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March 2020

February 2020

Ned's Going to Central Chile!

Ned's Going to Central Chile!

Not just Chile: Bio Bio and Itata valleys!

Look out for a lot of exciting videos, Blog Posts, and Social Media

No, I'm not just telling you about Chile to make you Jealous

I'm flying to Chile next Wednesday the 4th of March to visit Itata and Bio Bio. These are valleys down around Concepcion in central Chile, about 350 miles south of the capital Santiago. I speak no Spanish and have maybe 1/4 of a plan at this point.

Why am I going 350 miles south of Santiago?

Most of the wine that gets exported from Chile comes from closer to Santiago. There is plenty of good wine made up there, but overall the closer you get to Santiago the more people are of European descent and have close ties to Europe. Wine making up there is dominated by wine makers hired from Europe and the wine is made to please consumers in the US, Germany, Great Britain, etc. Like I said, there is plenty of good wine up there but most of it is trying to be good value wine and not necessarily unique representations of the place it comes from...

That changes down in Itata and Bio Bio. The original Spanish conquest started running out of steam down here and more people are of indigenous descent. They make wine, but in the primitive way that the Spanish taught them 400 or so years ago. The local style of wine, called Pipeno, was always looked down on as being poor peasant wines. Recently people finally pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that 200 year old ungrafted vines from varieties that are near extinct in Europe are pretty exciting! However, thanks to that outdated pig headed world view this unique wine culture has survived hundreds of years with people still making wines for local consumption because....they liked drinking them.

Here's a wine map of Chile (thanks again Brazos). You can see Santiago up in the north with Colchagua and Maipo (two more famous regions) around it. Scroll all the way down and you see Itata and Bio Bio closer to the ocean and with virtually no mountains blocking influence from the Pacific.

Finally the world has started to catch on to how interesting and exciting these Pipeno wines can be. Local wine makers have started getting out into the world. Tourists have experienced and loved the wines. And finally these wines are making it out of Chile.  

I've been interested in all of this for a couple years and am lucky to now be working with some of the producers leading the charge both to preserve local wine making traditions and also to export them to the rest of the world. I'm lucky to be working with Brazos Wine Imports: a company that's exclusively focused on unique wines from South America. There's not too much information and writing out there yet so I decided that the best thing for me to do was get on a plane! I actually really have no idea. The stuff I wrote above is what I've read, but a lot of that is second and third hand info. I'm looking forward to learning a lot! I'll be on the ground for about 10 days visiting wine makers like Roberto Henriquez, Gonzalez Bastias, and Mauricio Gonzalez Carreno.

There will be lots of emails, blog posts, and videos on the way so be on the look out!

Here are some fun pictures of where I think I'm going, courtesy of Brazos

This is the vineyards at Gonzalez Bastias

Here's how grapes are traditionally pressed: by hand over a bamboo mat. The juice runs between the sticks into an open fermentor underneath. Bits of skins and stems make it through as well and influence the wines taste.

Itata and Bio Bio are only a few miles from the Pacific. The climate is cooler and more maritime than Curico, Molina, and the rest of the Central valley where most commercial wine making happens.

Here's one of the wines I'm super excited about from down there: Vina Maitia Aupa. It's a Pipeno made from Pais and Carignan vines. They're about 80 years old and the wine is made in big 1000 L concrete spherical tanks. It's bright and fun and spicy and alive. And it's around $12!

And another exciting wine: Rogue Vine grand Itata Tinto! It's made from 100 year old bush vines that are mostly Cinsault with a little bit of Pais. This is so supple and smooth, it reminds me of red Burgundy in it's weight. It smells like cranberries, raspberries, and a little black pepper. The mouth feel is smooth but there's a little peppery spice and heat in there too.

This is about $19 retail

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Jurtschitsch Mon Blanc

I've been working with the Jurtschitsch winery for nearly a year now and I've been pretty excited about their wines, but this new arrival is one of the best wines I've tasted in the last 4 months.  Mon Blanc is kind of sort of an experiment to see what full on biodynamics can in their particular climate.  This is a blend of Gruner, Riesling, Weissburgunder, and Muskateller - all from the Loiserberg vineyard.  This spends ten days on skins in open top red wine fermenters. The juice then goes into 600 L oak barrels. The wine is unfined and unfiltered. the Jurtschitschs use 10g of sulfur at bottling and only made 500 cases.  10 of those cases came into Maine.


Here's a quick introduction to the winery.  Jurtschitsch is the oldest winery in the Kamptal region of Austria; they date back to the 1500s.  In 2006 Alwin took over from his uncles.  He and his wife Stefanie Hasselback (from a famous German wine making family) prepared for the handover by interning at wineries they respected around the world.  When they finally took the reigns they were very prepared and brought passion and a modern perspective on low intervention farming/wine making.  They've focused the wines they produce on on expressing the varied character of their vineyards (they own 62 ha) and they've adopted a holistic minimal intervention wine making style.   They've conducted a lot of serious experiments with different organic and biodynamic methods: coming to the conclusion that the conversion to organic farming was essential both for quality and ethically. their determination is impressive to read about, and then you taste the wines!  


The Wine:

Aroma:  While I wouldn't call this an aromatic wine on terms with a full Gewurz or Moscato, this has a lot of white wild flowers and is really pretty.  The aroma is beautiful and forceful with fresh apple and cantaloupe to it as well.  It's a really lovely lingering intriguing aroma that gets your attention in the best way.

Same deal on the palate.  I love this.  I would date this wine.  There's that fresh ripe but edgy fruit with energetic acidity and some salt, but also a grounded foundation of mouth feel from the little bit of skin contact this gets.  It's not enough to be in your face and this is absolutely not an "orange wine" but it just sort of changes the personality and makes this deeper, thoughtful, contemplative; all those nice things.  It makes me think of springtime some how.  I guess it's the freshness and flower aromas all together.  It tastes very "clean"  

This is excellent and really exactly what I want to drink right now.  That's cool, that doesn't happen too often.

You can find it at Maine and Loire, Store Ampersand, Blue Hill Wine Shop, Now You're Cooking, and Havana in Bar Harbor