Bodega Chacra

Argentina, Patagonia

Bodega Chacra is Piero Incisa della Rochetta's personal project in Rio Negro, Argentina (Patagonia). It mainly produces Pinot Noir, made by the highly-regarded winemaker Hans Vinding Diers. In 2004 Piero Incisa purchased the first of the Chacra vineyards, an abandoned plot planted in 1932. This single vineyard of gnarled Pinot Noir vines, planted on their own rootstocks, is head trained and produces tiny bunches of small, concentrated berries.

Two more sites soon followed, one vineyard planted with Pinot Noir in 1955 and another in 1967. A fourth vineyard was then planted on the site of the original 1932 vineyard, using only rootstocks taken from both the 1932 and 1955 plots. This last vineyard is the basis for the 'Barda' wine, together with deselected grapes and wines from the single vineyard plots. The gravels and coarse alluvial pebbles, with a significant limestone content in the soils, together with a fresh, dry climate and great luminosity, allow for the minimum treatment in the vineyard and allowing for biodynamic practices to be followed, which combined with a green harvest in January yields are kept very low.

Harvested manually, the wines are fermented naturally in large round cement vats (Piero calls them his 'Bentleys') with the minimum of intervention before being put into Burgundian oak barrels of which about twenty percent are new. Malolactic fermentation takes place naturally in barrel over the course of the following six months, and the wines are then left undisturbed on their lees before being bottled without any fining or filtration.

In 2004, Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, Italy bought this 2ha property, located in Patagonia's Rio Negro Valley. Originally planted in 1932, the site had been abandoned and required considerable work to revive it. It was decided early on to make the viticulture at Chacra a 'closed circuit' - producing its own compost and making biodynamic preparations in-house. The winery tracks the biodiversity of the vineyard and aims to capture the essence in the bottle.

'We are on a river bed in a plateau that is now a desert,' says Incisa della Rocchetta. 'Our nights are cold, allowing for complex aromas of Pinot to develop and also slowing down the grapes' maturation. Our days are long, and, coupled with the sun's strong luminosity, this ensures perfect ripeness. We benefit from an almost constant wind, which in turn cleanses the valley of pests and disease and prevents the formation of mould and fungus. This allows us to practice organic and biodynamic farming with ease.'

Treinta y Dos is named after the year the vineyard was planted - 1932. Grapes from ungrafted vines are picked early and whole bunch fermented in shallow cement vats with indigenous yeasts. The wine is then aged in used barriques and bottled with minimum suphur.
Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 (Jun 2017)

Argentina hasn’t quite the range of pinot producers you find in Chile, but it does have a serious rival to Errázuriz for the best pinot estate in South America. The estate in question – Bodega Chacra – is in deepest Patagonia. Like so many good Argentine things, there’s an Italian influence: Chacra was started by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the creator of the great Tuscan red, Sassicaia, and with winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers, he’s settled on a decidedly elegant house style in his three pinots, with the subtle smoke, potpourri and silk of Barda, the place to begin. David Williams, The Observer (Jan 2017)

I visited Chacra and met with Piero Incisa dela Rocchetta from the Sassicaia family in Italy. His property in Río Negro, Patagonia, is devoted to the production of Pinot Noir. They have 24 hectares of vineyards, four coming into production in 2016 and the yearly output is a grand total of 120,000 bottles. The winemaker here is Han Vinding Diers of Noemía fame also in Río Negro. There are six labels here, including a little bit of Merlot and a rosé. There are three lines of Pinot Noir, Barda, Cincuenta y Cinco and Treinta y Tres. Barda would be the entry level, fermented in cement, where some 30% to 40% of the wine matured there and rest is raised in oak barrels. In 2010 they saw the first results in the vineyard, after years of working in biodynamics since 2004. Until 2013 Barda was aged in used barrels and since that year there is 10% new oak as they stopped using new barrels for the Treinta y Dos, and the new oak is then used in entry-level wine. In 2013 there is another change, harvesting earlier, less oak (0% new oak in the top ranges) and better balance in the vineyards. Cincuenta y Cinco (fifty-five, the year in which the vineyard was planted) is always fermented with full clusters in cement vats with indigenous yeasts (that's for all the wines, by the way) and then matured in oak barriques and since the year 2010 they started buying some 600-liter barrels. Treinta y Dos is pure Pinot Noir from a vineyard planted in 1932, hence the name. All the wines ferment in cement and until 2011 the wine was aged in new French oak barrels and since 2012 there is no new oak whatsoever (the barrels are seasoned by the entry-level Barda). They are also experimenting with some unsulfured wines, with grapes obtained form the 1955 Pinot Noir vineyard, fermented in well-seasoned oak barrels where it matured in contact with the lees to protect the wine from oxidations until is bottled unfiltered, which might be sold in limited quantities. These are the best Pinot Noirs from Argentina, reaching in a vintage like 2013 world-class level. Bravo Piero and Hans! Luis Gutierrez, (Aug 2015)

Bodega Chacra has a fascinating, if slightly bizarre, history. The Rio Negro valley is essentially a 15-mile-wide glacial bed at about 750 m elevation in the middle of a desert. Thanks to the combination of altitude and latitude, there is marked diurnal temperature variation with summer nights averaging only 9 °C/48 °F that helps prolong the growing season. Rainfall is minimal but irrigation channels have been in place since the early nineteenth century. The region’s isolation helps to keep the air notably unpolluted. Thanks to the surrounding desert, there has never been phylloxera here so the vines are ungrafted.... (Read more here) Jancis Robinson MW OBE - (May 2015)

Bodega Chacra, for its part, creates a Pinot Noir like no other in my experience. “ The oldest vines date to 1932 and next oldest from 1955. Matt Kramer, The Wine Specator

Chacra represents the boutique of the boutique, turning out handcrafted, delicately styled Pinot Noirs that are worth the effort to find. James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

Hands down, this is the finest Pinot Noir from South America that I’ve ever tasted, and that includes Chile, Argentina and anyplace else. Italy’s Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Sassicaia fame started this project in 2004, and it’s now finding a groove. This wine is as elegant as Burgundy but as full of flavor as something from California. The color is rosy, the aromas beguiling, and the meeting of oak and fruit just perfect. Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast Magazine