18 Apr 2011
Santa Digna Estelado: First Sparkling Wine Made with 100% Chilean "País" Grapes
The new sparkling rosé wine made by Miguel Torres Chile and the University of Talc is part of a project co-financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Fundación para la Innovación Agraria(Foundation for Agrarian Innovation) (FIA),which seeks new business opportunities for small farmers from the arid interior regions of Maule and Bíobío.
Under the name “Santa Digna Estelado”, the Miguel Torres winery launched into the national market the 2010 harvest of the first sparkling wine made with the País varietal, a product developed within the framework of a project co-financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Fundación para la Innovación Agraria (Foundation for Agrarian Innovation). The initiative, which was begun in late 2007, has the objective of improving conditions for the farmers of the arid interior regions of Maule and Bíobío.
The Minister of Agriculture, José Antonio Galilea, stressed that this kind of project is designed to achieve more than merely generating new market alternatives for the traditional cultivation of the País grape. “Along with that —he stated—, we seek to give small and medium-sized producers the tools to improve their production systems and incorporate technologies in order to be more efficient.”
On the ground, it is estimated that there are some 15,000 hectares planted with the País varietal —the second most important in size after Cabernet Sauvignon—, concentrated principally in the arid interior and coastal areas of the Maule and Biobío regions, where there are approximately 8000 producers.
The profit these farmers make with this crop is low and the reconversion complex, because, as a result of the soil conditions, it is practically the only varietal that adapts here. For this reason, the idea of supporting them arose, so they would give added value to their product, and see the production of sparkling wines as an attractive option.
“Innovation and social responsibility are our basic values. For this reason the project was attractive and challenging to us: to make a product with a varietal that is little valued in Chile. But the most important thing is that each bottle of “Santa Digna Estelado” consumed will help to create a demand and as a result, better conditions for the growers of this varietal, which is so traditional and the oldest in Chile”, pointed out Miguel Torres Maczassek, Executive President of Miguel Torres Chile.
Since the year 2005, sparkling wines have increased their sales 20% in volume and 17% in value. For 2012 the rate of growth is projected at about 10%.
Three Years of Work
In the year 2007, Mariano Fernández, current President of the International Academy of Wine, began the first conversations on the future of the País grapevine in Chile with Miguel A. Torres. Subsequently, the University of Talca and Miguel Torres Chile joined forces to propose a project to the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA). Its objective: to study and research the potential for the País grape in Chile for three years..
The research proposed carrying out various tests, using the traditional "champenoise" method, with País grapes provided by producers of the arid interior zones of Cauquenes, San Javier and Yumbel, a zone of small winegrowers from the VII and VIII Regions of Chile. Some 8 winegrowers turned in an average of almost 2,500 kilos each to start the research.
After obtaining promising results, it was decided to commercially produce a sparkling rosé wine with País grapes from San Javier. In 2011, a production of 7,000 cases is projected.
The research showed that it is not only viable to make sparkling wine with a commercial potential with the País grape, but that the quality of the product obtained is of a very high quality. Fernando Almeda, Technical Director of Miguel Torres Chile and Technical Chief of the Project, describes the physiological characteristics of this varietal: low alcohol percentage and high acidity permit the production of fresh and fruity sparkling wines. This product is made with the correct characteristics to compete with the sparkling wines on the market.
A new taste will create a stir in the Chilean wine industry, since, for the elaboration of this first sparkling rosé, Chile’s oldest grape varietal has been recovered from the past, a varietal that arrived in the 16th century, cultivated by a large number of small winegrowers.
“The País varietal has been forgotten and undervalued for a long time and recently rediscovered for the elaboration of wines of quality. This will allow helping the small producers of this varietal to place the product on the market, raising the value of this raw material and thus rescuing it from the uncertain future it had been facing for many years. We are rescuing the viticulture of 500 years ago,” observed Miguel Torres Maczassek.
Moreover, the 2011 Santa Digna Estelado will have a new label: it will be made under the rules of Fair Trade. As with our entire line of Santa Digna wines, the new sparkling wine will satisfy the standards of labor and environmental sustainability. The people who work with Miguel Torres Chile and their certified producers will receive a “bonus”, which will be 5% of the value of the raw material and 5% of the direct cost of the labor. These resources will be administered by a mixed council, created by the growers themselves, in order to be used for the development of different social projects.
The remaining challenge is the initiation of the steps to introduce a Denomination of Origin for this product, in order to protect the grower and the vinification method to ensure the quality of the wine. The idea is to establish a legal framework that regulates the elaboration of this sparkling wine, giving it a name such as, for example, Spain’s "cava" or the Italian "prosecco”.
Santa Digna Estelado
Nearly 500 years ago, the first grapevine in Chilean history arrived, brought by brave men who struggled across rivers and mountains. This was a special vine: in Spain known as Listán Negro, in the colonies of the new world it was called Misión, and in Chile it would be known as “País”.
This varietal is cultivated in dry zones with humility, hard work, and dedication generally by small winegrowers who have passed their land from fathers to sons over several generations. In 1850 the first French vines were introduced to Chile, leaving the “País” grape aside and later forgotten in time, with an uncertain future.
The rescue of Chile’s oldest grape varietal has produced Santa Digna Estelado, a unique sparkling wine, 100% Chilean, a reward for the land and its people.
Santa Digna Estelado is made using the traditional method with the second fermentation in the bottle. The first sparkling rosé made with the “País” grape has a personality of its own. Coming from a red grape varietal, various notes of fruit predominate in the aroma. The wine is fresh, light, young, bright, balanced and pleasant to drink.
Santa Digna Estelado is found mainly in specialized stores and restaurants with an approximate price of $5.990. Export is also projected, with the first orders soon to be sent to Japan, USA, and certain European countries.
Every bottle of sparkling “País” consumed helps to create demand and, as a result, better conditions for the winegrowers of Chile.