When I was 22 years old, I visited South America for the first time. I just wanted to improve my Spanish, but in Chili I found my life's mission.
The peasant culture, the wines and traditional cuisine lit a fire inside of me.
I started working as a sommelier to learn all about it, but I soon found out that the gastronomic culture was a world apart from the ancient traditions I had seen. The wines on the restaurant’s list hadn’t much to do with the authentic culture of peasants who had the oldest, non-irrigated, beautiful terroir vineyards (up to 300 years old) planted with native varieties. Franc de pied vineyards that had never been touched by phylloxera. The restaurant mostly sold wines made of recently planted French varieties released by cooperatives.
I travelled all around to talk to landowners, and they told me they never produced for themselves, partly because they could not compete with the prices of cooperatives. So, they were obliged to sell their grapes. The more I got to know, the more dedicated I became to fight for the independent viticulture. To protect the old vineyards from getting torn out. Especially, the nearly forgotten and highly neglected ‘País’ vines.
I was told it was impossible to make good wine out of it. And I shouldn't even think about being able to sell them. My thought was: ‘challenge accepted…’
Harvest by Thomas Parayre