Garage Wine Company launches Old-Vine ‘Revival’ project in UK

Winemaker Derek Mossman Knapp, of Chile‘s Garage Wine Company, presented the band’s ‘Old-Vine Revival’ project in the UK this month.

This included a first UK tasting of its new Old-Vine Revival País 2021 wine.

Garage Wine Company’s Maule project focuses on the production of wine from old vineswhile supporting local farming communities.

Born out of the Covid pandemic, the initiative allowed farmers to work in their local vineyards, which also eliminated the need to travel.

Maule is home to a wealth of very old family vines, grown dry. Yet these have been largely ignored by mainstream industry due to their limited production potential and accessibility issues.

Just over 5,000 bottles of the 2021 Old Vine País “Revival” have been made, and Mossman Knapp described the wine as somewhere “between a Gamay and one Pinot Noir‘.

The wine was first offered for sale en primeur about 18 months ago, which has further contributed to the financial security of the winemakers and producer amid the pandemic.

The Old-Vine Revival project was supported by UK Garage Wine Company distributor Freixenet Copestick. Old-Vine Revival País 2021 was available to trade through Jascots and to consumers through retailer Slurp Wine, priced at £17.95.

“The land, not the mark”

Morning picking at the Nivaldo Morales vineyard in Sauzal

Garage Wine Company was founded in 2001 by Mossman Knapp and his wife, Pilar Miranda, who started out making wine in their garage for family and friends. Over time the company has grown and they now export to 16 countries.

They started in Maipo but found that the concept of small-scale, artisanal production did not fit the typical large-scale, low-cost model that was common in Chile at the time. Wanting to keep their focus on the pitch, they headed towards Maule.

When asked why he chose Maule, Mossman Knapp replied “the human factor, the people and their stories”.

The social and environmental aspects of his approach were, however, partly organic; originally they just made sense as a business model for a small producer.

Large-scale bottle makers, label printers, and wax cap makers were unable to fulfill small orders. So the company turned to bottle recycling, a bottle painter and a pencil wax supplier.

Despite this method born of necessity, it is clear that Mossman Knapp has a broad appreciation of the place and the history behind his wines, referring to “the land, not the brand”.

In 2010, he helped found the Mouvement des Vignerons Indépendants (MOVI) in Chile – a group of small producers who focus on wines “on a human scale”.

Country in context

Ancestral farming methods in the vineyards of Truquilemu, Empedrado

Mossman Knapp said Carafe that País was grown in Chile as early as 1548, having been imported from the Canary Islands as raisins.

He contextualized this as the year after Henry VIII died.

As the phylloxera louse that devastated many European vineyards in the 19th century did not reach Chile, many of the vines that exist today are very old.

The relevance of this, according to Mossman Knapp, is the part of the vine we don’t see, rather than the “photogenic profile of the candelabrum above ground”.

The roots, untouched for such a long time, are sturdy and grow deep, penetrating cracks in decomposed gravel soils to access water.

Long considered a hardy variety, País has experienced a significant revival during the last years.

Much of this is due to the influence of producers who, like Garage Wine Company, focus on regenerating and producing quality wines in small volumes with a sense of place.

However, there is still work to be done to change the perception of grape ability. Mossman Knapp says it’s still not considered a good wine.

Paving the way forward

Anita Medel, partner grower in Puico, Empedrado

Garage Wine Company has embraced the potential of Maule and País, focusing on making wines from small plots with the responsibility to explore and enjoy the individual sites.

Grapes from three farms were used for the Old-Vine Revival País 2021.

This approach showcases Mossman Knapp’s respect for the environment and heritage, employing age-old farming methods and winemaking techniques such as the use of indigenous yeasts, gentle maceration and minimal additions of sulphites.

He said the project has only scratched the surface in terms of reviving old vines and providing “something people can really hold on to”.

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