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The centre of the universe

The organic/biodynamic Chakana winery with the ever-present Andean Mountain backdrop (Photograph supplied)

My wife and I go to the rooftop bar of our hotel in Mendoza, a city in the renowned wine region of Argentina that bears the same name.

As we sip our glasses of wine we look up at Alpha Crucis, the 13th brightest star in our skies and the base star of the Southern Cross. The indigenous people of the Andes highlands believe it to be the centre of our universe and the symbolic link between earth and spirit that holds the knowledge of cultivation and harvesting of crops. Their name for this constellation is Chakana. Because of this Juan Pelizzatti decided, in May 2002, that his new winery, that would specialise in organic and biodynamic practices, would also carry the Incan name of Chakana.

Presently there are good stocks of seven of their red wines and they range in price from $17.95 to $31.55. Let us have a look at them – better still why not taste them!

Our 2022 Chakana Atorrante Malbec is made from grapes in the Altamira and Gualtallary areas of Uco Valley and at a price of $17.95 it is not complex, but you can detect red cherries and strawberries along with vanilla. It is medium- to full-bodied and is quite harmonious and focused with a bright malbec-inspired finish. (Stock #8013).

Nuna means soul in the language of the indigenous Quechua inhabitants of this land. The 2019 Chakana Nuna Vineyard Tetrada is from a plot of land that is Chakana's first Demeter-certified organic vineyard. The name Tetrada represents the red varieties planted on this same soil profile that shows great texture and finesse. Tannat and cabernet franc create structure and deepness, while syrah and malbec provide fruity flavours and roundness. The result is a balanced wine with good texture; flavours of blueberries and elderberries; powerful and fleshy with a solid tannic base, but no hint of hardness. If one faithfully follows all the rules for biodynamic farming, then they can get “Demeter-certified '', so named for the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture. $19.95 (Stock #8008).

Just two dollars more and we again visit this estate that is farmed biodynamically just south of the Mendoza River. I love this philosophy of using organic techniques that also restore and heal the land so that plants, animals and people have a more rewarding life. The 2021 Chakana Nuna Estate Malbec received a very credible 90-point rating from Decanter magazine that wrote, “Organic, biodynamic, vegan; youthful and aromatic, showing blackberries, dark cherries and violets. Creamy palate with ripe red fruit. Refreshing finish." $19.95 (Stock #8015).

For those of you who are not familiar with the vegan qualification here is a quick 101. Wine in a storage tank or barrel has small particles suspended in it. Look at a bright beam of sunlight coming through a window, and you get the idea as you see so many tiny specs suspended in the air we breathe. Egg whites or gelatin are commonly used to “fine” or remove these specs as they drift down through the liquid. Vegans will not consume anything that has anything to do with animal products. Some wines are never fined, and some use no animal-connected materials.

Up we go to 2019 Chakana Estate Selection Malbec, still at a most reasonable $22.75, but just look at the review that it garners from the site called Vinous: “The 2019 Malbec Estate Selection is a combination of grapes from different vineyards in the Uco Valley (55 per cent Altamira, 25 per cent Gualtallary and 20 per cent Los Chacayes,) of which 70 per cent is aged in used French barrels. A vivid violet in colour.

“The nose offers precise and attractive notes of fresh, sour cherry and plum with expressive hints of lavender, violet and thyme. The ripeness of the grapes in each region was judged perfectly for the style. In the mouth, it is a compendium of flavours gently marshalled by fine, reactive tannins and a chalky texture that ensures good performance in the bottle. With juicy, well-integrated freshness and fruity flavour at the back of the mouth, this is a wine that has you reaching for another glass. An accomplished take on an Uco Valley malbec. Drinking window: 2021 to 2031.” (Stock #8017).

Now we move on to a sizzling strip steak on the barbecue and you need a red wine that will work to perfection with the beef as they both enhance the enjoyment of each other. I suggest 2019 Chakana Ayni Malbec Paraje Altamira with its aromas of liquorice and blackberries along with a chalky minerality. Flowers and spices follow. $31.55 (Stock #8010).

Chakana also produces two sulphite-free wines, and they are 2021 Chakana Sobrenatural Bonarda that sells for $19.95 (Stock #8018) and 2021 Chakana Sobrenatural Red, a blend of tannat and malbec. The Stock # is 8019 and the price $21.20. What they actually mean is that no sulphur is added, and I know that this can be important for those unfortunate few that may be sensitive and need to be careful.

Here is my take for the rest of us: 5 to 40 parts per million is a natural, and I understand, unavoidable by-product of the chemical process that we call fermentation. As it helps to stabilise wine and allows it to age, some can be added. In the USA 350 parts per million is allowed (organic laws limit it to 100). I have found that credible producers usually work with less in all countries. Meats, cheeses and soups virtually all have it added and dried fruits can contain up to 2,000 parts per million. Heavens, I have even had a few folks tell me that they prefer the wines that they buy here as some do not have any sulphur in them. I explain that Bermuda, like many countries, does not require this information on the label as the USA does. Wineries list this information if they want to sell in this large market!

• This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). A selection of its wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm

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Published September 29, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated September 29, 2023 at 7:24 am)

The centre of the universe

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