We do our fair share of tasting within the office and inevitably can have differing opinions on what we believe merits an Atlas endorsement. Given that we are growing team, now of 15, consensus is harder to come by than it was some eight years ago! So, when we come across a wine that gets unanimous approval, it becomes all the easier. The latest vintage of Las Pizarras Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that we tasted last week were two such wines.
Las Pizarras is a boutique project from Viña Errázuriz, which was itself founded back in 1870 by Don Maximiano who was the first to plant French grape varieties in the Aconcagua Valley in Chile, which lies 90 kilometres to the north of Santiago. The valley, is shaped by the Aconcagua River, which flows from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean and provides alluvial and colluvial terraces ideal for viticulture. The vineyard from which the two ‘Las Pizarras’ wines are produced lies in the coastal area, only 12 kilometres from the Pacific and thereby benefits from the cooler, moderating influence of the sea. The soils here, complex strata of clay and rock with a thin loam covering, are ideally suited to the cultivation of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The ‘Las Pizarras’ wines are sourced entirely from the Aconcagua Costa vineyard; the fruit is taken from specific plots where there is a notable component of schist (pizarra in Spanish), which gives rise to dramatic quality.
This isn’t the first vintage that we offered of ‘La Pizarras’, having tasted the 2016 last year. What impressed us in each instance is the elegance, precision and the purity of fruit. So much so that, when Simon tasted blind, he mistook the 2016 Chardonnay for a top Chablis. The 2017 Chardonnay reveals aromas of ripe lime, apple, and white peach. There is a touch of toast here, too, having been aged in French oak barrels (15% new) for 10 months, which is so well balanced against the stony, minerality on the palate. The finish, taut and poised, has an energy throughout… the persistence is staggering. It is easily a league above any Chardonnay we have tasted from South America, and if compared to a Burgundy, could hold its own in a tasting against some well-regarded premier cru.
The Pinot Noir is a little less Burgundian in style and all the more charming for its ripe, juicy profile. Crunchy red and black fruits on the nose are met by a touch of menthol and sweet spice. With time in glass the undertones of sage and rosemary come to the fore as the intensity and complexity gradually build. Aged for 13 months in French oak (35% new), there is a beautiful roundness to the palate. The glossiness here is welcomed, yet it is the fine tannins and freshness that carry the palate onto the long, long finish. Like the Chardonnay, this is easily one of the most intriguing wines from South America. The vibrancy of the 2017 vintage is astounding and once again, this Pinot Noir is a truly impactful wine.
Given that these wines have just been released, many critics have not yet reviewed either wine, although we do include notes below from James Suckling.
2017 Chardonnay, ‘Las Pizarras’, Errázuriz, Aconcagua Costa
£230 per 6 bottle case in bond
97-98 points, James Suckling
A white with a beautiful center palate of fresh apples, pie crust, cream and hints of lemons. Medium to full body with wonderful density and tension. Restrained power and a driven finish. Mineral and stone aftertaste. Drink on release or hold.
2017 Pinot Noir, ‘Las Pizarras’, Errázuriz, Aconcagua Costa
£340 per 6 bottle case in bond
98-99 points, James Suckling
I love the aromas of smoked meat, dried strawberries and spices. Some resin and pine-needle undertones. Full-bodied, layered and rich with plenty of fruit and linear tannins running through the middle of the wine. Juicy and refined. Purity and greatness. Drink on release or hold.
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