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This interview with Alessio Zenato took place on Skype in March, 2020.
How did Clos Santa Ana come to be?
There are two owners: Luiz Antonio de Gracia Allegretti is half Italian and half Brazilian and Roberto Ibarra García is Chilean and currently resides in Lima as the ambassador of Chile to Peru. Luiz lives here on the
They purchased the house and the land in 2003. It’s a patrimonial house that is almost 300 years old. They began restoring it as well as the soil, since for many years it had been planted in rice. It was much too hard to plant vines. They immediately hired Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, whom many regard as the most important contemporary soil technicians. For many years we planted legumes to re-stabilize the micro-organisms of the soil, bringing it back to life.
This continued until 2012, when the first vines were planted. We have
How big is the property and how many hectares of vines were planted?
The property is about 35
We intentionally planted the vineyard in the middle of the whole property. It is completely surrounded by native plants, trees and wild animals (we also own a lot of animals). These were already there. We’d have to rip them out to plant more vines and we do not want to.
Is there anything else produced on the property?
The biggest part of the business is receiving guests who stay for extended periods of time. It’s certainly not a hotel, but it’s a very nice, relaxing experience. We also have a very well regarded private art collection that draws visitors.
There is also a vegetable garden but this is for our personal consumption.
And what is your role at the estate?
I'm in charge mostly of
Who is making the wine?
We have assistance from two winemakers who come to give us some directions, Jose Miguel Sotomayor and Luca Hodgkinson. But Luiz and I are responsible for the winemaking itself. We also get many volunteers from all over the world who help us at various stages. It’s great to be together with such an international group; some stay a month, others longer. Whatever we need, they are there.
How did you end up at Clos Santa Ana?
I came on a tour a few years ago. I’d heard of the project but it was so inspiring that I changed the entire course of my life and decided to stay. I immediately hit it off with the owners and originally stayed to help with
What was Luiz doing before this project?
Luiz studied economy in Italy, then studied art in Munich. He worked and lived as an artist for 20 years. Eventually he grew tired of the art world; taking inspiration from his
I used to have a restaurant near
Usually when a project of this nature is created, the motivations tend to not be as philosophical as Clos Santa Ana’s. Where does the dedication to organic viticulture, working without modern technology or any enological products come from?
The answer starts with how much we care for nature here. Luiz loves history and is very knowledgeable: he always speaks about life a thousand years ago! And this includes wine. He wanted to go back to what he deemed sensible work, to eschew the trappings of modernity. From the beginning, the goal was to respect nature. You cannot use
You mentioned your love of natural wine. Was the goal to produce “naturally” from the beginning or is this simply an extension of the work in the vineyards? Did Luiz and Roberto have a pre-existing concept of this category?
Everything started with the love of nature. It was also a rejection of new world winemaking. The vast majority of Chilean winemakers work
The beautiful part is that Jose Miguel and Luca were working at big
Can you describe the terroirs of the area?
The vineyard is quite wild, with lots of plants, herbs and fruit trees co-existing with the vines. As I mentioned earlier, the vines are surrounded by plants and trees, including some old olive trees. We also have our own water reserves, which is useful because in Chile you need to own the rights to the water you use or else you need to get the owner’s consent. They are completely dry this year, as we are going through a terrible drought. But we do use them to
Let’s talk about the wines you are making.
The grapes we have the most of are
For the reds, we do a two week