Mind your Latitude: 44° 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: 44 degrees South! At this latitude we are getting close to the southern edge of commercial viticulture, but there is always something interesting to find!

Waitaki Valley—Canterbury: New Zealand’s Waitaki River—flowing eastward from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean—serves as a natural boundary and political dividing line between the provinces of Canterbury (to the north) and Otago (to the south). As such, there are two wine regions that go by the name Waitaki Valley.

On the north side of the River, the Waitaki Valley-Canterbury region is an unofficial sub-region of the Canterbury GI. Geographically, the Canterbury region is quite large, and most of the vineyards are located to the west and/or the north of the city of Christchurch. Canterbury’s Waitaki Valley area is located a good 120 miles/195 km further south. This is an emerging region for viticulture, centered around a sunny area 30 miles/48 km inland from the coast.  Plantings are limited but the area shows promise for the production of Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines.

Waitaki Valley—North Otago: On the south side of the river, the Waitaki Valley-North Otago region is an official geographical indication for wine, registered in December of 2018. The area stretches along the south bank of the Waitaki River for about 45 miles/75 km, centered around the town of Kurow. The majestic mountains of the Southern Alps, located to the west, provide significant protection from rain and clouds, helping to create the area’s “almost continental” climate with warm, dry summers and cold winters. This is an emerging region—I was only able to locate about 8 wineries—but it is an area to keep your eye on. Leading grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and (surprise!) Arneis.

Cisnes (Aysén Region): The town of Cisnes is located within the Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region of Chile. The name of the region is, for obvious reasons, typically shorted to simply Aysén Region (Región de Aysén). The Aysén Region is one of Chile’s 16 top-order administrative regions, and the third largest in area. However…it is the second-southernmost and the most sparsely populated—with a population density of 0.85 inhabitants per square kilometer (compared to 8,470 inhabitants per square km in the capital city of Santiago). The reason for the sparse population is somewhat obvious: Aysén—straddling both the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field—contains the third largest ice field in the world (after those in Antarctica and Greenland). Most areas are reachable only by boat or plane. We won’t find any viticulture in these parts, but it is, at least in theory, possible that vines could grow in the interior—perhaps close to the Chile/Argentina border (100 miles inland from the coast).

Los Altares, Chubut: The Los Altares wine region is part of the Argentina Province of Chubut. It is located at the near-perfect geographic center of the province, about 150 miles (240 km) from the Chilean border, the Atlantic Coast, and the provinces of Río Negro (to the north) and Santa Cruz (to the south).   Los Atares is a sparsely populated region with a semi-arid terrain that is typical of the Patagonian Steppe (Argentina’s largest desert).  The area is well-known for its rock formations—there are close to 50 miles (80 km) of rock walls; some up to 230 feet (70 m) tall. The name of the area—Altares—derives from the altar-like appearance of some of these walls. The vineyards of Los Altares are planted close to the banks of the Chubut River which has the unusual feature of being higher than the land around it in some places. This leads to frequent flooding and a subsequent narrow band of fertile soil on both sides of the river. There are only about 73 hectares/180 acres of vines spread across the whole of central Chubut, so viticulture is truly in its infancy here.The area’s short growing season is a challenge, however, the region shows promise for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.

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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