Wines from the driest place in the world in the Atacama

Wines from the driest place in the world in the Atacama desert: the Viña Ventisquero Tara project

The Viña Ventisquero Tara project, whereby three of the company’s winemakers produce wines in the remote desert of Atacama, Chile, has gone from strength to strength…

Ventisquero winemaker Felipe Tosso recently presented his latest wines to the market: Red Tara 1 (Pinot Noir), Red Tara 2 (85% Syrah, 15% Merlot), White Tara (Chardonnay) and a Viognier that has not yet been marketed.

The two vineyards of Tara are located 400 km north of Limarí, 15-20 km from the coast. When the project started, there was only one hectare planted, which in and of itself was not an easy task, given the extreme conditions of the area.

Some weather stations in the Atacama Desert have never recorded a single drop of rain, which is why the region is called “the driest place on earth.”

Yet the estate now counts 13 hectares, which are planted at a very low density to account for the climate. The estate produces the equivalent of 6-7 hectares of ‘standard’ vineyard.

The secret is, of course, irrigation…

The stony soils of the river bed have a high salt content and after several experiments, Viña Ventisquero has developed a method of irrigation ideally suited to the region. The vines are irrigated with 40mm of water over a period of two days once every two to three weeks, in order to provide the optimal salt-water ratio for the vines.

Working this land is a matter of love and care, and as such the wines are produced in small quantities. The grapes are picked by hand and transported 800 km overnight after the harvest, where they are stored in the main cellar in Maipo. The philosophy of the estate is to produce wines with minimal human intervention. The grapes are pressed in the traditional manner, by foot, which produces a very fine lees. Furthermore, the wines are not filtered, which gives them a cloudy appearance.

The wine produced is thus representative of the conditions and environment in which they are grown: chalky, laced with minerality and impure. The end result is, just like the Atacama Desert where they were grown, very far from the mass produced wines Chile is known for.