I guess you’re wondering how wine and graffiti go together in a blog post about Chile? If you happen to travel to Santiago you will see that Chile is very proud of these two things, wine and public art. South America is known for some of the finest Malbecs and Sauvignon Blanc in the world, and the street art is really popular all around the country. Between the landscape and conditions that make Chile so good for winemaking and the vibrant colors and images of the graffiti, both of these things make Chile standout as a travel destination!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Malbec, it is a type of red wine. Malbec is relatively new to the wine game, rising in popularity in the last 10 years or so. According to a recent Vinepair article, “Malbec was born in France where it was primarily used as a blending grape in the country’s famous Bordeaux blend.”
The Vinepair publication goes on to explain how the Malbec grape found its way to Argentina and Chile from France. According to the article, ” In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of Argentine winemakers consulted a French agronomist Michel Pouget for his thoughts on a grape they should plant in order to improve the quality of the Argentine wine. The grape that was recommended was Malbec! The Argentines took vine cuttings from France and brought them back to Argentina. In the hot high-altitude region the vines thrived.”
Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite wine!) is also grown in Chile. Much like the Malbec grape, the Sauvignon Blanc grape also originated from the Bordeaux region of France. According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, “Sauvignon blanc is the second-most-planted wine grape in Chile. Sauvignon blanc has vied with chardonnay as the country’s premier white wine variety.”
Chile is right next door to Argentina and it has much of the same climate and altitude, so it makes sense that Chile would also be a great place for malbec and sauvignon blanc grapes!
While I was in Chile I visited an organic vineyard on the outskirts of Santiago. The vineyard was located in a town called Casablanca. How fun is that!
Veramonte vineyard was established in the late 1990’s, so it’s still a relatively young grower and producer. The founder was Agustin Huneeus, who was a pioneer of the Chilean wine industry. The views of the mountains from the vineyard were breathtaking.
The town of Casablanca is situated at the base of a mountain range. According to the Veramonte website, “The vineyard is surrounded by 2,500 hectares of native forest. The Pacific Ocean’s cool breezes and morning fog provide great conditions for growing white grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as cool-climate reds such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.”
Veramonte specializes in organic wine. This basically means that the wine is made from organic grapes, which means they are certified by a third party as organically grown. According to the Organic Vineyard Alliance, the third party certifies that there are no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers used when making the wine.
The method used by the vineyard to make organic compost was also very interesting. Instead of using lawn mowers, weed killers, fertilizers, etc. to keep the grass and weeds manageable, Veramonte has goats, sheep and llamas (we all know how much I love llamas!) that eat the weeds and grass throughout the vineyard. How handy is that? And from that, you can guess where the organic fertilizer comes from at the vineyard. 🙂
On the tour, the guide explained that each toasted white oak wine barrel is used for four times before it is discarded. The first time the barrel is used is for the aging of red wines, including Malbecs and Cabernets. That’s because these wines need to age for much longer than the Sauvaugn Blanc, Chardonnay or even the Pinot Noirs. The hearty reds need to absorb more of the charred oak to soften and add depth to the wine, therefore spending more time in the barrel.
Our Veramonte tour guide was very knowledgeable and personable. The winery produces a wide variety of white, rose and red wine. Many of their wines have won awards including the International Wine Challenge Gold Winner of 2018 for the Chardonnay 2016, and the Silver Medal Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2017 winner for the Carmenere 2015 (this is a grape that tastes to me like a cross between a Malbec and a Cabernet). During my visit, I tasted several of the wines. They were all quite good. I’ll be checking my local wine store for Veramonte labels!
After a short nap on the bus on the way back to Santiago, we ventured on a city tour, which included the Bellavista neighborhood. Bellavista is a very affluent area in Santiago, filled with high-end shops and restaurants. Sort of a hipster area. I was just fascinated by the graffiti and murals that were located throughout the area. The use of such vibrant colors and mixed media was striking. I loved the mosaic mural pictured below.
Upon returning home I did a little research as to why graffiti was so popular in Chile. According to an article I found on Upscapetravel.com, “The history of Chilean street art was straight-up political. At a time when political unrest was rising, in the days before the military coup in 1973, the two opposing parties had different takes on how to get their word across. Pablo Neruda, who was interested in becoming the president of the Unidad Popular, a left-wing policial alliance that supported Allende’s presidency supported the use of images over words.” This explains some of the more politically oriented murals that we saw.
As I kept reading the article I ran across an interesting tidbit. According to Upscapetravel.com, “The last influence is easiest to see in the introduction of pichacao, a stylized kind of simple writing evocative of fonts used by heavy metal bands in the 80’s.” As a child of the 80’s, no wonder I liked the graffiti so much! Who doesn’t remember Kiss, Motley Crew, Metallica, and Whitesnake, just to name a few? I felt a strange urge to get my Aqua Net out.
My trip to the Casablanca and Santiago was great. Stay tuned for my next post and read all about the Restaurant 1884 in Mendoza! xoxo