Toconao Winemakers mark the 2021 harvest with virtual activities
During the summer months, the families in the cooperative come together to celebrate the grape harvest. The celebration marks the beginning of the harvest of the different grape varieties that will bring the award-winning Ayllu wine to life. The project is supported by SQM’s Atacama Tierra Fértil Program.
“Before working with the cooperative, I did not know that grapes could be grown in the middle of the desert, let alone that you could make wine at an altitude of more than 2,400 m. Arriving is Toconao and seeing the vines grow in one of the world’s driest deserts is most impressive,” remarked Sergio Jara, the enologist from the Ayllu project. Sergio is part of the multidisciplinary team that works collaboratively with the Altura Lickanantay Winemakers’ Cooperative, which is currently celebrating the 2021 harvest. This year’s celebration has taken on a different format due to sanitary restrictions.
“Eleven varieties of grapes are harvested at this time of year. We undertake the entire process to turn this desert-grown fruit, whose faithful representation of its surroundings makes a unique product, into Ayllu, the award-winning, high altitude wine,” explained Jara.
In the first week of January, the Altura Lickanantay Winemakers’ Cooperative’s 18 families began working together to harvest more grapes for the Ayllu project’s fermentation processes. This year’s goal is to exceed 20,000 kilos of fruit grown for the Selección Lickanantay de Ayllu lines, which includes the red, white, rosé and orange, premium Haalar and iconic Haalar lines.
“We have a special, unique wine that is produced with different water and climate. As an organization, we aim to position Ayllu in the national and international arena. We hope this harvest will bring greater production with better quality so our product will continue to garner prestige,” remarked Samuel Vara, Secretary of the Altura Winemakers’ Cooperative.
Environment and Community Senior Vice President of SQM Salar, Alejandro Bucher noted that “the harvest is one of the most important times for local winemakers. It marks the beginning of the production process that will bring Ayllu alive. The event will be celebrated differently this year due to the pandemic. Wine tastings and vineyard tours will be moved to online platforms to uphold all the health regulations. The idea is to move forward with the scheduled itineraries to publicize the local product while protecting the health and safety of the entire community.”
2021 Harvest Activities
Cot, Chardonnay, Moscatel de Alejandría and Petit Verdot are some of the 11 grape varieties produced by winegrowers in Toconao. “We set the goal of producing 20,000 kilos of fruit this year. We started with the Pinot Noir harvest and are continuing with Cot,” remarked Luisa Toroco, Vice President of the Altura Winemakers’ Cooperative.
The project’s enologist clarified that “the wine harvest is more than a harvest. It is a celebration in the Lickanantay culture. We decided, along with the cooperative, to do everything online so we can carry on the tradition, but safely.”
Other traditional celebratory activities being offered online due to the pandemic this April 3-4 are: wine tastings, vineyard tours, seminars, a heritage masterclass, stories from farmers and art exhibitions that promote local identity. The program, called “The 1st Lickanantay Winemaking Culture Event”, is made possible through funding from the FNDR 6% for culture program awarded to the cooperative.
Furthermore, FONART awarded the cooperative funding for another project, “The 1st High-Altitude Wine Festival”, where the Ayllu brand will be relaunched. The celebration, which will also be online, will feature music by local songwriters, the Lickau del Vino (Wine Harvest Queen) contest and a photography contest. The international event also promises many other surprises.