Welcome on our fourth article of the serie volunteering.
Small reminder for everybody, Yakoilabas is about discovering agroecology, alternative constructions and cultures of the world with an eco-friendly journey, find here the link to our previous article ” travel and ecology, does it work?“, and volunteering through 3 continents. Click here to find out our project.
So we are going to tell you about our volunteering in Chile, in the Rio Bueno region.
The host and the place
We land on the côteaux de Trumao, small village on the banks of the Rio Bueno, at approximately 1 hour from Osorno. We are on the domain of two French brothers, Christian and Olivier who settled down there more than thirty years ago. Arrived at Chile approximately forty years ago, they worked at first in haciendas to capture cows with lasso before buying a piece of land on the banks of a river, the Rio Bueno. They began to plant 2.5 hectares of vineyards, some pinot noir, from the 2000’s. It is necessary to say that lands, in this latitude, are more dedicated to cereal productions or to bovine breeding than wine. The meeting with another French wine grower directed them to natural wine production, without chemical treatment, from the production stage to the wine making phase.
Today, both brothers are mainly taking care of a sawmill in Osorno, the main city of the area. Thus, it is Quentin, young passionate wine grower, who is managing the ground for almost seven years. We were with him during all our stay.
With a production of about 2,500 bottles per year, on 3 hectares, we are in a small vineyard. Much better for us, we can go all over the land easily and discover every hidden place! The vineyard is more a pastime than a real business for the brothers. They chose the name Cruchon to name their wine (and their mascot, we will present him to you lower). Very French name, Cruchon comes from their childhood memory, when their father was bringing back the wine to the house in a small jug (called cruche in French)!
On their lands, Christian and Olivier are producing a natural red wine from pinot noir vines. Until this year, they were rented a field to a neighbour where were cultivated vine to create a white wine. It will be their last harvest on this field. However, new plants of sauvignon, Chardonnays, pinot gris … were planted a few months ago. By a few years, both brothers could offer again some natural white wine.
Here, nothing chemical, everything is hand-made, dogs and cats gallop in vineyards and birds of prey hunt the rodents. We observe and we decide on what works best: some young vines are covered with straw, others with barks. You will also notice on the photos that a row on two is ploughed. What is the interest while in biodynamics or permaculture, one of the principles is to limit the work of the ground? Fields were before used to breeding cattle, the ground was trampled and pressed down during decades. So, during the abundant winter rains, the land was transformed into torrent and the water was not infiltrated. Since the ground was partially ploughed, the streaming is stopped and the infiltration is favoured. Nevertheless, this action was punctual, and the ground will not be ploughed anymore.
We are in summer, in January, there is thus a lot of work. We helped Quentin for 20 days to prepare the grape to be harvested, which happen here between the end of March and the beginning of April. We so have:
- Pick the leaves off plant. The sun is friends and enemy at the same time. We pick the leaves off the heart of the plant and on rising sun side, around the clusters. We touch nothing on the top where the midday sun is setting. The purpose of the operation is to dry the grapes from the morning dew as quickly as possible, to make circulate the air and to protect the grapes from the midday sun by the leaves cover. The presence of many leaves is interesting for the photosynthesis and thus the good development of the plant.
- Treated the vineyards with suffer, copper and an infusion of plants, dandelion, camomile and stinging nettles. The treatment is more preventive than curative in biodynamic; few diseases are to be listed here, in Chile. The presence of the odium disease, due to a mushroom, however is to be listed. The mushroom likes the morning dew to develop, but neither the abundant rains nor the direct sun (from where the importance of picking the leaves off). The treatment is made every three-four weeks between November and the end of February approximately. Suffers, copper, dandelions and camomile are antifungal, they limit the development of mushrooms in particular. The stinging nettle is more to bring some energy to plants.
- Pick dandelions and camomile for the infusions. Dandelions have to dry in the sun, whereas the camomile has to dry in the shade.
- Work in the wine cellar, to taste the wines which are aging in barrels (yes, it is true, it is part of the job!). During our passage, a barrel needed to be aerated, the wine had a foul smell. For that, we decanted it in a big tank and we let it a few hours, time to completely clean the barrel and drain it.
- Prepare bottles for the sale.
- Moving, watered and mulched a compost, made from grapes stem, cow and horse poo.
Life is really hard in the vineyard…
- In biodynamic, there is a calendar created from more fifty years of experiences and observations. The moon and planets rhythms have a more or less important influence on grounds; so there are days convenient to plantation, others favorable in development of roots, or fruits, and also days to do nothing!
If you wish to learn more on natural wine production and to work in a luxurious landscapes with permanent view on a river, with passionate men and affectionate dogs, we strongly recommend the volunteering in the vineyard Cruchon. Quentin will not hesitate to take you discovering the area where each one knows each other, to show you the clandestine bars, to take you fishing, to have an apéritif with the vineyard team around a chicha (kind of cider produces on the domain), to share a good meal, and especially, to answer all your questioning concerning the wine!
We cheer to the vineyard Cruchon!
If you wish to discover more about it, the domain website is here: Coteaux de Trumao