"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer, Odyssey (9th c. B.C.)
Chile…what a wondrous and beautiful place for wine lovers. Nancy and I often visit the vineyards with which we have contracted to specifically ensure the grape growing process meets our specifications and needs. In 2007 we visited Amador, Sonoma and Napa Valley and in January 2008 we traveled to Chile to meet with our sourcing vineyards.
Curico Valley is the main region from which we source our grapes and is where these picture were taken. These very grapes are the ones we will receive at our facililty in Dayton in jut a few months. The climate in Chile is hot during the day with a 15 to 20 degree drop at night…perfect conditions for grape growing. What is immediately striking about Chile is how picturesque and similar it is to California. In fact, there were wildfires all around us, much like the California wildfires, although they never got too close to the vineyards we visited.
We fell in love with the country and the hard working people of Chile. These families have been farming this land for generations. The grapes are still cared for and harvested by hand, which is unheard of in this automated age. The care these vines receive is the reason the grapes arrive in NJ in perfect condition. At this time of year, many of the grapes are starting the véraison process. Véraison is a French term that has been adopted into the English literature of viticulture. The official definition of véraison is "change of color of the grape berries." Véraison signifies the change from berry growth to berry ripening in grapevines.
As always, the specific microclimate, weather and soil conditions are the main components in comprising unique wines from a unique region. It’s not only the hot days and cool nights in Chile that are terrific, but the soil is really the key component of the devine fruit from this region. The soil is what gives us those chocolate overtones in the Carmenere and the coffee aromas in the Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are wonderfully cared for and irrigated with precision, to give us the best grapes possible. The grapes on the ground in the picture below are what our growers “drop” during this time of year. Grapes are dropped from the vines to produce more intense flavors for the remaining hanging grapes. This method of dropping grapes is not done in every vineyard, but it’s something we insist on for the vineyards we deal with to obtain optimum quality.
We've always been believers that the only way to learn about wine is to keep drinking. We made sure to follow this methodology strictly while in Chile. We tried many wines in all the famous regions of Chile…from Curico Valley, to Calchagua, to Maipo and Casablanca. The quality of wine across all the regions was most impressive. The Cabernet Sauvignon in Maipo and the Sauvignon Blanc in Casablanca were incredible. It seems half the country is planted in grape vines and almost everyone you meet is in some way tied to the wine industry. What was particularly exciting about this trip was to compare wines from some of the best wineries to the wines we are producing at The Grape Escape. We are very pleased to see our Carmenere wines expressing the same chocolate overtones as the best wines in Chile. The Grape Escape Malbec is better than many we tasted in Chile.
It's been a hot year in Chile this year with little rain. The farmers are hoping for more of the same in the coming months, until harvest. It should be another great year for wines from Chile. In the future, we will look to potentially expand to other regions and source specific varietals from more specific microclimates. The Grape Escape may coordinate a trip to Chile as well, for any customers interested in exploring this wonderful region. We’ll see you in the spring!