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Old vine conservation project to revitalise Chile’s wine heritage

Published:  09 October, 2023

Viña Santa Carolina has announced it is collaborating with the Quirihue Winemakers Association (Agrupación de Viñateros de Quirihue) on the next phase of an ongoing project, which has so far spent 10 years working to recover centuries-old grape varieties in the Itata Valley. 

For more than a decade, Viña Santa Carolina’s Bloque Herencia grapevine recovery project has been dedicated to the study, conservation and propagation of more than 130 selections of grape varieties from pre-phylloxera plant material.

Now, the next stage will involve donating plant material and providing technical advice to the association’s 36 members. By recovering almost-extinct, centuries-old vineyards and exploring the development of Mediterranean grape varieties, it is hoped the project will revitalise viticulture in the area, which has suffered significant losses of older vineyards in recent years, as a result of forest fires and the conversion of soils to more profitable agricultural products.

Daniel Romero, president of the Quirihue Winemakers Association, said: “As lovers of the land and our traditions, we consider it an honour to receive this support to continue protecting our winemaking legacy in diverse soils and climates where we see a unique opportunity for genetic conservation. The winegrowers in our region are looking forward to receiving these Mediterranean varieties and unique selections from the Bloque Herencia recovery project. Our association is exceedingly proud to bring this genetic material to our valleys, and we pledge to care for it and propagate it.”

This alliance between Viña Santa Carolina and the Quirihue Winemakers Association will not only help preserve the rich winemaking heritage of the Itata valley, but will also strengthen the fight against diseases and pests, the two said in a joint statement. 

The donation of plant material includes Mediterranean grape varieties with high adaptability potential, such as Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Tempranillo. Comprehensive technical data sheets will also be provided, as they are essential for the cultivation of these vines. 

The project conceived by Viña Santa Carolina has been described as ‘a true living and natural laboratory that has reached an unprecedented scale’.