Alice L’Estrange is originally from Australia but has been living and working in South and Central America for many years, first in direct-trade coffee, then in natural wine importing. In the process, she fell in love with small scale agriculture, and wanted to pursue “the kind of international trade that has positive socio-enviro impact.” For a time, she made natural wines in South Australia with her good friend and business partner Lucy Kendall, but eventually decided she needed a change, and escaped to Chile to make wine “in a place where social and environmental concerns take front and center.” Market forces that depress the cost of local grapes are the main reason for the use of chemical fertilizers and the abandonment of old vineyards in the area. Now, she works with three local farmers, who she has helped to convert their vineyards to chemical-free, regenerative farming practices. These methods are meant to restore the soils that have been damaged by chemical pesticides, but also to protect against wildfires and improve yields and quality.
Las Fermentadas is a project helmed by Alice L’Estrange, open to any women who would like to make natural wine collaboratively at her winery as a team. In 2021, Alice worked with Coline Marre, a French Oenologist, and Isidora Munita, a Chilean raw milk cheesemaker. They purchased grapes from an organically farmed, chemical free vineyard in Quirihue, in the Itata Valley farmed by Miguel Antonio Melo Henriquez who had been selling the farm’s grapes as table grapes due to the lack of a market for wines from the area. In the future, the participants in this project will change, and they may work with grapes from different sources, but Las Fermentadas will always be about collaborative women-made wines.
Cracklin' Rosie 100% Cinsault from a vineyard of 20-year-old vines tended by Pepe Mora in Guarilihue. Alice has been working with Pepe for a few years and has helped him move away from conventional agriculture. The vineyard is planted on granitic clay-loam soils at 150m altitude and faces northeast. The grapes were destemmed and pressed, with the juice left in contact with the skins for 24-48 hours. A small amount of SO2 added at crush to combat a bit of botrytis. Fermented in plastic tank until density reached 996, then the wine was bottled to finish in bottle in the Ancestral Method.
Pipeño Pastiche Moscatel of Alexandria and Chasselas (locally called Corinto), with a bit of Moscatel Rosado from 2 vineyards farmed by Sergio Parra (Chorrillos) and Soledad Caamaño (Unión). Los Chorillos is at 200m altitude and typically struggles to reach full ripeness. La Unión is warmer,the grapes uniquely thick skins and concentrated flavors – balance is obtained by blending the two plots. Both vineyards planted on granitic sandy loam soils and the vines are 75-150-years old. The grapes are picked gradually as they ripen and entirely destemmed with a zaranda, then ferment without crushing in sealed isothermic bins. Each bin was pressed separately into stainless steel tank when fermentation finished (about 4 weeks later), until the last two bins, which were added to the tank without pressing. A thick flor developed in the tank, and the flor and skins were left in tank for nearly 9 months, before racking and bottling.
Wild Sergio 100% País from the Los Chorillos vineyard, farmed by Sergio Parra. The grapes for this wine come from the no-till portion of the vineyard, under 150m altitude, mostly south facing. The soils are granitic sandy loam, and the vines are 100-150-years-old. The grapes were destemmed and rested on their skins for 4 days, then was drained without pressing to finish fermenting in neutral plastic eco-tank. There, it quickly developed a flor and rested for 10 months before racking and bottling with residual CO2. The very hands-off approach for this wine was intended to reflect the no-till farming of this portion of the vineyard.
Las Fermentadas Sangrada 100% País.from an ancient vineyard now farmed by Miguel Antonio Melo Henriquez. The vines are at about 150m altitude, planted on granitic clay-loam soil. The grapes for this wine come from the bottom of the parcel, where the grass is kept high, and the grapes struggle to ripen. Sangrada and Zarandeada are two wines from the same fruit made in different ways. All of the grapes for Sangrada were destemmed and pressed very gently into neutral plastic fermenters. When fermentation finished, some of the pressings from Zarandeada were added to the juice to impart color and structure. A flor formed, and the wine rested in plastic tank until racking and bottling.
Las Fermentadas Zarandeada 100% País from an ancient vineyard now farmed by Miguel Antonio Melo Henriquez. The vines are at about 150m altitude, planted on granitic clay-loam soil. The grapes for this wine come from the bottom of the parcel, where the grass is kept high, and the grapes struggle to ripen. Sangrada and Zarandada are two wines from the same fruit made in different ways. 1/3 of the grapes were destined for Zarandeada, and they were destemmed by hand with a zaranda and fermented in an infusion style without pigeage or crushing for four weeks. The wine was then aged in plastic eco-tank under flor until racking and bottling. No fining, filtering, and only a small addition of SO2.