by Fred McMillin
for December 19, 1997
Winery of the WeekHip, Hip, Hurrah for Tarapaca
How the Vine Came to Chile...
c.1523 A.D.—Early Spanish missionary Fray Toribio de Benaventa wrote that the first Europeans in the New World found near Mexico City "big wild grapevines...bearing many clusters of grapes. Some Spaniards make vinegar out of them, and some make small quantities of [unsatisfactory] wine out of them."
1526—Fray Benaventa reports that at a wedding of eight Spaniards guests brought "good jewels and much wine, the jewel that gave the most joy." However, it was difficult and expensive to import wine, so Cortez brought in European vines and intiated New World winemaking.
1556—The missionaries have moved the vine south rapidly and winemaking is well established in Chile.
...Tim Unwin's "Wine and the Vine"
The Rest of the Story: Four and a half centuries later, more winemakers are coming to Chile. Low land and labor costs are beckoning California vintners, seeking ways to meet product shortages. For example, Beringer has combined forces with a venerable Chilean winery established in 1874, Vina Tarapaca. Their first imports are 1997 (harvest is in March) Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, 1996 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. My tasters felt they were fine values, all at $7.
Just the Facts
Epilogue: Whence the name "Tarapaca"? In the 1930's, the co-owners of the winery divorced. The wife's lawyer, from the northern region of Tarapaca, pulling an upset, won her ownership of the operation. Hence, the name was changed to Vina Tarapaca. Oh yes, maybe winning that trial was not so much of an upset after all. You see, her lawyer was Don Arturo Alessandri whose other job was PRESIDENT OF CHILE!
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