Movi & Vigno: Flowers in the Pavement
If you have read my main report on Chile for Issue 204 on www.erobertparker.com, you will have doubtlessly gleaned my view of the country’s domination of large estates, each farming hundreds of hectares, which tends to give rise to conservative, safe wines that can represent good value but rarely stimulate the intellect. They are wines that willingly conform and dare not challenge the casual imbiber who covets predictability rather than individuality. I will repeat that there is nothing morally wrong with this approach. There are millions of consumers who are perfectly content with exactly that type of wine. However, this omnipresence of large estates has provoked the formation of counter movements such as “MOVI” and “VIGNO.” Their mere existence proves there is an imbalance to be addressed, and it seemed logical to separate these from the main Chile report in an important publication such as The Wine Advocate in order to give them exposure. This report is their stage.
As I shall explain later, the title “Flowers in the Pavement” is not a metaphor for quality but alludes to the challenge smaller growers face in finding fissures in a crowded market, in terms of securing financial backing and changes in public perception, in order to grow and blossom over the long term. I am aware that I have probably barely scratched the surface of Chile despite the size of this report and that next time, when I plan to seek out more wineries in Maule, I will expect to unearth many more.
MOVI (Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes) was formed in June 2009. It is a movement, a legally formed guild of small independent wineries that embraces vintners working on a “human scale.” To quote MOVI themselves on their website (www.movi.cl), their raison d’être is to “…provide breadth, a complementary counter-culture to contrast the mainstream industry of branded pyramids of oh so many value-driven wines and the agro-industrial concentration that goes with them.” I could not put it better myself. It was founded by 12 members in 2008, which has subsequently expanded to 20 members, namely: Bravado Wines, Bustamante, Clos Andino, Flaherty Wine, Garage Wine Co, Gillmore, I-Wines, Meli, Polkura, Reserva de Caliboro, Rukumilla, Lafken, Lagar de Bezana, Peumayen, Starry Night, Trabun, Tremonte, Villard and Von Siebenthal.
The man behind MOVI is Derek Mossman, and when he offered to arrange a private tasting in London of its members’ wines, I leapt at the chance. Chile needs MOVI to counterbalance the immutable dominance of the “Goliaths” that define the perception of Chilean wine, that rule the roost, so to speak. At the same time I had no intention of promulgating every MOVI wine by dint of their membership to what one might judge to be a more romantic, spiritual take on winemaking. Diminutive size or artisan viticulture does not confer superiority vis-à-vis those churned out at higher volumes, not in Chile nor anyone else. Whereas a large-scale winery can iron-out or blend away quirks and faults, hire expertise from around the world or, indeed, from artisan home-grown winemakers, smaller wineries are more exposed to the caprice of the growing season and human errors. It is implicit that there will be more variation from wine to wine, yet that is precisely what a sector of oenophiles seeks out – if it gives a wine personality and soul.
It is the same for VIGNO. The twelve members of the socalled “Vignadores de Carignan” (which to this writer sounds like swashbuckling swordsmen from the Victor Hugo novel) come together to exploit old vine Carignan. Vines must be over 35 years, dry farmed and call the Maule Valley “home.” Blends must contain a minimum of 65% Carignan and the remainder must also come from Maule, while the wines must also be aged for two years in either new or used barrel, amphorae or bottles. There is no focus prerequisite for artisan winemaking here. Large enterprises can nominate their wines for inclusion so long as they meet the criteria. Their goal is simply to promote Carignan, an oft-marginalized grape variety that for many years was blended away by co-operatives or exploited as young vines that offer simple, quaffing wines that were often made through carbonic maceration. Of course, Carignan is a grape dependent upon vine age, and VIGNO hopes that consumers will wise up to the greatness of old vine Carignan that reaches its apogee in Maule.
Again, I am not paid to praise wines simply because of what they represent. But readers may recall how old vine Carignan in Priorat was one of my most thrilling discoveries earlier this year and indeed, the likes of Bravado Wines, Undurraga, Gillmore and De Martino all furnish palates with delicious, intellectually stimulating Carignan wines that refute the notion that Chile is all about industrial production. There are others under the VIGNO umbrella that did not quite match my expectations, but that did not diminish my appreciation of what VIGNO sets out to achieve. Great wine and great Carignan should embrace, not eschew variability after all.
Finally, I have also included tasting notes of a small clutch of natural wines that sommelier par excellence Ricardo Grellet 117 kindly showed me in Santiago. Once again, this is a category that I hope to expand upon in the future. There is a great deal of furor about natural wines in the UK at the moment, occasionally by commentators with little else to talk about. I welcome natural wines wherever they may originate from: they stimulate debate, they add another genre to the style of wine and it can open the minds of winemakers even if they never adopt the practice. At the same time, I have worked in the trade and know what it is like dealing with customers dissatisfied with their wine. In essence, natural wines are like “Goths” – in trying to be so different, they often ending looking the same. Still, the smattering of natural wines below proved that this could be a great avenue for Chilean winemakers to pursue.
Here you can find the wine ratings Wines By Article