Chilean winery Santa Rita has almost doubled its vineyard area, making it the second-largest land-owning winery in the country.

The company said yesterday (18 July) that it had acquired 1,600ha of vine-growing land in the areas of Pumanque and Limari.

Santa Rita has subsequently seen its land ownership rise from 2,000 hectares to 3,600 ha, propelling it to the number two spot in terms of vineyards owned. Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed.

Due to the lack of vines in Pumanque, around 30km west of Apalta, Santa Rita has installed 10km of pipeline and created a local reservoir. As the area has many sub-regions, Santa Rita will use Pumanque to plant and experiment with different grape varieties.

Limari, situated 400km north of Santiago and 25km from the coast, has an average rainfall of around 100mm a year. Santa Rita has acquired 470ha in this region, 65 of which are already planted with Chardonnay, Shiraz, Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon. The remaining land will be planted over the next five years, primarily with Chardonnay and Shiraz, Santa Rita added.

Newly-appointed wine consultant Patrick Valette and head winemaker at Santa Rita, Andrés Ilabaca, will jointly oversee all new plantings.

"In order to prevent disease and guarantee consistency of quality, all new vines will be planted using grafted rootstocks," said Ilabaca. "We believe this is the first time that grafting has been used on such a large scale in Chile."

Planting has started and the first commercial vintage will be available in 2009.