Curicó is a small city of around 150,000 people located 200 km South of Santiago. The surrounding valley by the same name produces half of the wine that is exported from Chile. For that reason, Curicó’s slogan, “City of Wine,” is extremely fitting. This past Saturday, CUP students headed south by train to Curicó’s Grape Harvest Festival (Fiesta de la Vendimia) to learn about the wine industry and culture in Chile.
First thing, we set off for a tour of Viña San Pedro in nearby Molina. This vineyard is one of the biggest and most important in Chile, producer of the brand GatoNegro, which is an extremely popular brand in Chile and abroad. The Molina vineyard has over 1,200 hectares of grapevines, making it one of the largest vineyards in Latin America.
After seeing a panoramic view of the extensive grounds from the top of a small hill, we got to taste three different types of grapes: cabernet sauvignon, reisling and carmenere, Chile’s signature grape.
Since it is harvest time, we got to observe one of the first steps in the wine-making process. After the grapes are harvested (mostly by hand, though some by machine), they are brough to the plant where the fruit is separated from the stems and leaves. The stems and leaves are then used for compost, while the fruit gets the more glamorous job of being made into wine.
When the tour was over, we returned to Curicó and had lunch. Most ate anticuchos, the Chilean verison of kabobs. Then students had time to explore the celebration, visit the tents of the fourteen participating vineyards, peruse the artisan stalls, and watch traditional Chilean folk dancing and singing.