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 However, thanks to that outdated pig headed world view this unique wine culture has survived hundreds of years with people still making wines for local consumption because....they liked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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