Our harvests were and still are measured in barrels or 225-litre neutral (3rd thru 6th use) oak barrels. First harvest we made but three, but soon we had to extend the garage to make space for almost a dozen. Barrels are manageable in small spaces and allow for racking by hand.
Our fruit was, and still is, fermented using open-top fermenters. Caps are punched down by hand. Pressing is manual. Yeasts are strictly native– working in a renovated cerca 1840 cellar, we are one of the few in Chile whose native yeast wines really are just that. We do not suffer contamination by airborn commericial yeasts from other winery operations under the same roof. We are opposed to manipulation and have learned to guide the wines through their natural process. To our way of thinking, the wines personalities’ are well defined on the vine. The rub lies in keeping them true. We pick the fruit in small parcels that fit on our pickup’s trailer and fit in our small stainless tanks of 1900-2200 kgs.
Wines are barrel aged for two winters. Malolactic fermentation occurs slowly and naturally over the cold winter months and usually finishes about Halloween but can take as long as Christmas depending upon the winter. Garage wines are naturally produced. Enzymes, magic powders and spinning simply do not fit into our way of doing things.
Generally the wines spend a full year in bottle before release, but to date our futures buyers tend to pull their bottles ASAP and we ourselves begin to release the wines when stocks of the previously year’s wines run out.
Sulphites, a product used in the preservation of wine for millennia, are added sparingly before bottling.
Tom Sawyer clause : toward full disclosure we must point out that over the past few years, friends, family and students’ of Alvaro’s from the University of Chile have begun helping with some of the grunt work. In this way the pace, rhythm and treatment of the wines remains the same, and we receive a lot of apples.
Our Wines today
Mountain grown Cab Sauv & Cab Franc and Carignan based blends dry-farmed in the Maule.
Today we continue to make a Mountain grown Cabernet blend from high in the Maipo Valley. It is a site at almost 1,000 metres above sea level. We also make a Cabernet Franc from a little further down. Production amounts to 7 lots of between a dozen and a dozen and a half barrels of each (5-6,ooo bottles of each wine).
Our main thrust today is our work with Carignan & Grenache in the Maule. These dry-farmed old-vines are a national treasure that have never been given much attention. This is an “old-worldly” wine that you will find more about in pages devoted to these wines.
It is precisely the area of Chile shaken hard by the earthquake of 2010. Today we have strong ties with many small ploughman farmers thanks in no small part to the Geoffrey Roberts award Derek won– to help with rebuilding efforts through better recognition of their old-vine Carignan. For more about our efforts see about Derek’s winning of the Geoffrey Roberts award on Www.Jancis Robinson.com or Www.Geoffreyroberts.com directly or listen about it on NPR.
What’s with the stencils and silk screening?
Our first few vintages were bottled in reused glass that we painted with stencil like old port and re-used amongst friends. No one seemed to appreciate the Madiera type artistry so we began silk screening a more polished presentation when strangers began buying wine (who sadly but realistically would not be returning the bottles).
Painted labels are still done, one by one, by hand on a machine we built. We continue bottling in previously imbibed bottles because it just feels right, giving two uses to the glass. We have a terrific source of great used glass (see our classic motel champagne bottle for the Carignan, and classic round shouldered port-style bottle for the big reds— for us: perfect, cleaner, and cheaper. Better to reduce and reuse than recycle if one stops to think.
Waxing our bottle necks instead of using capsules has become a tradition. It is the final physical touch required to make GWCo. The secret: we wax bottles with food-safe crayon wax we acquire from a small school supplies manufacturer who just happens to be a big supporter and Futures buyer.