Wednesday, 23 January 2013

aresti-ed development...

as much as i love to live a life that seeks the pleasures of wine, food, and travel, i forget that within this personal holy trinity lay demons that throw things off-balance. hence, i'm holed up here in Temuco, the largest city in southern chile.

it all started simple enough. after my perfect day in Santiago, i headed south to Curico Wine Region and it's namesake city, Curico. not as well known overseas as the wine regions surrounding Santiago (Maipo, Colchagua, and the previously-mentioned Pablo Morande's baby, Casablanca), Curico offers oenotourists a chance to explore an off-the-beaten-vineyard-path wine region. vineyards are plenty, but tasting rooms are few, so an appointment with Aresti ( and their head winemaker, Jon Usabriaga was in order.

although the facility is large enough and easily situated near the city to welcome visitors, Aresti is much like most wineries in Chile: by appointment only. as one of the lucky few, i had an excellent time touring the grounds, seeing their winemaking process, as well as their bottling line. when you've done as many of these tours as i have, there is always something new and exciting to see. for me, sad as it may seem, it was seeing how bag-in-box wines are bagged-in-boxes. for the record, this is a very small percentage of Aresti wines and is instead intended for markets in eastern europe and scandinavia; Aresti produces excellent wines from the cheap and cheerful "estate selection" line (i'm having one of their merlot's now) to their top-tier "family collection" red blend that is capable of prolonged aging.

also of note is how much aresti is, well, developing. at a production rate of 9-million litres per year (that's about 1-million cases), Aresti is but the 18th largest winery in chile and is considered "mid-sized." and still growing with additions of new vineyard space on sloping hills near the property. sauvignon blanc is the key to curico success, so many vineyards will be planted with this varietal as well as chardonnay and viognier.

with a guided tour of miguel torres chile afterward (they basically pioneered modern chilean winemaking and, most recently, wine tourism - no reservations required here), my vino-stay in Curico ended monday. time to book a trip to Temuco and onward across the Andes to Neuquen, Argentina. fortune, however, does not always favour the thirsty for it is from here that my own vacation development has been arrested.

first, it is mid-summer here in south america, and is it turns out, south americans like to vacation too. as such, bus spaces fill up fast. unable to book onward trips to argentina from chile, i needed to do so here in Temuco. the intention was to make a quick stop (no wine here, no need to stay) and connect onward. such was not the case as the next available bus is at 3:30am thursday morning. the early bird will drink the wine of Neuquen, so it seems, but in the meantime, 2 days in Temuco is on the agenda.

it is in Temuco that chile once ended and the unconquered lands of the Mapuche began. a proud and strong people, the Mapuche were able to fend off not only the Spanish but also the Inca and other tribes for millenia. i learned this at the Museo Regional Araucania (the local museum), which was a nice break from wines. however, for me, it seems the "Mapuche Revenge" has taken its toll in this once hinterland of chile, and i have ventured little beyond the nearby plaza for water, bananas, and a visit to a hygenic museum.

so in the end, it seems that this Temucan trail-block is a blessing in disguise. i'm much happier stuck near a hotel washroom than one at the back of the bus, which is where i would have been had the buses been booked. also, it has given me time to write this blog, enjoy a glass of aresti, and catch up on some of my office work.

office work while in chile? oh yes, i didn't get into that. but that's another story that continues to develop.

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