Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Apu Winery is unique for a multitude of reasons, including its high-altitude, proximity to the jungle, pruning schedule and soils. For our first blog post, we would like to focus on the significance of the elevation of our winery and vineyards, which reach an astounding 3,300 meters (10,826 feet). Curious oenophiles often ask us: how does this altitude affect the viticultural conditions and the flavor of our wine? What are some of the challenges we face when working so high in the Andes? There are many successful high-altitude vineyards across the world, including Colomé Winery in Salta, Argentina (3,108 meters/10,200 feet) and LVMH Winery in China (2,600 meters/8,530 feet), proving that it can be beneficial to grow grapes in the world’s most extraordinary mountain ranges.
First, here at Apu Winery, we benefit from a drastic thermal amplitude. Daytime temperatures can reach 40 °C (104 °F), while nights can cool to 2°C (36 °F). However, due to our proximity to the jungle, it never freezes in the Curahuasi Valley, as it does in areas farther away from the equator. These hot days and cool nights provide acidity and balance, important qualities of a fine wine.
Furthermore, because of our extreme elevation, we are closer to the sun. This proximity to the UV rays makes our grape skins thicker, allowing for more concentrated flavors, aromas, and color in the fruit. Also, polyphenols develop in these dense skins, which makes wine our wine rich in antioxidants.
It is widely known that there is less oxygen at higher altitudes. We believe the lack of oxygen works in our favor during the wine-making process, as it delays fermentation. A slower fermentation allows for increased extraction of flavors, aromas, and colors from the grapes and thus makes a more full-bodied, delicious wine.
Although there are many positive aspects to growing grapes and producing wine in these extreme conditions, there are also challenges at 2,850- 3,300 meters. Our vineyards are located on a mountainside where the slope can exceed more than 40°. This inclination creates logistical complications; no machines can operate here, so we prune, harvest and weed by hand. Moreover, although the lack of oxygen is helpful during the fermentation process, it hinders growth at our elevation. This means plants develop at a slower rate and grapes are smaller than in vineyards at lower altitudes.
We have found numerous benefits to growing grapes and making wine at 2,850-3,300 meters. Our proximity to the sun, oxygen levels, and temperature range are all factors that influence the quality of our wine. Some of them pose challenges, while others are beneficial. In the end, we are extremely pleased with the high-altitude wine we make at Apu. We hope you can try a bottle from our second harvest, to be released in Lima in January of 2019!