• Apu Winery

Updated: Aug 17, 2019



Our high mountain vineyards have an inherently low yield. While the relationship between yield and grape quality is hotly debated, we strongly believe that our wine has exceptional quality and intensity because of a meager grape yield of less than 1 ton per acre. For us, a small crop and smaller berries means more concentrated flavors.


Many factors influence our grape output, including the age of our plants, poor soils, high altitude and occasional spring damage.



1: Age of our plants

Imported from Chile in 2015, our Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines are currently the only plants in production at Apu. These young plants currently produce grapes that are sparse and small, although their size is increasing with each season.



2: Poor soils

In Apu’s vineyards, a thin top layer covers rocky limestone soils, forcing the vines’ roots to seek nutrients and moisture deep below the surface. That vine stress forces the development of grapes instead of leaves and canopies, producing smaller berries and thus, lower yield.



3: High-altitude

There is less oxygen at our extreme high altitudes. Plants that receive less oxygen absorb nutrients slower and therefore grow slower. The end result is smaller berries with a high ratio of skins and pips to juice and more concentrated phenolics, the chemical compounds responsible for intensity in wines.



4: Occasional spring damage

Hailstorms can be a threat to our vines. For example, in the spring of 2018, large hailstones destroyed about 30% of our grapes. This makes our production per vine even more meager, but gives us more concentrated fruit.

In conclusion, these 4 factors all contribute to low yield, meaning we have smaller grapes with more intense flavors and aromas. The end result is a unique, premium Peruvian wine.





Works Consulted:


Echeverría, Gerardo, et al. Effects of Soil Type on Vineyard Performance and Berry Composition in the Río De La Plata Coast (Uruguay) . 3rd ed., vol. 51, Oeno One, 2017,


“Learn Everything about the Soil, Terroir and Climate of Bordeaux.” The Wine Cellar Insider, www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/dirty-little-secret-soil-terroir-bordeaux/.

  • Apu Winery

Updated: Aug 18, 2019


Our red wine is now resting in French oak barrels, allowing the flavors and aromas to stabilize and meld. Harvest is long over, but we still reflect on the gratitude we feel when the last hand-picked grape is crushed. Seeing the fresh juice flow from the press reminds us there is something profoundly satisfying about growing grapes deep in the Andes.


Operating a vineyard at this altitude is no small feat. Standing among dramatic peaks of the Andes, contemplating a precipice lined with vines, one doesn’t wonder why growing grapes in extreme conditions is called “heroic viticulture”. The term applies to vineyards planted on difficult terrain: altitudes over 500 meters (1,600ft), on slopes greater than 30%, on terraces or embankments, or on small islands (Centre). While vineyards must only meet one of the criteria to be considered “heroic”, we meet 3 of them. The difficulties we face with our high-altitude, steep slopes, and terraces make us feel especially proud of every bottle of wine we produce.


However, overcoming these orographic obstacles isn’t the most rewarding part of this project; its economic impact on local communities is most satisfying. Manual labor is necessary at heroic vineyards where the conditions of the terrain are so challenging that the use of machines is impossible. In larger, more accessible vineyards, machines do most of the work. On our steep slopes, mechanization is not possible, so we require many human hands to complete the grape-growing and winemaking cycles. Everything here is done manually, from planting to pruning, to harvesting, crushing and bottling. The more hands we require, the more families we provide for.


Some vineyards in this classification are located in remote areas that have little possibility for economic development. This is the case of our region, Apurimac. According to a study monitoring poverty in Peru, Apurímac is the second poorest region in Peru (INEI). In this agrarian society, most landowning families depend on short-term crops for sustenance and income, leaving them vulnerable to overproduction, debt and other risks. Those who don’t own land find themselves susceptible to predatory renting practices, low wages and unemployment when their services aren't needed. Women are especially susceptible, as they are often the sole breadwinners of the family. They earn even less than men, their wages so low that they are unable break the poverty cycle. Recognizing the struggles of our female workers, we created a stipend program to cover their monthly food expenses, which we hope relieves the pressures of single parenting in one of the poorest regions of Peru.


Since viticulture is a year-round activity, we frequently have large groups of workers to maintain the plants, for weeding, and for construction projects. For time-sensitive projects like harvest and pruning, we require even more hands, sometimes tripling our worker base. Viticulture is a skill that can be learned. We are developing an educational program with scalability that can be applied to other remote areas of Andes that are suitable for grape growing. Teaching Andean people how to tend to vines will allow them to diversify their crops and make long-term investments for their futures.


The economic benefits of heroic viticulture go beyond Apurímac. In her article, What Businesses Are Involved in Heroic Viticulture?, Marina Novato noted its significant economic impact across the world in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East: “It has a decisive economic role in some areas. Think, for example, of the particular mountain areas or small islands that have found, precisely in the planting of heroic vines, an effective way to turn the difficulty of the territory into a great resource”. Microclimates across the entire Andes mountain range could provide optimal conditions for vitis vinifera. We envision patches of vines surrounding small communities like the Curahuasi Valley, long-term investments that will provide for generations of families across the span of Peru.


Heroic viticulture means so much more than overcoming physical and geographical obstacles. We hope to see more heroic vineyards in the Andes and beyond, creating monetary benefits to those in remote areas. Successfully planting vineyards at 3,300 meters in the Andes was ambitious and exciting for us, but the economic impact was the monumental force behind this project.



Sources:


“A Centre for the Heroic Viticulture.” Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture, www.cervim.org/en/heroic-viticulture.aspx.


“Evolución De La Pobreza Monetaria, 2007-2016.” Instituto Nacional De Estadística e Informática, May 2017.


Lovato, Marina. “What Businesses Are Involved in Heroic Viticulture?” wine2wine, 6 Nov. 2018, www.wine2wine.net/what-businesses-are-involved-in-heroic-viticulture/?lang=en.

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

Vineyards in Eastern Washington State and Mendoza, Argentina are renowned for their diurnal temperature variation, AKA thermal amplitude. Thermal amplitude can be described as an extreme temperature range within a 24-hour period (hot days and cool nights). Here at our high-altitude vineyards in the Peruvian Andes, we have considerable temperature shifts. Due to our high elevation, days are hot and nights are cold. However, it never freezes here because our proximity to the Amazon Rainforest. To give you an idea of these shifts in temperature, here is a recent snapshot of our thermometer:


The low of the day was 3.5°C (38°F) but the high was 35°C (95°F), giving us a thermal amplitude of almost 32 degrees Celsius

So how does a drastic thermal amplitude affect the plants and influence our wine? The answer comes down to photosynthesis, respiration and the energy saving abilities of vines. During the day, plants undergo photosynthesis to produce energy and store carbohydrates (glucose). Plants also respire, which is when they convert nutrients obtained from soil into energy for their cellular activities.


At night, plants continue respiration, but can't photosynthesize without sunlight. This means the vines use less energy at night. Also, respiration slows with colder temperatures, so the lower the nightly temperature, the less energy the grapevine consumes. Plants can therefore use this leftover energy for their fruit, creating berries that are more rich, colorful and intense. Moreover, the heat during the day allows our grapes to ripen faster and develop more sugar, while also developing darker fruit flavors and thicker skins, giving us some lovely tannins in our wine. Finally, as we have mentioned in previous blog posts, cool nights are also crucial for generating acidity in the grapes.


It was quite surprising for us to find the optimum viticultural conditions at this location in the Peruvian Andes. Thanks to our proximity to the jungle and our high-altitude, an exceptional thermal amplitude works in our favor 365 days of the year, providing us a premium wine that is fruity, balanced, colorful and robust.


Source:


“Visiting Mendoza, Argentina Part 1: A Question of Altitude.” Wine Anorak, 2008, www.wineanorak.com/Argentina/argentina1_altitude.htm.

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