4.000 kilometers of Old Vines Projects potential in Chile


Chile has, in its more than 4,000 kilometres of territory, transverse valleys with rivers that descend from the Andes’ mountain ranges. In each one of them, there are ancient vineyards that were established in 1551 with the arrival of the Spaniards and religious congregations, making this the beginning of Chilean wine-growing, which is older than the ones in Australia, Argentina or South Africa.

It is a basic fact that the entire riverbank of the Bio Bio River (over 500 km south of the capitol of chile, Santiago), from its mouth in the Pacific Ocean to the area of ​​Nacimiento and the surrounding areas, constitutes an innumerable amount of abandoned vines in surrounding areas that are unknown to the general public but which represents a historical patrimonial wine-growing treasure that must be identified.

In this context, the Swiss vine geneticist and co-author of the Wine Grapes Book, José Vouillamoz, suggested that if we knew, (a) what variety we are talking about; And, (b) the parameters for the creation of new wines from grapes, we could, in turn, generate a national and international differentiation and positioning strategy, without forgetting the definition of vineyard management protocols for future wines and sparkling wines that could be produced. To achieve this, a genetic identification technique must be carried out called DNA Profiling.

Additionally, AgroWine Lab’s business accelerator, which has been working for almost two years in the Itata Valley and Cauquenes, stresses that the only way to determine the true age of the centennial vineyards of Itata and Bío Bio is through a highly specialised technique called Dendrochronology (dating vine growth rings).

This technique was developed by José Vouillamoz exclusively and was unveiled a year and a half ago when he visited Concepcion, Guarilihue and the coast of Talcahuano in the company of English journalist and Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson and Nicholas Lander, food critic of the Financial Times.

During the visit, the agronomist Maximiliano Morales, who coordinated the tour, managed tastings with the winemakers Francois Massoc, Leonardo Erazo and the owner of the Viña Pandolfi Price and Viña Demartiino, as well as visiting the lost vine of the Valle de Puelo in the region of Los Lagos, after which Vouillamoz carried out a DNA Profiling analysis in Switzerland, which turned out to be Bonarda.

‘Thus, there is a need to professionalise the wine industry even more, since despite the fact that public-private programs have developed, such as the «Nodo Estratégico Chile Vitivinícola 2.0», which defined the roadmap of the wine industry between Maule and Aysén. In addition to wine-growing nodes in various areas of Bio Bio and Itata, and associated marketing projects, we still lack a wine-growing strategic plan that unites both regions—Ñuble and Bio-Bio—and has a global view of the real potential wine-growing and wine-tourism of both regions, without forgetting that Araucanía would be out of reach, with old vineyards still in production in Capitán Pasten, Angol and surrounding areas,’ said Maximiliano Morales.

Cauquenes Valley located in Maule Region, northern of Ñuble and Bio Bio regions has been a strategic territory thanks to the work of the agronomist and winemaker, Irina Diaz, that works in INIA Cauquenes. She has developed a constant scientific work based on «Old Vines» to improve the quality and the performance of these abandoned grapes in Chile. In fact, she just finished a work in northern part of Chile (Coquimbo Region and INIA local team) based on grapes for Pisco production, besides the work of studying and executing a work with Cooperativa Loncomilla (local cooperative in Maule near Cauquenes) to launch a whole portafolio of wines based on «país grape» like sparkling, fortified wine, late harvest, distilled wine, among others grapes.

Also, Marisol Reyes and winemaker Diego Morales, have accomplished a tremendous effort to save the southern most grapes in the world, locate din Chaitén, producing a wine from grapes plantes few years ago. This specific project in Chaitén was reactivated during the Nodo Estratégico Chile Vitivinícola 2.0, where the manager of the project, personally contacted INIA in Santiago to accomplish the project to be saved after few years with no activity rather than just leave the grapes there in the south.


After three years promoting a private initiative to support grape and wine producers in San Rosendo, the San Rosendo Malbec work plan was reactivated through the AgroWine Lab Business Accelerator, which has been, in recent months, working in other terroirs such as the Marga Marga Valley and the Puelo Valley in the south.

Over the past twelve months, more than 100 articles have been published in the international press explaining what was happening with the San Rosendo Malbec. Reports in specialised media such as the site of the prestigious Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, Wine Searcher, Harpers Wine, The Drink Business, among others, positioning the Bío Bío Valley as the owner of the Centennial Malbec.

This generated great international debate because, independent of the fact that grape producers were beginning to sell their grapes at a better price, other sectors of San Rosendo that were encouraged to be incorporated into this work plan began to be reactivated.

Constantly and without stopping, the agronomist of the Faculty of Agronomy of Chillán of the Universidad de Concepción, Maximiliano Morales, two years ago, contacted Viña Santa Carolina’s winemaker, Andrés Caballero, to get to know this terroir, giving life to an unprecedented alliance between Viña Santa Carolina and the grape producer Héctor Espinoza, from Viña Tierra Firme, which managed to sell almost all of its grape production to the Vineyard.

Santa Carolina, for its part, launched the label “Cuarteles Experimentales” a few months ago which is a line of Malbec-based wines from San Rosendo, as well as being on the verge of launching a Cabernet Sauvignon and a grape of the harvests, 2016 and 2017 of San Rosendo. He first showed the unfinished wines to Lynne Sharrock when visiting Chile last year.

This consolidated the work methodology of agronomist Maximiliano Morales, who was trained in innovation at the University of San Francisco in California USF, closing the training circle for producers in pruning and vineyard management, support in the negotiation of the grapes and follow-up of the commitments around the prices paid for the grape, plus create a new wine out of the grapes in the area.

This week, the wine innovation project progressed to the next stage, to support the producer of grapes and wine, Manuel Escobar, who after two years, named his vineyard «Viña Panilemu», which is where their Malbec vines are located.

The grape producer has continued to steadily plant because a high value is obtained for its grapes, and is about to launch its new label with the phrase “Malbec de San Rosendo” and the “Valle del Bío Bío”, which due to these Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines, became one of the valleys where the highest price is paid per kilo of grapes in the country.

AgroWine Lab will be in charge of managing support among suppliers of the wine industry to re-design the label, as well as a special cork-stopper for the wines of 2012, the historic wine that reaffirms the beginning of a new opportunity to be the producer of grapes and wines in the near future.

‘The challenges of San Rosendo to continue along the path of professionalism in the production of Malbec is to continue developing the territory with strategies such as promoting wine tourism thanks to the pilot project to be implemented with the «Tren del Malbec» (Malbec Wine Train), which aims to motivate the authorities to make an alliance with the Corto Laja Train that runs along the Bio Bio river from Concepcion every day, arriving at Laja, passing through the Land of Malbec,’ commented Sergio Bustos Cabrera, Manager of the AgroWine Business Accelerator Lab.



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