Ramses II - ‘El Niño’: our second wine made in the cellar of Clos Santa Ana in Colchagua Valley, Chile.

The birth of RAMSES II - 'El Niño'

RAMSES the Second - El Niño

Grapes Syrah and Carignan

Location Santa Ana, Colchagua valley, Chile

Fermentation fermentation with native yeast, 60% carbonic maceration, 40% destemmed by hand and crushed by feet

Raised one year in french oak barrels of 225 liters, of 3 years old. 

Alcohol 12,2%

When to drink from 2018 until 2022

Total 800 bottles. 

Status shipped to Amsterdam and up for sale. 

Price € 17,50

Unfiltered and not clarified. No pumps used to move the wine, only gravity. Bottled by hand, and labelled by hand. 

In Chile we first worked for a big company named François Lurton. As you may have read, we didn't quite like it there. It was mass production, and wine was made according to schedules. Also, a lot of enological substances (enzymes, nutrients, yeast, different kinds of acid, loads of sulphites, wood chips and so forth) were added in order to produce a wine that was desired: not really our style. But, we had to experience this in order to know how we DON'T want to make wine. 

making pizza in Santa Ana

making pizza in Santa Ana

Anyway, through our good friend Pancho we met the wonderful baron Luiz Allegretti, who made our life in Chile worthwhile. We changed internships and began working for Luiz, who owns a few hectares that are farmed organically. His wines are a reflection of those vineyards: healthy, full of flavor, energy with a little rough edge. Whereas it seemed impossible to make our own wine during our internship at Lurton, for Luiz it was no problem at all. He even helped us searching grapes, barrels and whatever else we needed. 

Dido en Luiz treating the grapes well

Dido en Luiz treating the grapes well

The region of Colchagua Valley in Chile is dominated by mass production wineries. A lot of grape farmers are pressured to produce as many grapes as possible per hectare; if they fail, the big wineries forces them to sell the grapes for less money. As a result, the farmers work incredibly hard for a low pay, and deliver grapes of even worse quality. The juice of these grapes is then adjusted by adding loads of stuff (these enological substances that we talked about earlier), and a similar medium quality product is produced every year for a low price: a reputation for which Chilean wine is known for. 

loading hand picked shyrah into the 'bakkie'

loading hand picked shyrah into the 'bakkie'

Destemming syrah by hand

Destemming syrah by hand

Some farmers choose not to put up with this anymore; some choose to produce their own wine or find small wine producers in need of grapes. Like us. And as we start talking and asking people around we quickly met Enrique, a farmer who owned some hectares of 70 year old Carignan vines. Eight years ago he changed to Carignan, crafting over his old Sémillon vines. We were delighted, as it is quite hard to find Carignan in this region, and we love this grape for its sturdy character: robust with dark fruit, high acidity and sticky tannins. To keep the right acidity we decided to harvest the plot early; so early, that even Enrique was surprised. Eventually this turned out to be a great decision, as weeks later a heavy rain storm that lasted more than three days due to the weather phenomenon 'El Niño' destroyed more than half of the vineyards in the region. 

Pancho's checking the sugar ripeness of the carignan

Pancho's checking the sugar ripeness of the carignan

We chose to ferment the Carignan grapes carbonically. Therefore we could borrow a plastic 'bin' of Luiz. We selected the grapes while picking in the vineyard, and then again at the cellar. We placed all the intact bunches of grapes, and gently pushed them down so no air was found between them. We closed the bin with plastic foil, and made sure no oxygen stayed inside. We left the grapes alone, and waited for the carbonic fermentation to begin, which it did after a few days. We decided to push it a little down, so the top layer didn't dry out. After two weeks we pressed and filled up one barrel, in which it ended the fermentation. 

Then we were looking for a blending partner. And again via via, which is the way to go, we found excellent quality of grapes on the land of the Barlow family, nearby. We were invited to have lunch on their wine estate. Ed Barlow, age 94, is incredibly vivid and entertains everyone. We got the chance to take a look in their vineyards, planted on volcanic soils, and we really liked the concentration and spiciness of their Syrah. 

After harvesting the Syrah by hand, we also chose to destem the grapes by hand. This took us one whole day, listing to the music of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and many others. When finally all the grapes were in the vat we stamped on them with our feet to crush them. 

We pressed after 10 days of maceration, and put the wine in one barrel and one amphora. Eventually we blended the two amphorae into one barrel as well, that left us with one barrel of Carignan, one barrel of Syrah and one barrel of them combined. 

A year later in April 2017 we returned to Clos Santa Ana and Luiz to bottle Ramses the Second, 'El Niño'. We eventually filled 800 bottels by hand and made them ready for shipment to Amsterdam.