The Good People of Viña Echeverria
Terence Salmon reflects on his visit to Viña Echeverria in Santiago, Chile:
One of the most rewarding aspects of working at a small, fine wine importer is the friendships that evolve over the years with our many winemakers and winery owners. It’s our job to sell wine, but to also have a personal connection to the family or person that worked hard to give us this very wine in our glass, is truly a special honor. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, for a second time, Roberto Echeverria and his family winery in the Curico Valley, Chile, which is roughly 200km south of the capital city, Santiago.
Roberto Echeverria Jr. has been at the helm of the family business since 2001, though his father, Roberto Sr. (who, by the way, holds a PhD from Cornell) is still very much involved. If you’ve ever met Roberto Echeverria Jr. you know exactly what I mean when I say his smile is contagious. We often say that a winemaker’s personality shows through in their wines. Well, that’s certainly true for the Echeverria family. After spending time with father and son you immediately see how their sincere, honest, genuine nature shines through in their wines.
The Echeverria family origins are Basque (Spain) though the winery focuses on French grape varieties. Their ancestors came to The Santiago area around 1750 though it wasn’t until 1930 that later generations planted vineyards down in the town of Molina in Chile’s Curico Valley.
Roberto Jr. said his family considers this region the heartland of Chile’s grape growing. Vintages are not very variable due to their climate, where it’s easy to farm sustainably. Here, Roberto says, their farming practices are naturally ecological due to high temperatures and no humidity. They are protected from pests, most notably Phylloxera which cannot complete its life cycle.
Roberto Jr. says they stay true to their European heritage by using French grape varieties and classic French winemaking techniques, which include native yeasts and barrel aging in French oak. They’re always looking for structure and balance all the while maintaining reasonable alcohol levels.
That being said, it’s not just the fact that their wines are good. It’s that the Echeverria family are good people who care about everything and everyone. Truly. They are very focused on their role in their community and what it truly means to be sustainable, talking about their economic responsibility, environmental responsibility and social responsibility (which includes employee treatment and working along side the local government).
Roberto said their symbiotic relationship with their employees was never more evident than after the earthquake in 2010. Tanks crumpled like beer cans. Wine flooded the streets. The winery was in bad shape. Once the employees saw that their families were safe they immediately headed to the winery to help with the clean up.
Roberto said the winery did not call for their help, they just showed up. The winery and its employees need each other equally. Proof that social awareness and a sense of community come around full circle. We’re fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a good glass of wine but it’s far better to know that there are good people making good wine.