Producer Profile: Between the coastal range and the Andes, Chile is a dramatic sleeve of land seemingly cradled into grape-growing prosperity by the presence of rain shadows, volcanic soils laced with iron and red granite, diurnal shifts in temperature coinciding with vertiginous vineyard slopes of some of the world’s oldest own-rooted, vitis vinifera vines. A gobsmackingly beautiful country, Chile has a very complex history with respect to grape growing and, more generally, with its own farmland. Throughout this past was, variously, a Pinochet-led government hellbent on ripping up the native trees and grape vines of the southerly valleys in order to feed the paper industry, planting invasive eucalyptus and pine trees over seemingly every horizon. A century and a half before Pinochet’s violence on the native Chilean terrain, mining barons who’d made their fortunes exploiting the ancient dried-up salt lakes of northern Chile for saltpeter had traveled to France only to be intoxicated by the clarets and sauternes of Bordeaux, convinced these ‘treasures’ from abroad were more worthy than the simple country gems of wine known as “Pipeño” that were cultivated back in their home nation. And so they returned home to rip up much of the countryside’s old vines, planting a smattering of Bordelais varieties throughout the northern and central corridors of the country. In the south, there was intense resistance from the local farmers, and that resistance has seen itself through to today; here in the valleys of Bío Bío, Itata, and Maule (far south of Santiago), these same old vines of País, Garnacha, and Moscatel that were fought for and therein preserved centuries ago on their own-roots, are the same ones leading Chile back to the future today. Macatho is a project at the center of Chile’s exciting natural wine movement, created by vigneron(nes) Macarena del Río and Thomas Parayre (ergo: Maca-Tho). They farm very small plots of some very old vines throughout the Bío Bío and Maule Valleys where orange trees and perennials melt into sunshine and sea air. They capture this place as pristinely and deeply as any Chilean wines we’ve had the pleasure to taste – and it makes sense that love, something like affection, overtakes the palate of their bottlings. Having met by chance during a harvest years ago and both with different ties to France and Chile alike (echoing the grapes-and-vines history of Chile itself), Macarena and Thomas express purity beside beauty beside history in 750mL of something delicious.
Vinification: 150-year-old ungrafted País grown on granite clay soils and coming from the highest elevation plot of land that the winemakers work with. The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and fermented using native yeasts in stainless steel tank. After 14 days on skins, the wine is racked and rested for six months. Bottled unfined, unfiltered with just a touch of SO2.
Tasting: Medium-bodied, fresh and vibrant, this example of Pais is unlike anything you've tasted before. Notes of red-currant, strawberry and cherry dance around with a subtle smokiness that is unmistakably Chilean. Great with or without a chill. Another fantastic food wine.