Bodega Chacra, Patagonia
Respecting the environment by following biodynamic and organic principles, Piero strives to make wines that are transparent, pure, delicate, and floral with a strong minerality.
In Patagonia, a “chacra” is a special piece of land destined to pomology. At the same time, chacras are vital energy centers that provide us with the ability to connect with the whole universe, with everything living and vibrating. In its nourishment, in the marriage with every meal, wine is the companion of pleasure and sensitivity. Wine is intimate and touches all our senses. Chacra aims to enhance that connection.
Respecting and enhancing the community of Chacra is of the utmost importance. We preserve ungrafted old vines, invest in apiculture, and organically and biodynamically farm. We see Chacra wines as a consequence of nature and a reflection of our true respect for the ecosystem.
PROCESSIn agriculture, one must be considered simply a contributor to nature. It is the vineyard that wants to tell us its story & we are a tool that helps to translate it. We try to make our finest drawing, but our canvas is dynamic; its constant movement requires that we make adjustments and take turns quickly.
For Piero, wine is the result of thousands of tiny decisions taken every day of the year and the unlimited variables. Weather is a crucial factor, making flexibility and nimbleness key to adapting to any changes the winds may bring.
At Chacra, enology begins with the intrinsic value of a natural and meticulous maintenance of the vineyards following organic and biodynamic principles.
Harvests usually begin late February to early March. The old vineyard offers polyphenolic maturity and yields a very low natural performance as to the fruit load (1-1.5 kilos/plant). Consequently, these vineyards strike a perfect balance; the lower the yield, the higher the natural concentration of the berries, thus boosting the quality of the vineyards and bunches.
Once harvest begins, grapes are picked in the small hours arriving to the winery with the remaining hint of that distinctive Patagonian morning cold. Only the best bunches are picked; bunches that don’t reach our quality standard are left to feed the birds. At the winery, a second careful selection takes place where the best bunches are chosen to produce Chacra wines.
At the completion of selection, maceration and the beginning of fermentation are carried out in small, round tanks of little depth and great width to maximize skin contact with the must assuring both equilibrium and homogeney. With regard to maceration, they work delicately and without excessive extraction, in order to obtain a balanced and elegant expression. Fermentation is made at temperatures below 20°C (68°F) with indigenous yeasts in small cement vats. Purification of the wines is made by natural decantation, without filters or other techniques, the intention being to preserve the products’ natural aromas.
French oak is used, extra fine grain barrels, which are dry aged for thirty six months.
BIODYNAMICSAt Chacra, they believe farms are complex living organisms. Their approach to agriculture focuses on the balance of its overall development and the relationship between soils, plants and animals to maintain a system of self nutrition. Avoiding extrinsic intervention whenever possible and keeping in mind that any food exiting from the estate represents a loss of its nutrients.
Artificial fertilizers and toxic pesticides and herbicides are categorically prohibited. Biodynamic agriculture’s uniqueness lies in the use of vegetable and mineral preparations that are added to compost and aerosols for the land, as well as in the use of a sowing and planting calendar based on the movement of the stars.
Treating vineyards with the utmost respect is the fundamental tenant in the winery. While treating their vineyards organically (certified), they have also undertaken the sensible reasoning that all things they take from the natural habitat deserve a reward, proof of gratitude. They strongly believe that only a natural habitat can grow distinctive wines; simple wine cultivation that seeks to sustain and support the microcosm of a region; a sustainable form of wine-making that can persist in perfect harmony with the natural environment.
At Chacra, compost is made with fruit skins, autumn leaves and natural guano from the animals in the estate. Biodynamic preparations are also added to the compost, containing microorganisms that naturally enrich the vineyards.
Various microbiological preparations are used to nourish the vineyard naturally. These are some of the most prominent preparations that they make at Chacra themselves to further contribute to a natural preparation of wines:
BD 500 – Horn Manure Preparation
It is made by filling a horn of a lactating cow with dung from the same animal. The horn is buried in autumn in the top layer of soil with its tip upwards, and left for six months. The preparation increases soil bacteria, funghi and earthworm activity and strengthens humus formation and root growth.
BD 501 – Horn Silica Preparation
This spray is made with clear quartz crystal, which is ground into a very fine powder and then mixed with pure water, such as rainwater. The mixture is buried in a cow horn, the process being similar to that of preparation BD 500, but for that it is buried during the hot seasons, and applied both during the growing season and before harvest. This preparation promotes plant vigor and overall development, thus improving the quality of fruit skins.
BD 502 – Yarrow Preparation
A stag’s bladder is stuffed with destemmed yarrow flowers, and left hanging under the sun during summer. The preparation is then buried during winter. Its use results in the mobilization of sulfur and potassium in the soil.
BD 503 – German Chamomile Preparation
Young flowers must be left to dry under indirect sunlight, after which they are used to stuff a cow’s fresh intestines. The preparation is then buried in autumn for six months. Its use improves calcium metabolism and regulates nitrogen processes.
BD 504 – Stinging Nestle Preparation
Plants must be picked right before blooming to be dried and stored in earthenware pots, which must be buried for a whole year during autumn. This preparation helps the assimilation of iron and magnesium.
BD 505 – Oak Bark Preparation
The brain cavity of a cow’s skull is emptied and flushed, to be filled with freshly grated and sieved oak bark. Next, the preparation is buried in autumn and left for six months, after which its finely distributed calcium helps to strengthen plant defenses against diseases.
BD 506 – Dandelion Preparation
A cow’s mesentery, once cleaned by cutting off as much fat as possible, is filled with the flowers. The end must be folded like a parcel and sewn tightly together. The preparation is then buried in autumn on a descending moon. It is widely used to help silicic acid processes.
BD 507 – Valerian Preparation
A liquid preparation, by which the flowers are grinded and diluted into rainwater. The mixture is left under the sun for a week and then strained. Its use helps mobilizing phosphorous and acts as a protection layer.
BD 508 – Equisetum Preparation
Equisetum flowers are harvested during springtime and dried. A tea is prepared afterwards, and sprinkled in order to bring protection against fungus diseases, most likely at a full moon.