Recently, I have been extremely busy (good complaint!) with endless to do lists, never ending tasks and generally running around chasing my tail. When work is like this, it is very easy to lose focus of the reason behind why I do this job. Luckily for me, all it took was a trip to Argentina (yes, sometimes my job is just that good) to make me realise why I come to work every morning. And it really couldn’t be simpler, I love my job because I love wine! A few days spent in the company of the most enthusiastic wine lovers I have ever met has completely refocused me on my reason d’etre.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Argentina on an Importer’s trip to see the amazing work carried out by Chakana wines. Situated at the foothills of the Andes, it realy is the most beautiful and magical place on earth. Meeting the team, Gabriel, the Wine Maker, Facundo, the Vineyard Manager, Nicolas, the money man and Sophie, all round organiser in chief! A combination of their passion for the wine, unwavering belief in their brand and complete focus on their work made this trip feel nothing like work (I won’t lie, the copious amounts of wine tasting helped!) but more of an education of the philosophy of Chakana.
Their ethos is extremely simple. Chakana is the Inca word for the Southern Cross. The Inca’s believed crop, site selection and agricultural practices were all based on an understanding of natural phenomena and their relationship with the position of the sun, moon and stars. The Chakana held the key for finding the perfect timing for cultivation and harvesting of crops. This belief still resonates in the company today. Their focus is on the identity of their wines to reflect the terrior in which they are grown. As a result, they began a process a number of years ago to become completely organic and biodynamic. Farming techniques are seen as an integral part of this process. No pesticides or chemicals are used at any stage of cultivation and through Facundo’s skill, determination and hard work, he has created a balance between the vines and the different ecosystems that exist in the vineyard.
I could literally spend all day long listening to Gabriel speak about his wine. It is inspiring to hear him speak about the winemaking process, terrior and wine identity. It is his belief that each wine should reflect the soil in which it is grown and that each different part of the vineyard has different soil types, so even wine made from the same grapes and has undergone the same fermentation process can taste different, depending on the soil type. I know this sounds slightly left of centre but I can verify that it’s true! Facundo has spent the last number of months digging holes in various different parts of the vineyard so the soil content of each area can be determined. After an afternoon spend wandering from hole to hole (with Facundo’s stress levels rising everytime he couldn’t find the one he was looking for) tasting the wine that came from each separate soil section, the difference both on the nose and in the mouth is incredible. Gabriel’s passion is not limited to just soil! He is also constantly looking for new aging techniques to improve the quality of the wine. We were shown “The Egg” which is a new system of aging wine in a concrete egg shaped tank as opposed to wood so that there is less oxidation and allows the wine more movement as it ages. It looks like something out of back to the future but having tasted his first attempt from it, I think he is on to a winner, absolutely sublime! Gabriel’s love of the work he does really is an inspiration and you can’t help but get swept along with his enthusiasm. Not satisfied with being one of the most interesting people I have ever met, he also happens to be the best cook in the world. He cooked us the most delicious asado, involving every single part of a cow imaginable, each part more delicious than the last and to top it all off, he brews his own beer. There is literally nothing this man cannot do!
Nicholas enthusiasm, wit and humour made the trip even more enjoyable and his genuine love and gusto for the work being done by the winery was infectious. Sophie’s military planning ensured the whole week ran incredibly smoothly and as long as she is rewarded with a glass of wine, there is no problem she can’t solve.
I have returned from Argentina with renewed vigour for my job (and another massive to do list!) but with also a new found respect for the other side of the industry. It is easy to forget that when the wine arrives in our stores with a nice label and fancy packaging, it has taken many years of hard work, commitment, resolve and skill to get the wine from the vine, to the bottle, to us. I also am now in possession of the world’s best Chimichurri recipe that I will totally be trying to pass off as my own, sorry Gabriel!