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Heading South: Week 1

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“IT FEELS LIKE A MIXTURE OF TEMECULA, NAPA AND MEXICO, ALL BLENDED!”

Thursday morning, I touched down in Chile. After a full day of travel, 2 countries & multiple planes, my day had only started! I immediately met up with some of the guys I’m working with while I’m here & rode in to the super small town of Chimbarongo. I was seriously shocked by how much it reminded me of home. Beautiful views & winding roads took us in as I talked with the guys… or more, listened. Haha! Más o menos Cada día hablo más español… It’s getting there. The good news is I can understand it & the guys are super accommodating. They welcomed me with open arms & even invited me to a party that first night. After being up for over 24 hours, I decided to pass, explore the town a little, grab some dinner & go straight to bed. The restaurant I went to had an insane view & even a swimming pool, plus I HAD to try some Chilean Carmenere. It did not disappoint. Once I got back to my new place, I crashed before my first day at work. I was really just running on hopes & dreams at that point!

The next morning, I woke up early, met up with the guys & we all rode in to work together. My first day went well! It’s harvest time here, so we’ve got a lot going on. I helped them with a couple pump overs to aerate the wine & cool the fermentation cap while they were crushing Cabernet Sauvignon into a large tank. In addition to tanks & barrels, they have concrete & amphora (clay) that they ferment in—Something I don’t get to experiment with very often, so I’m excited to work with it.

A little on the difference:

The raw material of Concrete and Amphora speak to the world of wines past. Their influence in winemaking is of subtlety and finesse. They are similar in the way that their thick material helps aid in thermal regulation. Both are rather porous, allowing for oxygen transfer during fermentation & aging. Their composition essentially rounds the tannin structure & assists the yeast in creating an environment that complex flavors can develop in. Basically, their surface retains wine, while tiny bubbles of oxygen enter through microscopic passageways from the outside, which has the same effect as—you guessed it—barrels! One marked difference is that oak barrels can add to the wine’s overall structure & flavor where concrete & amphora add a slight minerality. So, definitely pretty cool (or “bakan,“ out here in Chile), & a stylistic technique that I’m excited to bring home with me!

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After that, I took up the second invitation to hang out & got some beers with the guys! They know how to have a good time. So much so that they invited me to a barbeque the next day, too… Which I couldn’t say no to. My whole weekend basically consisted of good food, great wine & even better company! Doesn’t get much better.

This week we traveled to their main vineyards in Almahue Valley to collect grape samples for Brix (sugar) testing and let me tell you again, I was not disappointed! Vineyards sprawled in the countryside as far as the eye could see. Each new turn we took down the 2-lane road was another look into the beauty of Chile. Once we reached our final destination, Rafa, my new friend & I climbed the sloped hill collecting clusters of grapes for our return to the winery. As I turned around after reaching the top vineyard block to enjoy the hard-earned view, it hit me: I was thousands of miles away in a foreign country, yet I felt right at home. 

Looking forward to the rest! 

-Blake