• Apu Winery

Updated: Oct 10, 2019



Apu Winery was officially accepted as a member of CERVIM, the Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture. CERVIM is an international organization that promotes and protects heroic viticulture, which is defined as:

Vineyard sites at altitudes over 500 meters (1600 feet)

Vines planted on slopes greater than 30%

Vines planted on terraces or embankments

Vines planted on small islands in difficult growing conditions


While vineyards only need to meet one of the requirements to be considered a heroic vineyard, we meet three. Our vineyards reach 3,300 meters/10,827 ft. (the highest in the world), the slopes of our steep hillside are more than 40% and we use a terracing system to plant in these difficult conditions.


What is more important for us about being a heroic vineyard is the economic impact of growing grapes in this area of Peru. For more information, please read the following post:


https://www.apuwinery.com/post/the-economic-impact-of-heroic-viticulture


Sources:


“A Centre for the Heroic Viticulture.” Centro Di Ricerca, Studi e Valorizzazione per La Viticoltura Di Montagna, 2019, www.cervim.org/en/heroic-viticulture.aspx.


  • Apu Winery

Updated: Aug 18, 2019


Our lush ecosystem lends itself to the growth of many native plants on the hillsides of our high-altitude vineyards. Some of that flora is immensely beneficial, assisting us with our viticulture process by repelling insects, protecting against diseases and predicting the future success of vines. However, many other bushes and shrubs that grow rampant here are detrimental to the vines. We will highlight 4 plants in this post, molle, chamana (hopbush), salvia tubiflora and aternanthera villosa, and discuss their influence on our vineyards.



Molle (Schinus molle)



Native to the Peruvian Andes, molle is an evergreen tree that produces bright pink berries similar to peppercorn. In traditional Andean medicine, the flowers, leaves and stems are used to treat arthritis, bronchitis, cough and chills (Bussmann).


Vineyard uses: Molle is a natural bug repellent, so we have the trees strategically placed between our rows of vines to control pests. Its short stature allows molle to act as a wind breaker, while creating mininal shade on our vines.




Chamanas (Dodonaea Viscosa)



This flowering evergreen shrub belongs to the soapberry family. It grows abundantly in the Andes between 1000-3800 meters. Although we battle with the chamana's deep roots that overcrowd our vineyards, the chamana has many practical uses, Andean people use the leaves to combat arthritis pain (Reynel).


In other parts of the world, chamana is called "hopbush" because its flowers can be used instead of hops to make beer (Richins Meyers). The flowers are seen below in this picture:





Vineyard uses: We use chamanas to separate lots, allowing us to contain fungi and other infections within each vineyard. But perhaps their most important function, chamanas are the best indicator of future success of grapevines. The nature of their root system is very similar to grape plants. They grow deep roots that penetrate the limestone soils, allowing them to maintain their green color and robustness during dry season. Their healthy appearance during dry season also tells us that we could successfully practice dry farming here.




Salvia tubiflora


Salvia tubiflora and alternanthera villosa are perhaps the most detrimental plants that grow in our vineyards because they attract fungi and other diseases such as phomopsis viticola. We don't use herbicides or machines to remove weeds, so keeping these plants at bay requires the work of many hands.




Seen above, salvia tubiflora can be boiled to create a topical to treat body pain in traditional medicine. We frequently remove this bush because diseases such as mildew and mold love sticking to its stems and flowers.




With its small white flowers, alternanthera villosa is known as "Hierba del Oso" in the Andes (The bear's herbs). In traditional Andean medicine, its leaves, flowers and stems are boiled to protect against evil. Fungi thrive on the stems of these flowery plants. The spores then migrate to our vines. Just like salvia tubiflora, we constantly remove alternanthera villosa to protect our grapevines from deadly diseases.






Sources:


Bussmann, Rainier W, and Douglas Sharon. Medicinal Plants of the Andes and the Amazon - The Magic and Medicinal Flora of Northern Peru. Ethnobotany Research & Applications, 2016.


Reynel, Carlos, et al. Guia De Identifación De Las Plantas Del Derecho De via Del Ducto Del Peru LNG. June 2012, perulng.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Guia_identificacion_plantas.pdf.


Richins-Myers, Vanessa. “Growing Hopbush in Your Garden.” The Spruce, 21 May 2019, www.thespruce.com/hopbush-growing-tips-4011881.


“Schinus Molle.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schinus_molle.

  • 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.

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