We are incredibly honored to host one of our favorite winemakers this coming Monday, July 23rd. Manuel Moraga Gutierrez, owner and winemaker of Cacique Maravilla, is the 7th generation of his family in Chile, and at least the 4th to make wine. His story, and that of his family, is fascinating, and sheds light on how looking to the past is leading Chile’s best winemakers into the future.
The story starts with Francisco Gutierrez Gutierrez - Manuel’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather - who arrived in Yumbel, Chile in 1750 from the Canary Islands in search of gold. He eventually made enough of a fortune to acquire land, which remains part of the holdings of the winery to this day. Francisco became known in the town as “Cacique Maravilla,” which roughly translates to “the Magnificent Chief.” We’re assuming he had quite the personality to earn such a nickname!
While Francisco did not travel to the new world with grape clippings, it is telling that he came from the Canary Islands. Seven generations later, Manuel Moraga Gutierrez continues to vinify Listán Prieto, known locally and throughout Chile as “País.” The grape originates from the Canary Islands, and speaks to how many people immigrated to Chile from there in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the vines Manuel works with are well over 100 years old!
As you may have guessed, the winery is named after Francisco Gutierrez’ nickname, Cacique Maravilla. But this is actually a very recent development. Until Manuel took over the reins of the Bodega in 2010 following his father’s retirement, the winery didn’t actually had a name, or at least a brand. They made wine to sell in bulk to their neighbors, and grew grapes to sell to other wineries. It is through Manuel’s intense pride in the traditional styles of wine from Yumbel, and the methods his family has used to make them, that he decided he wanted to share his wine with first Chile, and then the rest of the world. As he puts it, “one day I want good, trained sommeliers to taste my wine and say ‘this wine is from Yumbel, Chile.’”
Unfortunately, Manuel’s first vintage came with tragedy. On February 27th, 2010, a massive earthquake shook Chile, claiming the lives of some of Manuel’s family, and essentially destroying his winery and equipment. The resulting wine did not meet his standards. However, instead of wallowing in his misfortune, he took this as a message that he needed to go back even further in his family’s history and “make wine like [his] grandfather.” By this he meant even less intervention, even less modern technology, and an entire focus on the flavors of the land and the grapes.
The results are astounding. Everyone that we have introduced to Manuel’s wines since bringing them to the shop have been awestruck. If you were ever confused as to what a “natural wine” is, look no further than anything that Manuel produces. And if you’d like to meet and speak with this pioneering producer, stop by the shop Monday after 5pm. We promise, he’s both a fascinating character and inspiring talent. Hasta el lunes!