A wave of bravery: Wild fires devastate historic vineyards in Chile.
For most of February, devastating fires burned through Chile's Itata and Bio Bio regions, home to some of the most inspiring winemakers I've ever met. These are humble, curious, and incredibly skilled people, who've made it their life's work to revive and cultivate some of the world's oldest vineyards. They make energetic, expressive, and captivating wines in celebration of this remote region's heritage.
The recorded damage from the fires is staggering. Dozens dead, thousands displaced, and over one million acres severely damaged or destroyed. The steep physical and emotional recovery needed is hard to imagine. There’s a layered debate around the prevention of such episodes in the future that will hopefully gain more traction where it needs to. I'm linking a great piece by Alistair Cooper for a more in depth look at how loose regulations in the Chilean lumber industry affect this directly.
Over the last month, I've been in touch with importers and growers, searching for ways to best help from a distance. Though there are now a few organized fundraising efforts (links below), the most common response echoes Leonardo Erazo's plea: "there is no better support, moral or economic, than people enjoying bottles from these special places." His work has contributed immensely to Itata’s reintroduction to the wine scene, influencing talent from afar. In the tail end of 2022, we got to meet Dani Rozman, an American so deeply inspired by Leo’s work, that he partnered with him and began his project in the Itata Valley called “Onda Brava”.
I'll say this: Our interest in and enjoyment of these wines is a big part of this healing effort, and allows for the stories of these amazing winemakers to continue being told. If the energy of cru Beaujolais and Loire Valley wines resonate with your palate, Itata and Bio Bio wines are for you.
If you're reading this, you may be able to recall a moving experience with wine. Maybe it was that unicorn bottle shared with people you love, or a recommendation that hit just right. Sometimes, it's wines that somehow manage to contextualize all the great effort of meaningful winemaking—the high stakes decisions, physical work, emotional investment, intention, humanity—and give a totally different scale to that purchase, whatever it may be.
The wines from these brave growers have always given me so much joy. They're delicious—but also a symbol of resiliency and vision (Latino pride applies here for sure!). I know they'll do the same for you.
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