Mind your Latitude: 42° 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:  42 degrees South!

Chiloé Archipelago: The Chiloé Archipelago is part of the southern extension of the Chilean Coastal Range and part of Chilean Patagonia. A small chain of mountains runs north-to-south through the area, creating a string of natural deep harbors along the cold and rainy western side well as a series of warmer and drier areas to the east.  Long-inhabited by the native Chono, Huilliche, and Cunco peoples, Europeans began to settle in the area in the late 1800s. This was followed by the creation of towns and industries including whaling, farming, and—of all things—providing railroad ties for the entire South American continent. As for wine, this is certainly a frontier—and one that Aurelio Montes is willing to forge. An avid sailor, Montes has sailed through these islands for decades., and he recently planted what is believed to be the first vineyard in the area—five acres of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir on the island of Mechuque. While the climate here is a challenge, the ocean waters surrounding Mechuque Island are actually a bit warmer than those on the coast next to Chile’s Central Valley (to the north). This is due to the outer islands of the Chiloé Archipelago that provide some distance and insulation from the cold Humboldt Current. The first harvest on Mechuque Island (and perhaps some wine) is expected soon.

Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42: Politically speaking, La Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42 (Andean Region of the 42nd parallel) is an organization of small towns located high in the Andes and near the 42nd parallel. The region is centered around 13 towns in the Argentine provinces of Río Negro and Chubut. Traditional agriculture in the region includes fruit trees, cider, and beer; viticulture is a new and emerging industry. Vineyards are sparse, but include plantings of Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay and Torrontés.

While obscure, the Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42 is also the stuff of legends: The famous American Outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived on a ranch near the town of Cholila from 1901 until  about 1905; they were forced to flee when Pinkerton Detectives discovered their hideout. Their ranch house has been restored and might be worth a visit!

Tasmania: Tasmania is one of Australia’s coolest-climate wine regions. This makes sense, as the region is an island surround by cold ocean waters with few areas more than 100 km/75 miles from the coast. Tasmania also contains some high-elevation vineyards—much of the island is mountainous, with the highest mountain—Mount Ossa—topping out at 1,617 meters (5,305 ft). The leading grape varieties here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Tasmania is known for producing some of the finest sparkling wines in Australia—as well as providing a good deal of the grapes used to produce sparkling wines on the Australian mainland.

Marlborough: Located in the northeastern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough is the heart and soul of the country’s wine industry. Marlborough is home to close to 24,000 hectares/59,000 acres of vines and accounts for nearly 2/3 of the country’s output of grapes and wine.  It was Marlborough, in the 1980s and 90s, that provided the wine world its first taste of a zesty, herbalicious-explosion-in-a-glass version of Sauvignon Blanc now recognized and beloved as unique to New Zealand  (although these days, tamer and subtler versions are produced as well). The Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east combine to give Marlborough a cool climate and abundant sunshine—making this an ideal area for the country’s signature Sauvignon Blanc as well as significant plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Nelson: The wine region of Nelson is located just to the west of Marlborough, on the northwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This small area is surrounded by small mountain ranges, giving Nelson one of the sunniest climates in New Zealand—as well as the nickname “Sunny Nelson.” The vineyards in Nelson total just over 2,500 acres/1,000 ha of vines. Sauvignon Blanc makes up nearly 50% of the plantings, followed by Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.  The historic town of Nelson enjoys a reputation as an artsy-beachy place with a plethora of cool cafes and craft breweries—in addition to the wineries on the outskirts of town. Road trip, anyone?

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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