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País: The Light Red Wine You Should Be Drinking This Summer

País: The Light Red Wine You Should Be Drinking This Summer

País is the signature wine grape of Chile, where it first arrived in the 1500s courtesy of Spanish missionaries. That explains why país is known as ‘mission’ in the US, and how it came to be the first grape variety ever planted in the Americas. But over the subsequent centuries, it became little more than an oft-derided curiosity, known for bulk wines without any real character. And then, like amaranth or barefoot running, it burst back onto the scene in the last few years.


País’ recent rise to prominence can be attributed to a handful of Chilean natural winemakers who’ve zeroed in on the country’s crop of old vines. Because phylloxera never reached Chile, those vines can be insanely old, sometimes 200 years or more. The resulting wines are unique - light like Beaujolais, a little smoky like syrah, and herbal like cabernet franc. País is wild enough to please anyone who enjoys trying something different, yet easy-drinking enough to be a go-to chilled red during the summer. And because its reputation hasn’t caught up to the current reality, the wines offer great value for the price.


3 País Producers to Look Out For:



Macatho


Macarena del Dio studied winemaking at the University of Bordeaux, before working under a legend of the natural wine movement, Yvon Métras in Beaujolais. At Macatho, she and Frenchman Thomas Parayre, farm tiny parcels of old-vine país a few miles from the Pacific ocean. The hand-harvested grapes are turned into natural wines with no added sulfites, adding savory flavors to the grape’s inherent bright, floral ones.

Macatho, País 'Segundo Flores' 2019



Catalina Ugarte


Catalina Ugarte is a young winemaker who produces país at high altitudes in the south of Chile. She hand-harvests organic grapes and takes a natural approach in the winery, but it’s her 200+ year-old vines that make her wines truly unique. They help Catalina make a wine that’s simultaneously concentrated and savory, yet floral and refreshing.

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Roberto Henriquez


After working at renowned wineries across four continents, Roberto Henriquez returned home to his native Chile. In the mountains a short drive from the Pacific, he farms old-vine país with little help besides a few trusted animals plowing the soil. His natural, single-vineyard país is light and thirst quenching, with texture and smokiness unique to his hand-selected growing sites.

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