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2014 Pandolfi Price Larkün Chardonnay, Valle del Itata
Scores and Reviews
Enzo Pandolfi Burzio and his wife, Gillian Price Saffery, bought an exceptional site in the cool Itata valley in Chile in 2002. Their background was not in wine at all; Gillian was from a farming family and Enzo was a doctor, although had had a huge love and respect for farming all his life. They found their site through a newspaper advertisement and went to visit it with their son, Enzo Pandolfi Price, who is very much involved in the venture. They immediately fell in love with the farm; 25 hectares of Chardonnay vines had been planted there since 1992 on volcanic clay soil and the family dry-farmed the vines and sold their grapes to other wine companies until 2007.
By their own admission, they knew nothing about viticulture when they started and every day brought new experiences and fresh challenges. However, they did gradually realise that the fruit from their terroir was of very high quality and, after a chance meeting with respected Chilean winemaker, Francois Massoc, who confirmed their impressions, they decided to set up on their own and made their first wines in 2008. 2010 was the first vintage released to market.
Two wines are currently made, both Chardonnays. Reminiscent of a Chablis, the Larkün is unoaked, does not undergo malolactic fermentation (MLF) and therefore retains its crisp, fresh style with the intention to show the pure, fresh, varietal side of their Chardonnay. It is aged on lees for 18 months to add texture. ‘Larkün’ is the root mapuche word for Larqui, the name of the river that goes through the vineyards.
The top wine, Los Patricios, is named after Enzo Pandolfi Price’s grandfather. It is cask fermented and aged for 20 months and goes through full MLF, resulting in a complex and elegant wine, worthy of comparison with a fine Chassagne-Montrachet. We have been extremely impressed with the quality of these wines, both of which have the fine, crisp acidity of their cool-climate Itata origins. Following the advice of renowned Chilean viticultutalist, Dr Pedro Parra, the Pandolfi Price family has since planted a further 25 hectares of land on their farm with Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Watch this space.
Catriona Felstead MW
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Itata Valley is a cool climate wine region in Chile, located 400 km (250 mi) south of Santiago. Some of the earliest vineyards were planted near the port city of Concepción during colonial times. Pais, Muscat of Alexandria, Cinsault and Carignan, dominate the vineyards, although international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are gaining ground.
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