For years mistakenly overlooked as a mediocre grape, there are Chilean producers now trying to rescue this ancient variety from oblivion. Patricio Tapia praises these fresh and easy-drinking reds, and picks five País wines to discover.
País is a grape variety that was brought by Spanish conquistadors to South America during the 16th century and for centuries was responsible for all the reds produced on this side of the world.
Then, for years both oenology schools and wine producers considered it a mediocre grape, only suitable for bulk wines – far away from the quality and elegance of the French varieties that everybody was using to probe the potential of Chile as a wine country. But in the past decade País’ reputation has begun to change.
The example set by the recent pioneers of País has since been followed by a growing community of producers – from small and artisanal names like Tinto de Rulo, Cacique Maravilla and Maitía to giant wineries such as San Pedro and Concha y Toro. After years of darkness, languishing in the shadows of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, País is finally being appreciated for its fresh and easy-drinking reds, rescuing the heritage of this truly ancient variety of the New World.