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Chillan, Itata Valley, Chile
Leo Erazo and Justin Decker started Rogue Vine in 2011 in a one-car garage in Concepcion, Chile. This duo met while teaching at the University of Concepcion. At Rogue Vine, they make wines from the Nipas and Guarilihue subregions of the Itata Valley. All the vineyards are composed of hillside, dry-farmed bush-vines that are a minimum of 60 years old, with some over 100 years old. The soils are primarily comprised of decomposed granite with a mix of clay and quartz. The winemaking is simple and employs native yeast, concrete globes, old barrels, no corrections, with minimal or no sulfur prior to bottling. Itata Valley’s viticulture is primarily practiced through horse plowing and hand farming. Part of Rogue Vine’s focus is to promote the rich culture and history of this long neglected and rural farming community. Leo is also the winemaker for Altos Las Hormigas in Mendoza, Argentina and Justin is an expat from Indiana who got bit by the wine bug and started a family in Chile.
ROGUE VINE JAMÓN JAMÓN
This 100% skin fermented Moscatel is from Guarilihue region of Itata. The nose shows orange peel, white flowers, peach, and orange blossom with savory undertones of sage and toasted almonds. The palate shows notes of quince and marzipan with honeysuckle and a hint of black pepper spice. The finish is held long by the bright acid of the wine.
VARIETIES : Moscatel
LOCATION : Guarilihue, Itata
VINEYARD : Palma,5 acres, planted in1960
ALCOHOL : 12.5%
TOTAL PRODUCTION : 1000 cases
WINEMAKER’S NOTES : A delicate and dry wine made with whole bunch fermentation of 'Itata' grapes. A perfect wine for aperitif, goes extremely well with Jamon!!
ROGUE VINE GRAND ITATA TINTO
This is a field blend of old vine, hand harvested grapes consisting of 95 % Cinsault and 5% Pais. The nose is lifted and shows bright red fruits of raspberry and strawberry with rose petals and hints of fresh forest floor. The palate is defined by its light tannin and acid structure that keeps the wine light, accentuating the fruit and leading to a soft finish.
VARIETAL: 95% Cinsault, 5% Pais
LOCATION: Guarilihue, Itata
VINEYARD: La bella,9.8 acres, planted in1960
TOTAL PRODUCTION: 1100 cases
A delicate explosion of red fruits. A very fresh and expressive wine made of Cinsault with a little bit of país. A great representation of the Grand Itata Hills. Old bush vines falling from steep granitic hills only 16 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean.
Once the viticultural center of a new world colony, the Itata hills nowdays represent a forgotten viticultural region in Chile.
The fact that the vines here in Itata can live 60-100-120 years means something: They have found a balance with the environment and with the vigneron. Today this balance is what we were looking for!
The first vineyards in Itata were planted around the 1500s. Near the bay of Concepción was the place chosen to start the viticulture in Chile.
The Itata Valley is 500 kms south from Santiago. In the 1500s this meant a considerably distance to go planting! considering that the main urban centers were up north some 500 to 600 kms away, i.e. the towns of Valparaiso and Santiago. No public transport existed and so the only means were of transport through this still undiscovered terrain was by ship or horse caravans. This was not the only problem -at this time the area was inhabited by a very strong indigenous tribe called the Mapuches. The Mapuches have a very strong link to earth and so a very strong spirit to defend the land they lived on. Considering these problems: why would the Spanish want to plant vineyard knowing of these challenges?; Because they could actually plant here in Itata with NO IRRIGATION.
The system was this: vineyards were planted under dryland conditions, with the bush vine as a trellising system and in the steep granitic hills of Itata.
These characteristics were going to remain exactly the same 500 years later, so this is the Itata we still find today.
Once a very famous region for wine production, the viticulture of the Itata lost its fame around the 1800s. In Chile, in more central regions, the change to the vertical shoot positioning, the long rows, the technology of irrigation, vineyards planted in plane soils which was easier to mechanize and manage, with higher production, new varieties, less evident vintage effect and of course closer to the center of consumption, caused that the Itata Terroir was left behind. The Chilean wine industry moved to central Chile. Big vineyards were planted and big wineries were born. In contrast to this, the farms in Itata were getting smaller and smaller. The division of the land between families created a lot of vineyard that are between 3 to 5 ha.
The atomization of vineyards that has been seen in Itata over the past decades, was perceived to be a problem for big wineries when they wanted to buy grapes here. In order to facilitate the purchase of grapes they have created the figure of the “middle man”. This person would gather all these grapes for big wineries. In order to facilitate the negotiation, the easiest way was to propose one fixed price for everyone. Coincidentally today this is the base price for buying grapes in Chile and the lowest prices that are paid in the Chilean industry today are in Itata.
Setting one price and ignoring the rich diversity of Itata for centuries has made a huge impact on this area.
Today the amount of vineyards in Itata is constantly decreasing. An increasing pressure to plant pine trees and eucaliptus trees is constantly threat to the old vineyards plantations.
Despite all of these problems, that which keeps the viticulture alive in Itata is something amazing: it is relationship between the people and their vineyards. Despite this constant pressure some ¨vignerons¨ still remain loyal to what they grew up with: the vineyard and the respect for the Terroir. In Itata the way of working the vineyards and how the vineyards respond to all this care, living for up to 100 years has created one of the most beautiful viticultures in the whole world.
Here, in Itata, the true spirit of the “Vigneron” exists!. We would really like you to meet the people that have decided to keep these vineyard despite all the adverse conditions, for only one reason: because they love what they do.
Somehow this short history overview introduction has led the Itata Hills that have been around since their inception some 500 years ago to the viticulture we still find today. A viticulture that uses minimal intervention, where the vines are allow to live their lives to find their balance with their environment. Itata is a place in Chile where the spirit of the true Vigneron exists.
We do not interfere with the terroir. The winemaking is very simple, using only native yeast, no corrections, and little to no sulfur additions added prior to bottling. We use cement globes and used oak barrels to mature the wines, allowing the complexity of each site to develop. We want to make honest wines with a strong sense of origin that reflects the uniqueness of the Itata Hills: freshness, natural acidity and low alcohol levels.