Sara d’Amato and I last caught up with and tasted the secrets of Chile’s deep interior with expatriate Etobican Derek Mossmnan Knapp three years ago yesterday, in September of 2016. I noted at the time that few have gone as deep and traced as far back “into the country’s heartland, oldest vines and ancestral traditions.” His wines from the Secano Interior are made by hand, naturally, in small lots parcel by parcel. Garage Wine Co. is still a matter of ploughs and manos en el suelo. Workers gain strength and energy from mugs of ulpo, toasted heirloom wheat flour with honey and water. This is a place where Derek tells us that one’s only real needs are “clippers, a hatchet, and a lifetime of experience to pass on.” Oxford commas sold separately.
Related – We take you now to garage wine in Chile
He continues to educate us. “Let’s make a mugrón” he says, a vine branch that is buried at the end so that a new plant is born. Like the Sicilian propaginare in Fabio Sereci’s Vrucara Vineyard. “This is regenerative agriculture. It’s not about finding a nice old man to support, but rather rolling your sleeves up and working elbow to elbow. The flavour is in the farming.” The work is relentless, essential, never-ending. “With seasonal cover-crops ploughed under no need for fertilizer,” he continues, “rastreando no es lo mismo y no incorpora nitrogeno de la misma manera.” Or, nitrogen will never incorporate as successfully by tracking. In Secano Interior there is only one way. The right way.
Contrary to common belief and heaps of marketing, the complexity of a wine most often comes from the farming.
Yes, the farming. A winemaker can aspire to creative angst and/or the never-ending and hopeless aspiration to attain the sublime but without the right, proper and tireless work ethic of agriculture there is no greatness. Tilling, hoeing, ploughing and straightening things out are the keys to the salvaes, the volleys, salutes, provisos and reservations for securing the possibility of making memorable wines. Garage Wine Co. personnel are putting in the time.
País-Cariñena, Sémillon, Carignan Field Blend and Cabernet Franc. These are the four seminal bottles Derek brought along for Sara and I to taste at the WineAlign office. And it was good.
Garage Wine Co. País Cariñena Phoenix Ferment Single Ferment Series 2018, DO Secano Interior Cauquenes, Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)
“A wine that rose from the 2017 bush fires, quickly having ascended out of the ashes as something resurrected and reinvented.”We’ve gotta make a white from the reds,” tells Garage Wine Company founder Derek Mossman Knapp. A pressed whole with stems (like Champagne) field blend, or more succinctly a co-ferment of stacks, one on top of the other, país followed a few days later by cariñena. That said it was picked earlier, crisper and sharper in 2018. The acids are extraordinary and the melding of flowers, white and yellow are mimicked, extended and replayed by citrus and stone fruit flavours on repeat. Crazy smart and delicious, if never before tasted and understood. For interested parties, price would be 6.5 US ex-cellar. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted August 2019
Garage Wine Co. Sémillon Isidore Vineyard Lot # F1 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)
Single vineyard white off of lands shepherded by ancestral farming. Isidore is the patron saint of the worker and this is a wine not ordinarily made. Now the decades of urban legend, blue blood in the veins and perverso (perversity) replace bulk wine from places with no paved roads (and valid D.O. paperwork) left behind for such an exercise. It’s both rich for sémillon (thanks to skins) and its sessions but the acids keep it grounded, flint-struck, stone-driven. Certainly reminded of Chris Alheit a continent away. Old vines are meant to deliver a sting for sémillon and though just shy today of what it will bite with again, there is an intensity in feeling to make you wish for sea creatures of brine, fat, citrus and bitters. That’s the vernacular it speaks and seeks. Price would be 11 US ex-cellar. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted August 2019
Garage Wine Co. Lot #77 Carignan Field Blend Truquilemu Vineyard 2016, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)
Here getting into the usage of lignified stems, first with a run through the de-stemmer, after which the brown and ripe ones are put back in. Avoids the candy floss of carbonic maceration while conversely encouraging more integration and camaraderie. Violet floral and expressly ripe with thanks to a few plants of malbec, país, mataro and tintara negro. So youthful and high-toned, plenty of fruit, more so intrigue and an old vines in old vineyards brushy herb savoury notation that permeates while hiding in the shadows. Why does this wine, not driven by anything in its plot, arouse in us such a powerful emotion, containing the entirety of what the wines is between a set of ineffable parentheses? It’s a unique structure, one that takes breaths and inhibitions away, as will others that do so, though not in any exclusive or elitist way. Seems right, big, structured, proper and just. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted August 2019
Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Franc La Higuera Vineyard Lot #62 2014, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)
“Just wet it!” they say in how to make this cabernet franc, as in the dry Martini, Hawkeye Pearce way. Just a wave over the ferment, avoiding too much wood and keeping it real. The fruit is ostensibly dark as a cimmerian night, with minor keys played by iodine, soy and balsamic, though ultimately the settling over five plus years will reveal a more natural state. It’s chewy inside and crusted enough to make it crunchy on the outside, a perfectly textured red like a steak charred and cooked rare inside meeting a proper cookie but in cabernet franc clothing. As you nose and taste it continues to refine, come into balance and also elegance. Imagine what those five years in bottle will effect. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted August 2019
Good to go!