2021 Bodega Chacra
This has a pretty nose of blueberries, purple plums, plum and cherry stones, violets and bark. Some honey, too. It’s medium-bodied with very fine, firm tannins. Succulent and energetic core of purple fruit. Very fresh and pure. Drink from 2023. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drinking range: 2023 - Rating: 94 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com (May 2022)
*Case price discount: Mix any 12 bottles (or 9l equivalent) of wine or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits, Sweet Wine or Fortified to get the 'case price' for each bottle.
23 hectares of Pinot Noir
16 hectares of Chardonnay
1 hectare of Trousseau (not yet in production)
Not all of the vineyard are in full production as some are very old and some replanting is still in progress.
Piero Incisa della Rochetta is the grandson of the founder of Tenuta San Guido, the producer of Sassicaia, and Chacra is his personal project in northern Patagonia. The estate is in the Rio Negro valley about half way between the Atlantic and the Andes, and consists of alluvial beds left by the ancient glacier and by the river. There is quite a history for Pinot Noir in this region, and in 1964 there were still about 2400 hectares of planted vineyard, but then there was a sharp drop-off and by 1990 only 232 hectares remained. In 2003 Piero Incisa purchased the first of the Chacra vineyards, an abandoned plot planted in 1932, having tasted a Pinot from the area in New York and realising that the area had potential. Since then there has been something of a resurgence in enthusiasm for Pinot, and by 2009 the total Pinot Noir in the Rio Negro was back up to 1681 hectares.
Two more sites soon followed for Chacra, with old vines planted in 1955 and 1967. A fourth vineyard was then planted on the site of the original 1932 vineyard, using only vine cuttings taken from both the 1932 and 1955 plots (all the Chacra vines are franc de pied - planted on their own roots, not grafted). This last vineyard is the basis for the 'Barda' wine. The gravels and coarse alluvial pebbles, with a significant limestone content, together with a fresh, dry climate and great luminosity, allow for the minimum treatment in the vineyard and allowing for organic and biodynamic practices to be followed, which combined with a green harvest in January yields are kept very low. The region is extremely dry, being in the rain-shadow of the Andes, and apart from the area of the glacial bed which is irrigated with river water, the land around is desert. The farms in the valley bed were originally carved out in squares and flood-irrigated using a system of canals and ditches built by the British and the Italians to bring water from the river. The word used to describe them, ‘Chacra’, seems to be a generic word meaning ‘farm’ much as ‘finca’ and ‘estancia’ are used further north. Chacra still uses very limited flood irrigation (max. three times a year) which has the advantage of helping to protect the vines from nematodes and aphids (including phylloxera), but if over-used has the disadvantage of compacting the soils and reducing bio-diversity, so Piero and his team have developed drip-irrigation significantly, and also hugely reduced the amount of water used.
Originally the Pinots were made with the help of consultant Hans Vinding-Diers from nearby Bodegas Noemia, but since 2014 Piero has been in charge of the reds, with the help of technical director Gabriele Graia. Gradual changes to the organic viticulture have refined the wines over the year, and the vinification and use of barrels has also become more precise, with a proportion of the wine aged in cement vats to preserve freshness, so that there has been a gain in purity and that inimitable transparency that only Pinot can produce. Harvested manually, the reds are fermented naturally in large round cement vats (Piero calls them his 'Bentleys') with the minimum of intervention before being aged either in cement vats or Burgundian oak barrels of which about 20% 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 2016 Piero started a new partnership with Jean-Marc Roulot to produce Chardonnay. The groundwork was done to produce the first vintage in 2017. Piero says that he would never have dared ask J-MR to make wine with him, but a chance encounter showed him that Jean-Marc was enthusiastic about a new project away from the constraints of Burgundy. Chacra had a vineyard of Merlot which never really fitted into what Piero wanted to do, so they bud-grafted this to Chardonnay, giving them an instant vineyard of forty year-old vines – it turned out that this calcareous plot is perfect for Chardonnay. They have since planted much more Chardonnay, and there is considerable excitement about these new wines, which have a taut mineral salinity and complex, nuanced flavours that you'd expect from Jean-Marc Roulot wines.
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