Sauvignon Blanc in Chile (3)

Sauvignon Blanc

In the Maule Valley, in 1978, only 3,300 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc were cultivated, which represented 3.1% of the area. However, on the ground, the figure was negligible, since Sauvignon vert (Friulano and Sauvignonasse) was more often cultivated as Sauvignon Blanc (synonym of Sauvignon vert). In addition, there were small areas of Sauvignon Gris.

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In the early 1990s, when Chile became an important wine producer. Sauvignon Blanc wines were made with cheap and unsophisticated techniques, and they mainly corresponded to Sauvignon vert, so small quantities of aromatic varietals such as Torontel (synonym: Torrontes Riojano) or Moscatel de Alejandrina (synonym: Italy) were added to enhance their aroma.
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In 1994, the official area of Sauvignon Blanc amounted to 5,981 hectares, which represented 11.3% of the entire wine-growing territory. This figure was increased to 6,576 ha in 1997, and in 2001 it reached 6,673 ha, but these figures were lower than the rate of increase of the entire vineyard area, so that the percentage share of the variety fell to 10.3% and 6.2%, respectively.

Before the wine crisis, although there were some vineyards in Chile that cultivated Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, the sensitivity of these varieties to rot and other diseases led producers to opt for Sauvignon vert plantations. This variety was especially resistant to nematodes and other diseases and soil pests.

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During the 1990s, companies such as Miguel Torres, among other vineyards, began to introduce Sauvignon Blanc clones from California, which resulted in Chile erroneously identifying the variety as American Sauvignon. In this period, the distinction between Sauvignon Vert, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris also became more definitive.

After the success of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines in foreign markets, especially in the United Kingdom, the search for a more diversified offer determined the search for better locations, such as the coastal valleys of Casablanca and Leyda or the regions of the South and Araucanía, as shown in Table 1. In Chile, Sauvignon Gris and Sauvignon Vert are each present on a total area of 144 and 820 hectares in the Maule Region, of which 56% and 96% respectively are Sauvignon Vert. According to some experiences, Sauvignon vert wines have been exported.

The area where Sauvignon Blanc, Gris and Vert grapes are grown, with which the wine is made.
According to Fregoni (2005), the viticultural environment includes four components: the soil, the climate, the type of grape and human control. In Chile, as in the other countries of the New World, more importance is given to the climate than to the soil.
If we speak in terms of geological age, Chile’s soils are quite young, apart from those of the Cordillera de la Costa. The Mediterranean climate makes it necessary to irrigate the vineyards during the summer. From a geological point of view, the Cordillera de la Costa was the only land mass in the area we now call Chile, and it was surrounded by ocean on both sides.

The subduction of tectonic plates formed the Andes mountain range to the east of it. Subsequently, earthquakes caused the collapse of vast sectors between the Coastal and Andes mountain ranges, creating a central depression. The central depression was formed as a result of the climatic effects of El Niño, which causes heavy snowfall and rain in the Andes mountain range, in addition to a gradual filling process that levels the soils with the exception of some peaks that transform into island hills.

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