2021 Santa Rita “Floresta” Chardonnay, Punitaque DO, Limarí Valley, Chile (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Vintages $27.95 (750ml bottle)
Recently, Santa Rita’s Floresta collection has seriously impressed me. Just the other week, I was singing the praises of their Carmenérè, and now I find myself doing the same with their rather excellent Chardonnay. Again, like in the Carmenérè, freshness and vitality are integral here, and I’m guessing that this particular character is the calling card of this reasonably nascent Floresta range; there’s also a Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and a white field blend that will hopefully find their way to these shores sometime soon.
Made from hand-harvested grapes from the Limarí Valley’s second terrace, the vines sit in alluvial deposits with clay loam, limestone, and stones. Calcium carbonate deposits bring a high pH to the soil, and this is certainly reflected in the resultant wine. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged on the lees in French cooperage for a year with intermittent battonage over the first 3–5 months, bringing a lovely creamy texture to the mouthfeel. 20% of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation, and this is also evident on the broad, creamy palate.
Aromatically, this presents as an incredibly well-crafted, cool climate Chardonnay. It shows some reserve at first, but given time in glass, this really opens up. One will find pear, pineapple, lemon/lime, orchard blossom, subtle spice notes, and a distinct flintiness that I mistook for a reductive element upon my first sniff. As it warmed up, it became apparent that this flintiness was more of a stoney/smokey minerality and that the wine had seen a healthy amount of oxygen throughout its élevage.
This mineral element continues onto the medium-weight palate, with striking acidity buffered by a very attractive, picture-perfect ripe fruit buffer. Equilibrium is key here, and once again, the Floresta range delivers, and then some. The finish on this wine follows the mineral lead of the bouquet and palate, and it’s impressively persistent.
This is a wine for food, and it is remarkably versatile at the dinner table. I happened to pair this with some mild Indian dishes (read: lamb korma, butter chicken), and it was a real delight for the senses.
For under $30, this is a truly excellent example of contemporary Chilean cool-climate Chardonnay. Once again, it’s hats off to Santa Rita for this delicious Floresta line-up.
(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)