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Chile celebrates old-vine Chasselas

The little-known white grape Chasselas could be undergoing a resurgence, thanks to producers in Chile.

Via Wine’s Chilcas Winery

As reported earlier this month, Chilean producer De Martino is about to market a blend of Muscat and Chasselas, while Via Wines will be bottling a varietal Chasselas next month under the Chilean group’s Chilcas brand – which, when launched in March 2016, will be Chile’s first pure Chasselas wine.

The grapes for both wines come from Chile’s southerly Itata region, which is home to some of the country’s oldest vines. Although the area, near the port city of Concepción, has become better know this decade for its old vine País – a red grape brought to Chile by colonialists in the 1550s – winemakers are starting to discover ancient white vines in the area too.

According to the winemaker at Via Wines, Camilo Viani, the Chasselas for the impending Chilcas wine comes from 60 year-old bush vines on the slopes of Coelemu, which is located in the coastal part of Itata.

He also told db that the old Chasselas vines tend to be found mixed among other red grapes, such as Cinsault and País, in this area.

Just 500 cases of the Chilcas Chasselas will be bottled in October and it will retail for around £12. Viani said that he would wait until March next year before launching the wine, and described the grape as having “green melon and herbal flavours”, and said the new wine would be “textural”.

Such projects appear part of a wider move among Chilean producers to embrace more off-beat grapes, as the country’s smallest and largest businesses try something niche to enthuse their customers, as well as the wine writers.

As previously explained by db, Chasselas is thought to be of Egyptian origin but is most commonly associated with French-speaking Switzerland, where it is widely planted – especially in Vaud and the Valais. There are also plantings of Chasselas in Alsace, though these are in decline.

Smaller quantities of the grape are also grown in Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria. Significant quantities are also grown in Romania and Hungary, though these are mostly for use as table grapes.

In the New World, some Chasselas is grown in California, where it is known as Chasselas Doré. A small amount is also grown in New Zealand.

Chile is estimated to have around 400ha of Chasselas vines.

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