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Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile

Wine for Normal People

Release Date: 08/17/2021

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Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile show art Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile

Wine for Normal People

Veramonte is a medium sized winery in Chile, with an outsized impact: it's 100% organically farmed and makes up 15% of organic viticulture in Chile. Behind the four brands of Veramonte -- Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, Neyen - is Sofia Vermonte, head winemaker. In this show she talks about the transition to organic farming, the differences in the valleys of Chile and how she is making terroir-driven wines with pure fruit flavors, that showcase the Casablanca, Colchagua, and Maipo Valleys at their best.

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Sofía Araya  - head winemaker of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, and Neyen

Sofía Araya was born and raised in Chile and she has made wine in nearly every high quality valley of the country since she graduated from la Universidad de Chile. After years of working on conventional farms for some big names, she moved to Veramonte. She helped transition the over 500 ha/1,235 acres to 100% ECOCERT certified organic vineyards. Veramonte represents 15% of all organic vineyards in Chile.

 

Sofía is now the head winemaker and oversees the organic Veramonte and Ritual and the organic and biodynamic properties of Neyen and Primus.  All are under the umbrella of Sherry-based Gonzalez Byass.

 

Although this may seem like a mega-brand because of its excellent distribution, it actually turns out that Veramonte and its sister brands – Ritual, Primus, and Neyen – make just 200,000 cases of wine a year (2.4 million bottles) combined. That’s the size of a medium brand at a big hulking winery!

 

Two things that are important:

1. Sofía and I jump right in on the geography. It may be helpful to follow along with the WFNP map or to listen to this podcast we did on Chile before you listen. (You can listen to this on the Casablanca Valley, this on Maipo, and this on Rapel if you really want extra credit!)

2. A summary of the brands to keep it all straight:

    • Veramonte: Cool climate Casablanca and Colchagua wines for everyday consumption. Pop and pour!
    • Ritual: Also from Casablanca, and only Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot. These are more food wines, with stronger tannin, and fuller body. They are a bit more terroir driven.
    • Primus: The same idea as Ritual but these wines are bolder reds. There is a red blend and a Carménère from Apalta in Colchagua, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo.
    • Neyen: The signature, high-end blend, sourced from their top site in Apalta.

 

Here are the points we cover:

  • Sofia tells us about her life and career. She talks about working for Casa Lapostolle and Luis Felipe Edwards in the Colchagua Valley, and Arestí in Curicó.

 

  • We get the history of Viñedos Veramonte and how Sofía was a major part of its transition to organics. We discuss some of the exciting things about the transition and some of the more difficult ones (including a change in mindset.

    **Sofía mentions Flowers and Quintessa as being brands owned by Augustin Hunneus. Flowers is a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir brand, Quintessa is a Napa-based mainly Cabernet-based brand. Both are biodynamic and both are very pricey).

 

  • We discuss the Casablanca Valley at length – its surprisingly cool climate, how it developed through the 1990s and 2000, and the very pure fruit flavors that she is able to achieve in the wines made here: Ritual and Veramonte. We discuss the reds of the region, the different flavor profiles they can achieve in this area, and why they are successful in Casablanca.

  • Sofía discusses Colchagua and why the Carmenére is so good from this area. We discuss the sub areas of Apalta and Marchigue (pronounced mar-Chee-way) from which Primus and Neyen are sourced. We discuss what makes Neyen, their flagship wine, so special.

 

  • Since Primus Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Maipo Valley, we also discuss this beautiful, famed area. We mention the Maipo Alto, Maipo Medio, and Maipo Bajo as being diverse

 

  • Sofía schools us on why Chilean wine is an incredible value for the money and why price doesn’t always mean quality, especially where Chile is concerned.

 

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