Vines in the New World are often considered old at 35 or 40, when their yields diminish or their fruit loses some of its youthful vibrancy. There are a few places where vines live to be 100, or 200 years old, however, and one of them is Chile’s Secano Interior, the coastal hills surrounding Concepción. This is where Spanish missionaries brought vines centuries ago, long before Bordeaux varieties settled further north around Santiago.
What’s different about a 200-year-old vine is not necessarily visible above ground. It’s the root system that’s had time to explore and grow, unhindered by annual pruning. A few vintners with local connections are beginning to bring international attention to these unique vines: Consider Manuel Moraga, the seventh generation of his family to tend the país vines that his ancestor, a Spaniard the locals called “Cacique Maravilla,” planted on a vein of volcanic soil, east of Concepción. Or Pedro Parra, who grew up in Concepción and has since developed a career as an international “terroir doctor” (part geologist, part viticultural guru). Parra has returned to make wine from ancient país vines and old-vine cinsault, the grape locals imported in the 1930s to blend with their país.
And then there’s Felipe Garcia, who makes wine under his P.S. Garcia label, including Bravado. He blends fruit from two vineyards in Itata—one is planted to young-vine syrah; the other is carignan, grenache, mourvedre and petit verdot grafted onto the 120-year-old roots of país vines. It’s an interesting play on an underground asset. He ages the blend in old neutral-oak casks for 18 months, and there’s no indication of wood in the wine; there’s just fragrant and delicious fruit, along with chewy, savory tannins. It reminded one of our tasters of a clearing in the forest, and the fruit does last with a cool, foresty tone. Or maybe that’s the cool tone of fruit grown on 120-year-old roots.
P.S. Garcia 2016 Valle del Itata Bravado (Best Buy)
Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.
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