Mind your Latitude: 34° South


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: 34 degrees South!

Rapel Valley: The Chilean city of Rancagua—located at 34°S, about 50 miles (75 km) south of Santiago—sits alongside the Cachapoal River as it winds its way towards the Rapel River and out to the Pacific Ocean. The valley surrounding the Cachapoal River—along with the Colchagua Valley, carved out by the Tinguiririca River—form the basis of the Rapel Valley wine region. The Rapel Valley is a prodigious region planted to over 100,00 acres (41,000 ha) of vines. Those vineyards planted closest to the coast (mainly in the Colchagua Valley Zone), receive some cooling influences from the Pacific, while those planted further inland (mainly in the Cachapoal Valley Zone) are tucked into the foothills of the Andes. Like much of Chile’s Central Valley, the area is planted largely (over 80%) to red varieties. The leading grapes of the Rapel Valley include Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay.

San Rafael DOC: The San Rafael DOC—one of only two appellations in Argentina entitled to use the Denominación de Origen Controlada (DOC) designation—is located in a subregion of the Mendoza province known as South Mendoza. The San Rafael DOC is situated somewhat to the east of the Andes Foothills, near the town of San Rafael and surrounding the Diamante River as it flows towards the plains. The elevation is moderate by Argentine standards—vineyards are planted between 1,600 and 3,100 feet/485–950 meters above sea level—but impressive, nonetheless. Malbec is the leading grape variety, but outstanding wines are also being produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Montevideo: Montevideo—located in the south of the country, on the northern bank of the Río de la Plata—is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. Many of the country’s oldest wineries are located here, and the region is still home to nearly 1,000 hectares/2,470 acres of vines, despite the growing population of the city (close to 40% of the entire country’s population now lives in Montevideo).With the growth of the city, vineyards and wineries have migrated just to the north, to the Canelones Region (located only about 20 miles north of the outskirts of Montevideo). Canelones boasts over 60% of the country’s vineyards and more than 100 wineries. Tourists are often surprised by the gentle terrain of Uruguay (in great contrast to the wine regions of Argentina and Chile)—elevation varies between 25 meters/75 feet and 55 meters/175 feet. The rolling hills, combined with significant rainfall and the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, often leads to comparisons with the terroir of Bordeaux—not a bad reputation for a wine region, I would guess!

Cape Town: The Cape Town wine district (named after the vibrant city of the same name) lies at the heart of South Africa’s Western Cape, making it a fantastic starting point for anyone touring the winelands (and other amazing destinations) of South Africa. This newly-designated district includes the historic center of South African wine—the Constantia Ward (known for its world-famous Vin de Constance dessert wine), as well as the wards of Durbanville, Hout Bay, and Philadelphia. Cape Town’s location on the Atlantic Coast makes this a cool-climate region well-known for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. However, when in Cape Town, you are less than an hour’s drive from the world-class wine regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek Valley—so you should plan to stay a while.

Margaret River: Located in Western Australia, the Margaret River is a fairly young wine region—Harold Olmo (in 1955) was one of the first viticulturists to take notice of the area—but it was not until the late 1960s that commercial vines were planted. These first vines (mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz) proved to be a success, and soon the wineries began to spring up, and the region was declared a geographical indication (GI) in 1996. The Margaret River is located on the extreme west coast of Australia, bounded by both the Indian and Southern Oceans. As such, this low-elevation, sea-side region has a Mediterranean climate with strong maritime influences—ideal for the area’s Chardonnay, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (including some of the original vines).

Barossa Valley: The Barossa Valley—located in the state of South Australia about 35 miles (53 km) north of the city of Adelaide—is one of the oldest and most famous wine regions in all of Australia. Wine has been produced in the area since the 1840s, with the early days of Barossa Valley viticulture largely shaped by an influx of German immigrants. This first wave of viticulture included the production of Riesling and fortified wine and —not surprisingly—these wines were not regarded too highly. However, by the late 1900s, the area had begun to produce full-bodied Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache. These wines—much better suited to the warm, continental climate of the area—soon earned the worldwide acclaim still enjoyed by the red wines of the Barossa Valley. While many of the vineyards of the region are planted on the warmer valley floors, the region does include some hillsides and higher-elevation vineyards—allowing for world-class white wines (namely Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, and Viognier) to be produced as well.

Northland: Northland is the northernmost wine region in New Zealand, and tends to be warmer, more humid, and rainier than the rest of New Zealand. Wine production in this region is miniscule in quantity, but the area can claim to the very first vineyards in New Zealand—planted by Reverend Samuel Marsden in the Bay of Islands area (on the east coast of the Far North District) in 1819. Later, at the end of 1800s, a wave of immigrants from Croatia carried their wine culture and expertise with them, and soon the area was known for its Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Viognier—in addition to red wines made with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chambourcin (among others).

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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