In the Southern Hemisphere right now, it’s vendimia season. Vendimia is the Spanish word for the collection of wine grapes, an autumnal process also known as “vintage” in English. At Grand Cata, we’re looking toward Latin America to see what this year’s cosecha or “harvest” will bring for the future of Latino wine. A few winemakers from the region shared their secrets with us. We consider their wines to be quintessential examples of the quality that small family-owned operations are producing in Chile and beyond.
Garcia Schwaderer – Valle de Casablanca, Chile
First, we spoke with Felipe Garcia, from la bodega Garcia Schwaderer. He shares the project with Constanza Schwaderer, his partner both in business and in life. Schwaderer is a recognized winemaker in her own right, and together the two decided to build an independent wine label starting in 2006. Felipe spoke to us from their Casablanca site, situated en route to the Chilean port city of Valparaíso from the capital Santiago. Here, they are fresh from harvesting their Sauvignon Blanc, the first grape to mature. Their Pinot Noir grapes are soon to follow.
Felipe tells us that he thinks it will be a record year for these two grapes in terms of quality, with fluctuations in temperature and a difficult harvest creating irregular yet more complex grapes. This means the wines that result will have more character.
“Esta cosecha no ha sido de las mas fáciles en Chile. Una primavera fría, seguido por un verano caluroso ha provocado cierta irregularidad en la maduración de la fruta, lo que forzará la creación de vinos con mayor complejidad.” - Felipe Garcia
“This has not been one of the easier harvests in Chile,” Felipe said. “A cold spring, followed by a hot summer, has provoked a certain irregularity in the maturation of the fruit, which will result in the creation of wines with greater complexity.”
“Vinos que hablan de la tierra chilena"
This is good news for Garcia Schwaderer, since these grape varietals that mature early are considered the essence of their wines. Felipe describes their creations as “wines that we like personally, fresh and easy to drink, to enjoy at home with friends and to have a great time,” rather than any particular commercial style.
"Hacemos vinos que nos gustan beber a nostros, frescos y que se dejan beber fácilmente, vinos que no sean complicados, que puedas tenerlo en casa y degustarlos con amigos y pasar una buena tarde/noche. Nosotros queremos hacer vinos con una caracterisitica chilena y no imitar lo que se esta haciendo en otros lados.” - Felipe Garcia
“We identify with vinos que hablan de la tierra chilena,” Felipe said. “We want to make wines with Chilean characteristics that don't just imitate what people are making elsewhere.” And what identifies a truly Chilean wine? Strong fruit notes and juicy, mature fruit flavors.
At Grand Cata, we certainly agree that this is above all, an authentic Chilean wine. Pedro noticed an unfamiliar bottle while traveling in Santiago and brought it home to share with Julio. They both loved the Pinot Noir Sofia as a refreshing wine to enjoy with friends. “It particularly expresses the Chilean coastal region with its great combination of tannins and acidity,” said Pedro. Julio added, “It’s the perfect example of a Chilean pinot noir full of black fruit, and the acidity really is exquisite.” We knew we had to have more. With less than 10,000 bottles produced, we consider ourselves among the lucky few who can experience and share these unique wines with DC.
Alta Cima – Valle de Lontué, Chile
Moving south in Chile toward Maule, we spoke with Klaus Schroeder, Jr. of Alta Cima winery. The Schroeder family has been producing wine in Chile since the 1960s, when Klaus’s father brought a combination of influences from his experiences in Germany and Portugal to reflect upon the wonders of the Chilean soil and develop practices in harmony with the natural environment.
Pedro and Julio both agree that the defined, independent style and strong family heritage make the wines from Alta Cima stand out. Pedro appreciates the elegant balance of their wines, which he attributes to the careful and family-oriented production process. Julio admires their willingness to take risks using varietals that solidify their multicultural identity. As part of the Grand Cata inventory, their unique Chilean Gewürztraminer is a top-selling favorite. Since this is also an early-ripening grape, this vendimia is full of good signs.
“Una verdadera sorpresa”
Klaus said “esta vendimia ha sido una verdadera sorpresa” – this has been a very surprising harvest. He thinks this will be a key year for premium wines. He said that they had experienced as much as a 25% reduction in yield this year, “lo que significa buenas noticias para vinos de clase” - great news for high-class wines. With fewer grapes on each vine, the fruit that does produce is better, and therefore, so is its resulting wine.
“Al tener menos uvas en la vid, existe mejor fruta y por ello mejor vino." - Klaus Schroeder, Jr.
These benefits will extend beyond the white grapes to certain red grapes as well. Klaus recommends looking out for Syrah and Cabernet with delicious complexity created by the extreme temperature variation.
“Marzo [ha hecho] nuevamente frío, lo que significa que la maduración de la fruta sea irregular, dando más complejidad a los vinos tintos. Creo que la Syrah y Cabernet serán las beneficiadas este año." - Klaus Schroeder, Jr.
Vino Latino siempre nuevo en Grand Cata
As the 2016 vintage in South America begins its new life cycle, Grand Cata continues to grow from its new beginnings here in the Shaw community. We look forward to delivering more stories from the origins of our wines and our heritage while benefitting the continued cultural enrichment of our local DC friends and neighbors while enjoying authentic Latino wines. Salud!