Mind your Latitude: 32° South

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We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  32 degrees South!

Choapa Valley: Chile’s Choapa Valley is located near the southern edge of the Coquimbo Viticultural Region, south of both the Elqui and Limarí Valleys. This is the narrowest part of Chile—around the town of Illapel, the country is just 94 kilometers (60 miles) wide. This is also a region where the Andes Mountains blend in with the hills of Chile’s Coastal Range, leaving no room for an east-west valley between the two ranges. As such, the vineyards of the Choapa Valley are cooled by the breezes of the Pacific Ocean while being planted at significant elevations (averaging 800 meters/2,600 feet). This makes for an overall cooler climate than would be expected due to the latitude (although at an average of 4.5 inches [100 mm] of rain per year, the area definitely qualifies as a desert. The Choapa Valley is very scarcely planted to vines; only about 100 hectares (247 acres) are planted. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most-planted varieties.

Luján de Cuyo DOC: The Luján de Cuyo DOC is located within the Primera Zona of Mendoza, Argentina’s leading wine-producing province. This is a moderately high-altitude area, situated just south of the city of Mendoza, with vineyards planted at elevations between 2,300 and 4,300 feet (690 meters to 1,300 meters) above sea level.  This is a warm area with very little rainfall, tucked into the plateau located between the foothills Andes to the west and the Lunlunta Hills (to the east). While many grape varieties are grown in the area, the Luján de Cuyo DOC (approved as a denomination in 2005) is approved for 100% Malbec only.

Salto, Uruguay: Uruguay’s Salto Department is located in the northwestern part of the country just across the Uruguay River from Argentina. Salto is currently home to less than 100 hectares/247 acres of vines—most of it planted to Tannat. However; the region still holds a great deal of importance to the wine industry of Uruguay, as it was here that Don Pascual Harriague—a Frenchman from the Basque country—first introduced the Tannat grape variety to Uruguay.  After Harriague settled in Salto in the 1840s, he developed an interest in farming and began to grow grapes and other crops. The native grapes, however, did not prove to be suitable for wine, so he consulted Juan Jauregui, a viticulturist from Argentina for advice. Through this connection, Harriague acquired some cuttings of Tannat sourced from the Madiran region of Southwest France. Harriague cultivated the grapes and, after first his successful harvest of Tannat in 1878, championed the grape for use in the rest of the country. Today, Tannat is considered Uruguay’s “signature” grape as well as the leading vinifera variety in the country, accounting for close to 40% of all plantings. Well done, Don Pascual!

Perth Hills: The Perth Hills Region of Western Australia is a long and narrow region running north-to-south just east of the Darling Scarp (and the Swan District below), and only a few miles inland from the Indian Ocean.  As the name implies, this is a hilly area—elevation ranges from 495 to1,300 feet /150 to 400 meters) above sea level—so vineyard microclimate depends a good deal on slope, aspect, elevation, and whether or not the spot receives the benefit of the ocean breezes. In general, however, the climate is described as typically Mediterranean, and vines have been cultivated in Perth Hills since the 1880s. These days, there are just over 125 hectares (310 acres) in Perth Hills, with the majority of the vines planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

Hunter Valley: Located about 90 miles/145 km north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley can easily claim to be the best-known wine area of the Australian state of New South Wales. This is a large area, stretching inland from coast, almost completely surrounded by mountains, and covering a region known as the Hunter Valley Catchment. This is one of the oldest wine-producing areas of Australia, serving as the original home base for James Busby (in the 1830s) and Dr Henry Lindeman (in 1843).  The region is known for a sub-tropical, humid, and warm climate—but mid-to-high elevation vineyards, precision viticulture, and early harvest dates help this area turn our world-class wines—both red and white. The Hunter Valley is famously one of the few regions in the world specializing in varietal Semillon—and the Shiraz and Chardonnay are fabulous as well.

Swartland: The Swartland District, located about an hour’s drive north of Cape Town, is part of South Africa’s Western Cape Geographical Unit (GU). This is a large area, covering a rugged landscape that includes mountains, valleys, hills, the banks of the Berg River and Atlantic Coastline. Formerly planted mainly to wheat and other grains, many of the vineyards in this dry-farmed area are planted with gobelet-trained bush vines, making them well-suited to the warm climate and widespread use of dry farming. Swartland has traditionally been known for robust red wines—Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage in particular—and these days, is a prolific producer of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc as well. The name Swartland—meaning black land—refers to the native (and endangered) renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that turns black after the rain

References/for more information:

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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