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Ritual Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2008
"2008 Ritual opens with striking aromas of black cherries, raspberry and plum. The mid palate is round, soft and elegant with black currant and blueberry notes mingling with hints of cola. Its rich, yet restrained tannins provide depth and lead to a luxurious finish."
Paul Hobbs, Consulting Winemaker
Ritual is the result of Veramonte's decade-long quest to make delicious and affordable Pinot Noir from Chile's Casablanca Valley. Agustin Huneeus partnered with American winemaker Paul Hobbs to produce a small bottling of a super premium Pinot Noir from the renowned Casablanca Valley. From planting each vine at our Casablanca Valley estate to hand harvesting in small batches, we apply the same time-honored methods to our Pinot Noir in the vineyard and winery as the great wines of Burgundy. Consulting Winemaker Paul Hobbs harvests at first light in the cool morning fog, introduce native yeast fermentations to bring out the vineyard's expression and use only gentle gravity handling to produce Ritual, a Pinot Noir characterized by elegance and grace.
The coastal mountain ranges surrounding the Casablanca estate create a unique terroir with a diversity of microclimates. The valley floor's cool climate is reminiscent of Carneros and ideal for growing premium Chardonnay. The foothills are warmer, akin to the more Northern reaches of the Napa Valley. Here, the climate is more suited to varieties like Carmenëre, the lost Bordeaux grape that has become Chile's citizen and the basis of Primus, our racy, exotic Chilean blend.
Using the latest viticultural technology developed in California, rootstock has been matched to each vineyard block and clone. Vertical trellising and dense vine spacing balance growth and fruit production. Veramonte's Casablanca vineyard produces significantly lower yields than other grape growing regions in Chile, resulting in grapes with more intensity and concentration.
Recognizing that the region also had potential as a tourist destination for its proximity to Santiago, Huneeus began to plant the estate and in 1995, constructed the first Napa Valley style hospitality center in Chile. The first wines were released in 1996.
A source of reliable, budget-friendly wines and, increasingly, more premium bottlings, Chile is one of South America’s most important wine-producing countries. Long and thin, it is largely isolated geographically, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders gave Chile the very favorable benefit of being the only country to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s. As a result, vines can be planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted. Though viticulture was introduced to the country by conquistadors from Spain, today Chile’s wine production is most influenced by the French, who emigrated here in large numbers to escape the blight of phylloxera. These settlers have invested heavily in local vineyards and wineries.
Chile’s vineyards, planted mainly with international varieties, vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt current to produce cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on light-bodied Pinot Noir and cool-climate whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó, and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata, excellent cool-climate Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are made.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.