A LOS VINATEROS BRAVOS, LEONARDO ERAZO, Itata
Itata lies south (way south) of Chile’s higher-profile wine regions like Maipo and Casablanca. Its capital, the port city of Concepción, is the point of the original Spanish colonization. The first grape variety here, called Pais—also known as the Mission Grape—was brought by the conquistadors in the 1550s. Widely scattered vine plantings soon spread across the rolling hills north of the capitol, blessed by a cool climate tempered by the Pacific Humboldt current, generous winter rainfall, and granitic loam and clay soil that retained water through dry periods. Grape vines, grown as small bushes, dry-farmed without irrigation and worked traditionally with axes and horse plows thrived in these conditions on small family farms that provided wine for local consumption, with no intentions to expand production or export wine to the global market.
The Itata farmers, following a long tradition based around heeding cues from their environment, were the original ‘natural wine’ makers. Their instinctive organic approach produces deep-rooted, gnarly vines that live exceptionally long—many to more than 100 years of age—and has not changed for more than five centuries. Though the so-called modernization of viticultural and winemaking methods, along with the uses of herbicides, pesticides, and international grape varieties took hold in northern Chile, where the success of bland bulk wines nearly wiped out the very popular Pais, in the south the traditional, natural, small-scale approach was never lost. Fortunately for us, a new generation of enterprising, small-scale producers arose in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, eager to stem the tide of big, modern wine companies who had stamped out the unique qualities traditional Chilean wine had to offer. One such producer is Leonardo Erazo, who founded A Los Viñateros Bravos in the heart of Itata’s steep hills.
A talented young winemaker and viticulturalist with a degree in Agronomy and Enology from the University of Chile, Leonardo traveled the world for ten years to learn about and gain experience in classic and remote wine regions and their diverse terroirs. During this time he studied biodynamic methods in California, soil types in South Africa, and geology in New Zealand, among other adventures. In Itata, Leonardo has worked with the scattered local farmers’ old vines—many well over 100 years, still growing as dry farmed, untrained small bushes—to enhance their traditional natural practices to align with biodynamic guidelines. His mission, throughout this journey, has been to bring a sense of place into the bottle.
‘The old Itata Hills is a fantastic place; the potential of the terroir for making wines here with special character its great. The way we work its to bring that sense of place into the bottle. In the Itata Hills the beautiful heritage, the historic old vineyards over volcanic or over granitic soils have a lot to say and tell, we want to communicate that message. In order to achieve that, we are working back into the organic viticulture (historicallly, a tradition here) with natural winemaking. We feel like we dont need to fix nature but rather enhance its capabilities, thus to enhance its potential. We want wines full of life, vibrancy, tension and freshness.’ Leonardo Erazo
Volcanico Pais comes from very old vine (100 years and more) grown on volcanic soil. Hand harvested, fermentation starts spontaneously with native yeast, Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally. it is fermented and aged in concrete vats, the extraction is very subtle. The skins are basket press. The wine is then aged in large wood vessels and after 14 months is bottled with a very coarse filtration. The delicate underbrush aromas of Itatas wild grass, red fruits and a little bit of cassis are aromas and flavours that characterize this wine. A fresh wine, delicate, marked by fine grain tannins that give a very unique structure and create a long lingering finish with a distinctive mineral character due to the volcanic soils where the old vines thrive.