On a recent trip through Chile last November, I had the pleasure of touring the stunning grounds of Viña Undurraga. During the tour, the guide introduced me to a new term that I have quickly fallen in love with – Terroir Hunter. Basically, a Terroir Hunter is someone that seeks out premium veins of soil to help optimize the growth of specific varietals of grapes in previously unexplored areas. Undurraga is one of the leading vineyards employing this type of practice and has even dedicated a whole line of wines under the TH (Terroir Hunter) label.
According to Undurraga, “T.H. is an innovative project in Chilean winemaking. After more than a century of producing wine, Chile is reinventing its viticulture, taking more risks, getting off the beaten track and emphasizing its diversity of climate, soil and topography. A country almost 5,000 kilometres long with abrupt topography ranging from sea level to mountains as high as 6,000 metres has potentially many more wine production areas than those that have historically been cultivated, which are located mostly in mid-Chile’s central valley. In fact, over the last decade, a small number of winemakers have ventured beyond the traditional areas. T.H. seeks to be the leader in this quest to explore new winemaking regions.”
Check out Undurraga’s video explaining their TH program.
Focusing on the terroir is certainly not a new practice for the rest of the world’s wine regions, but it is quite groundbreaking for South America. Over the past ten years or so, there has been a big shift in thinking, from caring mostly about the ease of farming and quantity of production to the terroir and ultimately the quality of the wine. Eric Asimov of The New York Times recently wrote about the same shift occurring in Argentina in his article To Move Beyond Malbec, Look Below the Surface. One potential reason for the slow adoption of this practice may be the complex nature of Chile and Argentina’s soil. “The process has been a challenge because the soils of Mendoza are incredibly complicated… The soils change radically from one row of vines to the next, sometimes over a matter of meters.”
As a consumer, it will be interesting to see how the wines from this region transform over the next few years as the Terroir Hunters track down untouched pockets of exquisite terroir right under their noses.