Wine rises from ashes of Chilean quake

A winemaking venture set up to support Maule farmers in the wake of Chile’s 2010 earthquake is due to see its first result launch in the UK next month.

Don Nivaldo in his Maule vineyardThe Ploughmen Project was created by Derek Mossman Knapp, founder of Chilean “garagiste” producer The Garage Wine Co, using funds awarded by the Geoffrey Roberts Trust. He worked with three small Maule farmers to build a sustainable business by creating high end wines from the region’s ancient Carignan vineyards.

The initiative was supported by UK importer Bibendum Wine and, following last year’s Bibendum merger with PLB, the resulting wine will now join the portfolio of the group’s recently relaunched independent retail and wholesale arm, Walker & Wodehouse, with an RRP of £20.95.

The first Ploughmen wine to launch comes from a plot of over 100-year-old Carignan vines in the Sauzal region of Maule. Farmer Don Nivaldo Morales and his wife Otelia farm the land by hand and horse with no irrigation.

Once harvested, the grapes ferment using wild yeast in open-top fermenters and are pressed manually before the wine is matured for two winters in mostly third-fill French oak barrels. A further year of bottle aging then took place, with the result now ready to launch at Walker & Wodehouse’s portfolio tastings in London and Manchester on 7 and 14 September.

“Something needed to be done,” said Mossman Knapp as he recalled the aftermath of the earthquake. “I saw the farmers as they were getting up, brushing themselves off, and getting on with things. Their resilience was inspiring. I proposed that instead of maximising the vineyards’ kilos for bulk wine, we could, together, make wines of place, one from each parcel, and bottle them separately – no matter how small.”

Some of the damage caused by Chile's earthquake in 2010

Some of the damage caused by Chile’s earthquake in 2010

Five years after he began helping the farmers to realise this ambition, Mossman Knapp commented: “We have made some superb wines that will excite fine wine lovers on the other side of the planet. It has been hard work, but today I am grateful, both to the ploughmen, and to Bibendum and Walker & Wodehouse for their belief and support. I am thrilled to have these wines in the UK market.”

Walker & Wodehouse managing director Gareth Groves highlighted the “amazing” story behind these wines, saying: “It is a handmade wine in every sense, and it needs to be hand sold too so consumers can hear that story for themselves.

“The independent trade is the perfect sector for such a unique wine and we are delighted to finally be able to introduce the Ploughmen Carignan to our customers.”


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