Thanks for the “New World,” Magellan!

by Oct 27, 2021News0 comments

When it comes to wine, oceanic influences are quite significant. Yet what happens in Casablanca, Chile is far different from Bordeaux, France.


Sure, all oceans and seas are massive moderators, but think about coastal France, Portugal and Spain in comparison to Chile, California and Oregon. And then there’s the Mediterranean, a whole different ballgame.

We didn’t know this until a day like today. The year was 1520 and alas, Ferdinand Magellan reached Cape Virgenes, becoming the first European to set sail into the Pacific Ocean.

From there, the rest is history. Not but 50 years later, the Jesuits were planting their Listán Prieto (a.k.a. País, the Mission Grape, Criolla Chica…), Moscatel de Alejandria and more all along the Pacific coasts, bringing the blood of Christ to foreign lands.

Starting down in Antarctica, the Pacific’s Humboldt Current runs up along South America’s spine, chilling the water significantly. Even on the hottest day of the year, most of Chile’s coast is frigid. Not so great for swimmers, but fantastic for the country’s wine regions, as the ocean helps cool down temperatures and stifle rain.

And then up north, the California Current rips down North America’s coast to chill waters and make grape growing possible in regions that would otherwise be too hot.

In contrast, the North Atlantic Ocean is nice and warm, more credited for warming winters than cooling summers. And while the Pacific coasts’ cool currents halt rain, the Atlantic’s warmth stimulates it. Hence California’s vintage variation is nothing like that of Bordeaux, for example.

The Mediterranean Ocean mimics the Pacific more, serving as a moderator to otherwise intense heat and providing a cool breeze.

One thing all regions share in common? That lovely salty, mineral influence.

Yes, Magellan’s entrance into the Pacific was a game-changer, the start of a whole new world of wine. At one point, the Spanish colonies’ wines were so popular that they became a direct competition for wines from Spain, so much so that King Philip III banned Chile from expanding their vineyards, though it was difficult to enforce.

Today the “New World,” basically all that is not Europe, plays a major role in global wine production. Though they often don’t get the clout that European producers enjoy, make no mistake, some world-class wines are coming from these regions. We have several in our portfolio, such as California’s Opus One and Chile’s Viñedo Chadwick.

Want to know more? Write us at [email protected].



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