Chilean wine from earthquake-hit farmers targets UK independents

24 August, 2015

Earthquake-hit Chilean farmers will see a wine produced from their Carignan grapes launched in the UK next month by Walker & Wodehouse.

The Maule region was devastated by the 2010 earthquake, so Derek Mossman Knapp of Garage Wine Co used prize money awarded to him from the Geoffrey Roberts Trust to invest in the community.

His Ploughmen project helped three small farmers build a sustainable future by developing Carignan vineyards into fine wines for export.

The fruit of Knapp’s labours is now in the bottle, with the first Ploughmen Carignan being available exclusively to the UK independent retail sector through Walker & Wodehouse.

He said: “The earthquake of 2010 struck just before harvest, in the heart of the Maule - the cradle of Chilean viticulture. The farmers, who had ploughed the earth since colonial times, saw their earth twist and turn, and their homes torn asunder. Something needed to be done.

“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 maximizing 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.

‘Then I got involved, working shoulder to shoulder to make the transition happen. It has been five years and we think, and we are no longer alone, that 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.”

This first wine to hit the UK market wine comes from a plot that belongs to farmers Don Nivaldo Morales and his wife Otelia, in Sauzal in the Maule Valley.

The wine was farmed by hand and horse using traditional methods of dry-farming vines more than 100 years old.

Gareth Groves, managing director at Walker & Wodehouse, added: ‘The story of Derek’s work with the ploughman farmers is amazing. Derek has used his passion for the old vineyards of the Maule valley and his undoubted skill in the cellars to help create a superb wine and a much more positive future for Don Nivaldo and Otelia’s family. 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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