Roadtrip through the Colchagua Valley, Chile

I had thought about the title of this post “The Colchagua Valley or the claim to wine”. Before I left, I was worried: there’s nothing more impossible for me than to write nice about something I don’t like. And I didn’t like wine (like coffee, mate, and beer). After this trip, this story and a few drinks something changed. Don’t ask me what, but I found out I love red wine. The claim, after all, ended up being mine.

It looks small. Seen from above, the little piece of land that separates the Andes from the Pacific Ocean barely covers my little fingertip. The map of Chile is displayed on the King size bed. The white sheets ─de those that are quoted for the amount of hilos─ are a luxurious frame for our menu worn out and mistreated by the wind. Cross-legged, with eyes of one who has not slept in a long time, John calculates the distances. I just got out of the shower and I barely put on my pajamas.

Sitting on the hugging mattress, I use my index finger to follow the paths we will see in the morning. I’m looking forward to it. It’s not the first time we’ve been to Chile. We have already hitchhiked through the north and Patagonia, we have already slept in Carabinieri cabins and in houses with humble hearts. This time, however, it is different. We’re going to travel on routes we’ve never traveled before. This is our first time in the center of the country, and even though we have come as part of the 3 Travel Bloggers project, and we don’t have to hitchhike or worry about the routes, the traveler’s skills are not lost. We are hours away from going out on the road and the map of Chile is already full of both of us.

Santiago barely wakes up. The early hours of this fall morning look black and white. The traffic is moving in slow motion, but there’s no rush. We travel south in search of one of Chile’s most famous wine routes. The Colchagua Valley begins in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 4,700 meters and extends between chains of hills and more than a dozen soils to the sea. Right there, in that narrow strip of the map, mountain winds filter through with Pacific winds creating the perfect conditions to produce world-class red wines. “In 2005 Wine Enthusiast magazine chose Colchagua as the best wine region in the world”, Mauricio, our guide, tells me with a certain mischief. If he were Brazilian, Mauricio would have already found some excuse to talk about the five-time champion, but as he is Chilean and as football doesn’t give him any, I intuit that the wines are going to be the reason for the chicanery of the whole trip.

As the patriotism of wine is not born in me, he asks me what is my favorite grape variety, to make conversation. I am sorry to tell you that for some strange reason I love wineries but I never drink wine. The truth is, I don’t even understand what I enjoy about these walks, because I almost always skip the free tasting. “I like Cabernet,” he said to make him happy. “That’s because you haven’t tried the Carménère yet,” he says. And he smiles victoriously.

It takes a while to leave Santiago behind, but when we finally manage to do so, the sun is already higher and the colors of autumn begin to sparkle over the mountains. We then arrive at the first finca of the tour. Santa Rita is located in Maipo and is one of the oldest wineries in the region. Founded in 1880, but the history of this place goes back even further in time. In 1818, during Chile’s war of independence, Paula Jaraquemada lived on this farm.

So far 120 Patriots have arrived, exhausted after a battle, and so far they have been picked up by the Royal Army. The story goes that the lady not only gave asylum to the soldiers but also confronted the enemies, refused to open her house and risked her life for the people’s struggle. Jaraquemada is one of the most important female characters in the history of Chilean independence. But we will know that after the tour when we watch a video and get to know the house before the tasting.

Now the guide makes us walk through the vines. On the tour, there are other men, those who walk around with their bellies out, with their hands folded behind their backs and their chins up high. The girl should not pass 25, but she speaks with a knowledge that neither of the two presumed good drinkers can break.

We take notes, we take pictures. The leaves of the vines are still green, but the time for harvesting has just ended. I play a little game of getting lost in the rows. I like to see the green furrows rise above the earth. The group stopped at some vines to see the differences between the few grapes that arrived late to harvest. I ask the guide why there are roses at the beginning of each row, and she tells me that’s a good question.

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