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May 29, 2017

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Taking lessons from New Zealand, Chile

Fine wines from Chile and New Zealand, though made from different grape varieties in different parts of the world, reflect the profound influence of winemaking philosophy and history.

Lapostolle Winery in Chile, founded in 1994, focuses on reds blended from Bordeaux varieties and the local carmenere. Alana Estate started a year earlier and produces the classic white varieties of riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, plus pinot noir.

Both use bio-dynamic or organic methods to produce grapes that make memorable wine.

Lapostolle is connected with the Marnier family of France, owner of Grand Marnier, the most exported of all French liqueurs.

Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle decided to create her own winery outside France to make world class wines. She has surely succeeded. The Clos Apalta has received 90 points or more every year for the past decade from Wine Spectator magazine, making it the most awarded Chilean wine. In 2005 the magazine pronounced Clos Apalta the best wine in the world.

Apalta has a special meso-climate different from the rest of Colchagua Valley where the vineyard is based. Hot days and cold nights produce a wide range of temperatures, which concentrate flavors, noted Alexandra's son, Charles. "Slow maturation allows the grapes to reach ideal maturity with high concentration and character, preserving the fruit and high levels of natural acidity, ensuring a long ageing potential."

Fog from the ocean cools the vineyard in summer. It is similar to the fogs that bring relief to America's Napa Valley and helps to produce world-class Bordeaux blends there.

The 2003 and 2010 vintages were tasted, the former to show how the wine evolves and the latter to illustrate the latest release. These are superb wines, dense black cherry in color and brimming with ripe black berry and cassis flavors in the mouth. The color comes from the carmenere grapes that make up about two-thirds of the blend, with merlot and cabernet sauvignon providing the balance.

The vineyard has adopted bio-dynamic methods — what some people describe as an extreme form of organic production. Lapostolle uses these techniques "because they work," said Charles de Bournet Marnier Lapostolle, a rational man who trained as an engineer. "Vines are like humans. When they are happy they work better."

Alana Estate in New Zealand is also organic because of the perceived impact on the quality of the fruit. The Martinborough region near the base of the country's north island remains one of the best places to produce wine in that country.

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