Some of you have asked what do you do on the vineyards where you do not till?
The simple answer is to cut the vetch growing between the rows with a flail mower (mulches little bits so organic material is reincorporated into the earth) See the pictures here with this Cariñena in Bagual—old Calivoro. Depending upon the year this green almost flowers 2-3 times and each time pass with the mower insuring the nitrogen stays in the soil so it can be utilized by the vines later on.
The “the tough part” is right around the plants. The second photo-video shows how we keep the vegetation from bothering the vines. We simply break the stocks with our feet or with small planks of wood. It can be cut but the best method is stomping to bend stems plant by plant so their nitrogen stays in the ground and they continue to lend shade to the earth after they dry up in an orderly fashion. When the stocks create shade for the earth around and between the vines we have less moisture evaporating from the vineyard. Eventually this plant matter will break down into the soil but not near as fast as the bits we have mulched. This is Pilar’s favourite part.
Stomping credit : Laura from Guadalajara
After being quarantined for too long now I have begun to think that perhaps we the wine trade sometimes speak too much to our own selves in a kind of vinous echo chamber. I suppose it is natural to want to gather the herd back together like in healthier times. But I think wine is bigger than that. I do not mean bigger in a ‘comercial’ way. I am not suggesting “we could sell more” if we could just open up the audience, but rather I speak of artistry. Art is the elevating of peoples lives. And wine is art. And I do not speak of just the artisanal bits.
The arts embody values and necessities that we are lacking in the world today. Lacking in part because of Covid and in part because populist politics have cast a dark shadow on the world in which we live– that affects all of us even if some of us are a hemisphere away. As artists: musicians, painters, writers, cinematographers, and yes winemakers are called upon to “minister substance to the world” as Wynton Marsalis once said. To help the people get through the times.
And as we work on the farm and in the cellar we make hundreds of decisions. Today as we make these decisions there is a force pulling us to make them for practical / commercial reasons — because the buyer thinks that his customers would like a wine “like that successful one over there” or “like the neighbours make” or perhaps the most dangerous: “like the way it is supposed be made”.
I disagree with this force’s pulling. In these times on the farm and in the cellar, I think integrity is more vital than ever, even if the need for success to win out over failure is arguably also more acute. I say integrity, like sustainability, is not a luxury that we should aim to afford when times are good, but rather I think we must hold firm– especially in stranger times. Artists have always had to fight for an audience for without one they starve.
Lately, I have taken to listening to a lot of music. I like to listen to Jazz: Art Peppar, Wynton Marsalis… Music, like wine, matters in these times. It gives me comfort to think jazz is inherently American and in these dark times for the US it is good to remember some of the great that they have created. Jazz is soulful — like good wine. The concerned and the soulful are always at battle with the callous and the crass. Winemakers as artists are a part of a battle against the global decline into popular mediocrity. How to do this work without snobbery, without smugness, and without falling into simply preaching to the converted? How to do it without selling out– nor selling the wine-drinker short?
I do not pretend to have the answer, but I have seen it done and I do know that when one manages to do it, one goes from being an isolated, underestimated, peasant farmer doing things back-wards to being tangible proof of the inevitable transcendence of culture and artistry.
In these times, more so than ever, we must stay the course and do the work that will help all of us get through revived and inspired.
español:Después de estar en cuarentena durante tiempo me doy cuenta de que a veces hablo demasiado hacia la misma industria. Quizás porque anhelo reunir la manada como en tiempos más saludables. Creo que el vino es más grande que eso. No estoy sugiriendo que “podríamos vender más” si abriéramos la conversa a más público, sino hablo de el arte: la elevación de la vida de las personas. El vino es arte después de todo. Y no me refiero sólo a lo arte-sanal.
Las artes encarnan valores y necesidades que faltan en nuestro mundo de hoy. Falta en parte por Covid y falta porque la política populista ha arrojado una sombra oscura sobre el mundo en el que vivimos que nos afecta a todos, incluso si estamos a un hemisferio de distancia. Como artistas, los músicos, pintores, escritores, cineografos y sí, los enólogos están llamados a “dar sustento al mundo”, como dijo una vez Wynton Marsalis el trompetista extraordinario, para ayudar a la gente a superar estos tiempos.
Mientras continuamos trabajando hacer vino, cultivando para producir se hace cientos si no miles de decisiones para hacer un vino. Y siempre hay una fuerza que empuja a que estas decisiones se tomen por razones comerciales, porque el comprador piensa que a sus clientes les gustaría un vino “como ese otro vino exitoso” o “como hacen los vecinos” o quizás el más peligroso: “como nosotros siempre hemos hecho ”.
En estos tiempos en la bodega, creo que la integridad es más urgente que nunca, pero también lo es la necesidad de que el éxito venza al fracaso. Yo digo que la integridad, como la sostentabilidad, no debería ser un lujo que alcancemos en los buenos tiempos. Debemos adaptarnos a los tiempos especialmente a los tiempos extraños. Los artistas siempre han tenido que luchar por un publico– sin público se mueren de hambre.
En estos tiempos, yo he aprovechado de escuchar mucha música en estos días. Estoy escuchando Jazz: Art Peppar, Wynton Marsalis. . . La música, como el vino, importa en estos tiempos. Me reconforta pensar que el jazz es inherentemente estadounidense y en estos tiempos oscuros para Estados Unidos es bueno recordar algo de lo Great que los gringos son capaces. El jazz es conmovedor, como el buen vino. Lo preocupado y lo conmovedor siempre están en batalla con lo insensible y lo grosero. Los enólogos como artistas son parte de la batalla contra el declive global hacia la mediocridad y el consumismo popular. Entonces: ¿cómo hacemos este trabajo sin esnobismo, sin presunción, y sin caer en predicar a sólo los ya convertidos? ¿Cómo lo hacemos sin comprometernos, y sin comprometer el alma del vino?
No pretendo tener la respuesta, pero sí sé que cuando lo alcanzamos, se pasa de ser un agricultor aislado, subestimado, campesino que hace las cosas al revés, a ser una prueba tangible de la inevitable trascendencia de la cultura y el arte.
En estos tiempos, más que nunca, debemos seguir y hacer el trabajo para ayudar a la gente a superar estos tiempos.
Years ago after a long evening of wine and wine chatter, a friend, who wasnt in the wine business, shared with me a theory about how to buy wine using points. To his thinking, from what he overheard, if there was so much hullabaloo about the latest 90+ point wine, clearly the best buys must be the 89 pointers. He reasoned they must be better priced, pack more bang for the buck, and be less likely to be “taken by someone else to the same dinner party”.
He theorized that there must be a whole bunch of these ‘sleepers’— he called them, good wines that didn’t show well the day of their dance recital what with so many other bottles all in line trying to kick a little higher than the bottle next to them. I could not help but to agree with his thinking and was intrigued by the idea of an alternative reading in wine criticism ie that which was not the writer’s intent. [Full disclosure: in my life before wine I wrote a master’s thesis on irony, so parallel communication of the unwritten does strike a chord with me.]
Fast forward to today…
Again after an evening of much wine and wine chatter I thought back to my friend, but two things are different. One: due to a more specialised wine trade crowd– and some might argue wine-point inflation, 90 points is no longer enough. Two: the chatter this time was on WhatsApp due to lockdown. Interestingly, this time the chatting revolved around wines that a certain critic insisted only achieved greatness at 95 points and up.
Applying my friend’s his logic today, the sleepers, and thus the “smart buy”, would be 94 pointers. With so much of chat dedicated to their greatnesses at 95 plus my friends theory would seem to be as true as ever. And thus, wouldn’t it be a terrific tasting indeed to line up the 94’s I got to thinking. Within these ranks there must be wines that just didn’t kick high enough, or as I shall explain: kick fast enough, when their turn came.
Garage has particpated in many tastings, and helped organise many more such tastings in the neighbourhood in Maule and or for MoVI and these are a few things I have gleaned.
The number of wines tasted in a any session is very often inversely proportional to the time allowed each. And here I share something I have learned about the mere 94’s of the world: many, if not most, have a way of starting late. (Something I personally identify with as a late bloomer). I would go even further and say that some of the best ones are in point of fact these one’s that are slower out of the starting blocks. They can have something special, but only for those who take a little longer. These are the wines for enjoying at table. Afterall, who’s in a hurry in these times?
When my friend reads this he is going to raise the question: how much more do these wines cost than his 89 pt sleepers of yesteryear? I would answer that these wines pack a whole lot more than that ‘first kick’. To be sure they have an initial impression, but they also have a few minutes in the glass personality, and then, if one is patient, a more evolved and complex more time required reward complexity for the patient and studiously hedonist / hedonistly studious— if only we take the time. (Pilar would say some have a best the next day on the counter grace too!)
Don’t these slouchy 94’s start to sound like the perfect wines for these times? And mightn’t this alternative reading, a kind of reading between the points be just the remedy for these last weeks of quarantine?
What does near greatness cost?
These wines are going to set you back a little more– more than a $20 but hopefuly less than two, but what did you expect? They will come packing a lot more. They have been crafted not fabricated more personally on a more human scale. I would ask my friend stuck in the past: why are we so stingy with wine? It‘s nourishment you know and not just for the body but also for the soul. And what did the organic beef set you back anyway?
It is important in these times to take stock of the importance and power of where we make our purchases: food, wine and much more. We must think about the importance of the small, of the independent, of the family run. Such independent, lets call them indie firms have knowledge and experience, and they can steer you to things delicious and flavourful outside your comfort zone. And, if you are online, in these times, why not try some 94’s or an alternative reading of your own, whilst we wait for all of this to turn the corner.
Be well / stay safe.
Here is a very partial list of establishments that are purveying some great things that I know of [and am envious of those of you who can take advantage of] in the mentioned fair cities far away.
Archive – Toronto (terrific well curated selection)
Red Lion and Sun – London (See short videos on Insta and you will soon get the idea)
Garagiste – USA (a stalwart source for many a year)
La Cava del Sommelier – Santiago, Chile (consulta pregunta aquí hay ideas and patience)
@catodochile wine pusher extraordinaire
Vinos Natural (great things not easy to find in Chile including Argentine wines)
If you know of links that should ney need be included here send them on!
And finally, if in Chile, and if you have not managed to pinch a link already here is a link to a case of your’s truly’s own mere 94’s.
Finalmente, si está en Chile, y si no ha logrado clickear un enlace ya, aquí hay un enlace a una caja de 6 x 94.