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Viña Casa Silva explores micro-terroir plots

A three year research study undertaken by Colchagua terroir specialists Viña Casa Silva with the University of Talca has pinpointed the reasons why vines growing under ‘seemingly similar’ conditions in one vineyard have a different quality potential

Mario Pablo Silva, MD of family-owned Viña Casa Silva comments: “The concept of terroir is understood across the wine world, and in Chile the process of mapping the best vineyard locations to the most suitable varietals has advanced exponentially in the last 10 years.  However at Viña Casa Silva we wanted to go a step further: to identify and understand the ‘DNA’ of individual land parcels to explain, for example, why one micro-terroir plot in our Los Lingues estate produces superior Carmenère to the plot right next to it.”

The complex research results have enabled Viña Casa Silva to produce a blueprint of the optimum elements required for a micro-terroir plot to produce the best quality Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier or Petit Verdot grapes.   This blueprint has enabled them to re-map their vineyards and re-graft those vines that were under-performing.  As head winemaker Mario Geisse says, “For a winemaker this is the holy grail!  We are now able to select precise mini-parcels of each variety for our best wines, adapt our vineyard management according to the needs of each individual plot and micro-vinify to get the best possible quality wines.  The improvement in quality is already clear in the most recent vintages of our top wines and will become increasingly evident in the next few years.”

Professor Yerko Moreno from the University of Talca headed up the research team to study 90 micro-terroir plots planted with five different varietals across Viña Casa Silva’s estates at Los Lingues in the foothills of the Andes and Lolol in the coastal shadow.  Fruit from each micro-terroir plot was analysed just before each harvest and micro-vinified separately.  The resulting wines were then analysed chemically and organoleptically.  The laboratory and tasting results were then cross-referenced with information about the micro-terroir site including soil analysis, micro-climate, plant growth and viticultural methods. 

Professor Moreno comments: “Our studies identified a number of influencing factors within the vineyard, of which four are the most significant: the average  temperature during January; the amount and duration of rain during the season, which is particularly important for Carmenère, the volumetric moisture content of the soil and the depth of root exploration.   It was clear that details of soil composition have the greatest impact on grape quality, followed by climatic factors (both macro and micro) and finally viticultural methods.”

The learning’s from their pioneering research programme and their current Carmenère, clone study will have implications for winegrowers not only within Chile, but across the World



September 09



1 September 2009 - Felicity Murray