Piero Incisa della Rocchetta purchased the abandoned vineyard in 2004 and set about cultivating the Pinot Noir vines to start producing once again. The grapes are picked by hand every March and transported to the main winery in refrigerated containers to ensure that maintain their freshness, before work begins on creating the wine.
The winery also prides itself on the fact that no mechanical processes are used at any point in the production process, with the berries being placed as-is in a fermentation vat, where the weight of those on top crushes those below. These allows the resulting wine to maintain the flavours and tannins produced by the old vines, with first stage fermentation lasting for about three weeks.
The wine is then transferred into a number of small, French oak barrels, again without any mechanisation. Instead, the wine is drip-fed into the barrels straight from the fermentation vat, without any pressing of filtering to aid in the process. All of the barrels used come from the famous French winemaking region of Burgundy, with each barrel allowing for a bare minimum of oxidation in addition to preventing the transfer of the oak’s characteristics into the wine. The wine is then left to further ferment in these barrels for a period of around six months, where a minimal amount of sulfer is introduced to kill stray yeast. The wine is then left for another year, completely undisturbed, before being bottled up in the first week of June.
While the 1932 vineyard is still the company’s main base of operation and primary production area, Piero Incisa is dedicated to expanding his company’s operation and has since found and purchased two more Pinot Noir vineyards, which started producing in 2006. Both of these additional vineyards also have a rich history, with on being founded in 1955 while the other began production in 1967. Each vineyard is dedicated to producing a different kind of wine, all of which are based around the Pinot Nero grape. In recent years, the company has also started producing a fourth wine, named Barda, which is an exclusive wine that uses a number of components of the three previous wines and is grown using a recently planted, ten acre area of the original vineyard.
The expansion doesn’t stop there though, as the company soon began work on building a new winery on the site of the 1932 vineyard. Ground was broken in 2005 and the winery has now become an important part of the company, working in harmony with the desert and vineyards to help Bodega Chacra create a wine that truly is a reflection of its origins.
Today, that winery is now able to produce a maximum capacity of 100,000 bottles per vintage, with the hand-crafted production that the company has become famous for playing a large part in their recent success.
We mentioned the Barda wine a little earlier, and it is perhaps with the 2013 vintage that the company has found the most success. This wonderful Pinot Noir has already won praise from a large number of critics and is most definitely worth a taste for any fan of great red wine.
With a profile of crushed dark cherries, the wine also contains notes of focused spice, minerals and briar, which are a result of the rather unique conditions in which it is grown.
As mentioned, the grapes used are harvested entirely by hand and the wine itself is certified as organic, offering up another selling point for those who want to try something that is produced with a little less reliance on modern production methods.
The taste is also absolutely wonderful, offering a true feeling of the lush oasis that allows for the vineyards that Bodega Chacra uses to be grown in the desert. There are simply few wines like it on the planet and it makes for an excellent choice if you want to expand your horizons a little bit and enjoy a wine that comes from an international territory, instead of simply sticking to Italian wines.