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Chile's Casablanca faced with phylloxera

Published:  23 July, 2008

Exclusive by James Aufenast

The Casablanca region of Chile has the potential to be a significant producer of Sauvignon Blanc, but it is facing serious phylloxera and frost control problems. Errzuriz viticulturist Pedro Izquierdo said at a seminar held in London by the company last week that air heaters, used by Casablanca's wineries to control frost, "are likely to be banned" because they are adding to the smog in the already polluted capital, Santiago. The alternative, overhead sprinklers, is hindered by the shortage of water in Casablanca. Izquierdo said he was looking at allowing excessive shoot growth, so that some of the leaves, but not all, were attacked by frost. Izquierdo also admitted he was worried about the threat of phylloxera in Casablanca. The sandy soil has low retention, and vines then hit a layer of clay, beyond which there is little root growth. However, thanks to the nearby Pacific, the region's high altitude, and a latitude which winemaker Ed Flaherty compared with New Zealand's Marlborough, Casablanca has potential for Sauvignon Blanc. "In terms of world demand Marlborough had a 45% deficit for this year's harvest. There is a market there," Flaherty added. Flaherty estimated that the number of wineries would double in Casablanca and vineyards would expand to 6,000ha. Land there rose in price from $1,000/ha in 1990 to $12,000/ha in 1999.