Like Pigs in the Mud
This is an underground, diverse, informal and integrating (anti-) movement that speaks a common, vernacular, deeply unpretentious and original language dotted with French loans but without any taboos, prejudices or shyness of any kind and without a self- imposed quest for perfection. Meet the group and discover the wines from Chanchos Deslenguados.
The sculptor Enrique Villalobos –author of the Monument to the indigenous Peoples of the Americas located in Santiago’s main square– is standing, relaxed and smiling against a pile of wine cases. he is waiting for his sons Rolando and Martín to arrive, the same ones who plunged him into the poetic adventure of vinifying an old wild vineyard of Carignan that clings to very old quillaye trees, entangled to blackberry and rosehip bushes. This is a cool, clear morning and the Yungay neighborhood is recovering its colors after a rainy night. Enrique waits in front of Club Santiago, an old building of alleged architectural heritage that is the venue chosen for the fourth meeting of the Chanchos Deslenguados group (which translates roughly as scourrilous pigs). Without taboos or shyness of any kind, these natural wine artisans defy the mainstream with a human-scaled, vernacular and terroiristic proposal.
Organized by Sebastián Alvear and Louis-Antoine Luyt, the man who rediscovered País grapes, Chanchos Deslenguados counts hundreds of unconditional followers. ever since the first tasting held at the Santo Remedio restaurant, Chanchos have multiplied like rabbits. Today, there are more than 20 representatives distributed between Choapa (III Region) and Bueno (X Region). Their proposal is quite simple, but at the same time hard to explain. they are all small producers –some are even micro-producers– but they do not distinguish themselves by the number of cases produced. Many are organic growers, with a few biodynamic cases, and they all despise the term intervention, which they have replaced by culture and respect for the environment. some have rescued and updated old winemaking traditions, but others are completely original.
Chanchos are diverse, unregulated and integrating. Chanchos are simply chanchos.
A MULTIFACETED GROUP
Before going up to the terrace of Club Santiago, a warning must be made: consuming these wines may turn you upside down. Chanchos do not work in a marketing department, thinking about consumer preferences, but depend entirely on the intrinsic characteristics of the terroirs chosen and the insanity or lucidity of
each producer. Most try to go back to the essence, to the original traditions of years past, to dry-farming viticulture, animal-drawn plows, manual harvesting, sieves, spontaneous fermentation and inert containers. Their respect for grapes is uncompromising. The idea is to present them without any makeup, costumes or seams. as naturally as possible.
Whether or not these are natural wines is another story and, frankly, I could not care less. More than anything else, naturalism is a statement of principles. A nice way
to protest against uncontrolled interventionism and to propose, without any masks, a humble approach to winegrowing, where man does not try to subdue or humiliate nature.
The concept is certainly hard to grasp and, of course, bears no relation with the quality of the wines. In France, Italy or Georgia, we can find wines that are simply undrinkable and others that can move you to tears. The same happens on the terrace of Club Santiago. Chanchos are a generous and inclusive group, where errors, even horrors, are permitted. Many of their wines respond to values and attributes that go far beyond quality and stay away from the current trends or the winemaking principles imposed by modern wine gurus.
The González Bastías winery, located on one side of the Talca-Constitución branch line station, is a legacy of thick adobe walls, bamboo shakers and very old clay jars. With 4 hectares of head-trained grapevines over 200 years old, it produces just 5,000 bottles, including a rustic País wine and a rarity that has survived the deadliest earthquakes: a semi-sweet, intriguing and evocative Black Muscat that rattles even the most cautious palates.
At the other side of the spectrum we find the stylized Machalí, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Requinoa produced with great care by Rodolphe Bordeau, a passionate French sommelier with a thousand battles in restaurants and wineries. “This is our first time here,” says Rodolphe. “I don’t know for sure what we are doing here, but this is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our wine”.
It is also a perfect time to know the project of winemaker Felipe Riveros called Instinto del Maule, which features a limpid and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon from San Clemente sourced from 108 year-old head-trained vines. “Only 4,260 bottles of this wine have been produced. the idea for the future is to develop other areas, other terroirs, other instincts,” Felipe explains.
There are many French producers who participate in Chanchos Deslenguados. This creates a strange yet very appealing atmosphere, a sort of cosmopolitan nationalism. The brothers Christian and Olivier Porte, for example, established their small vineyard on the northern banks of the Bueno river in the IX region. According to them, Coteaux de Trumao was born in 2000 when they planted almost one thousand vines of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with very disparate results.
Was it a naive move to plant cabernet so far south where the only things that grow are apples, cherries and cows? Probably yes. But inspired by a couple of País vines tended overhead that not only provided welcome shade but also yielded some fruit, they took the plunge and now vinify one of the most interesting wines of the show: Cruchon, a Pinot Noir that attacks the palate like an arrow shot forcefully by a nervous and pungent acidity. Even though it does not possess the lineage or complex architecture of the great Burgundies, it boasts a fresh and extroverted personality that may well settle once the vineyard reaches its maturity and the virgin land begins to familiarize with and accept it.
Together with the Porte brothers, another Frenchman uncorks a bottle-fermented sparkler from Alto Cachapoal. sourced from a 7-hectare, biodynamic-certified vineyard planted in 1996, this Pinot Noir (with a small percentage of Viognier) feels ripe, somewhat winey, but with an imposing structure that reveals its Andean origin. According to Yves Pouzet, the wine is completely dry, without dosage liqueur, and with an aging period of two years on its lees. Yves also produces in small movable amphorae an intriguing red blend called Grez, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère, Lacrima Cristi and Viognier.
But if we are to talk about French men, there is one with an ample trajectory in the Chilean wine scene. Pushing his own projects and those of others as a consultant, Emeric Montignac receives us with Casas de Bucalemu 2012. A neighbor of Leyda grown just 10 kilometers from the ocean, this Sauvignon Blanc clearly stands out among its peers. Far from herbaceous or vegetal tones, the wine is ripe and slightly sweet but with a potent, balancing acidity.
Emeric says the key is to irrigate less, much less. and so he can harvest almost a month before the valley average, with riper fruit that even exceeds 14o of probable alcohol. The winemaker also presented a quite convincing 2010 vintage of Tarambano and a wine that i simply loved for its tremendous structure, freshness and personality: a chardonnay that is part of a project called Casa Roca and whose origin he simply refuses to reveal. “All i can say is that it is grown in the Andean foothills,” he says.
In addition to the presentation of the most acclaimed projects, such as Pinot Noir Montsecano from Las Dichas, Carignan Villalobos from Lolol and the ever surprising Cauquenes-born wines from Louis-Antoine Luyt (Primavera, Huasa and País de Quenehuao), the event is a window for the wines produced in the Maule, Itata and Biobío valleys, those forgotten wines that maintain the dry-farming tradition as well as the humble, foundational and peasant viticulture so embedded in our national soul.
Encouraged by Luyt himself, producers of pipeño wines played a central role. In bottles of 1.5 liters, winemakers Roberto Henríquez and Gustavo Martínez presented several samples from different areas like Cauquenes, Portezuelo and Santa Juana, most of them made up of País and Cinsault. The latter was a pleasant surprise due to its enormous mouth depth. With just 11.5o of alcohol, it reflects the conditions of a fresher, perhaps tardy terroir, with pungent yet savory tannins and a head-turning acidity. The initiative and the hard work of vineyard owners not only highlights the charm of some of these wines, but also an interesting commercial potential that will at least ensure the survival of a centennial winemaking culture currently threatened by the unrelenting headway of logging operations.
Precisely in Guarilihue, one of the cooler areas of Itata, Universidad de Concepción professor Yamil Neira and his wife Elizabeth González continue to innovate in these historical lands under the brand Bandido Neira. and their Cinsault has become a true benchmark. The wine possesses enticingly fresh and vibrant red fruit and a delicate body that takes us by surprise, unaware. And as an exclusive, they presented a very well-achieved sweet wine made from Muscat grapes and a red sparkler made from early picked Cinsault grapes using the traditional method. These are just three examples of the tremendous and inexplicably underestimated potential of Itata.
Further south, in Yumbel, we stumble upon Manuel Moraga and his impressive Cacique Maravilla. His field spans 16 hectares of País, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes, the components of the traditional southern blend called Burdeos. Moraga is a witty fellow. A rockstar of big white moustache who knows what he has and gladly and humbly shares it with anyone. We uncorked a very fresh Cabernet Sauvignon of untamed tannins, and then the great wonder of the morning: Pipeño País 2012. A wine born from vineyards of more than 300 years of age, whose juice goes directly from the fermentation cellar to the bottle. And despite its name (pipeño means stored in pipas or wine casks), it is not stored in casks, thus deepening the expression of its fresh, pure and breathtaking fruit.
Unlike the independent Vintners Movement MOVI and Vignadores de Carignan, Chanchos Deslenguados underscore and promote their diversity. They do not have a formal structure or bylaws to rule them or a clear objective in common. Who knows if in the medium term they decide to formalize their relationship. Maybe they will unite to boost their distribution channels, or perhaps they will continue enjoying total freedom. They still have a long way to go wine-wise. And we are fascinated by that honest confessions, the lack of commercial spirit, and the little interest in selling something that is not. As the brothers Porte very well say, they began selling their Cruchon simply because there was too much of it to just share it with their friends.
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