‘I want the wine to be as pure as possible’

Chilean winemaker Roberto Echeverria discusses his ‘nothing added’ No es Pituko range of low-intervention wines…


Chilean winemaker Roberto Echeverria: “We’ve been doing traditional wines for decades”

‘I want the wine to be as pure as possible’
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2024-05-21
Chilean winemaker Roberto Echeverria believes it’s a myth that wine will go off if you don’t use sulphites to protect it.
He has been making his ‘nothing added’ No es Pituko range of low-intervention wines for six years without any problems.
“I’ve been doing it since 2018 and I haven’t had any wine faulty more than maybe a slight evolution but nothing bacterial, no problem in the bottle,” he tells me.

I’m drinking Viña Echeverria’s vibrant Cabernet Franc at UK importer Hallgarten & Novum’s annual portfolio tasting in London. I’m enjoying the balance, the silky tannins, the great structure, divine texture, the aromas of black cherry and fresh plum, and the lush red fruit and floral flavours.
The grapes from old bush vines near the coast are handpicked into 18kg boxes and carried immediately to the family-run winery. At the winery on the outskirts of Molina, a town in the Curicó Valley, the grapes are carefully sorted before processing.
They are destemmed, crushed and pumped into a tank for 24 hours’ cooling at 8°C prior to a slow fermentation – 25 days at 13-17°C – using native yeasts.
“We’ve been doing traditional wines for decades and five years ago we started with a venture of natural wines for some markets in the world,” Roberto says.
By natural, he means a wine “with nothing added during the whole process and nothing taken away”.
Nothing added means no cultured yeasts, enzymes or sulphites “because I want the wine to be as pure as possible,” he states.
Pure also means “fresh and light”, so there isn’t too much extraction, just gentle punchdowns and pumpovers in the early stages of the fermentation – “just enough to get a nice extraction of colour, and no maceration after fermentation”.
In fact, he sometimes racks the wine off the skins before the fermentation finishes, “so it doesn’t get any extra tannins… We want it to be fruity with a fruity finish”, he says.
MLF occurs naturally while the wine matures for six months on fine lees.
The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered with no addition of sulphites.
I ask how he protects the wine from going off. He replies, jokingly: “Just drink it soon.”

Roberto 2
I’m drinking the 2023 vintage. Although Roberto (above) thinks, in general, it is better to drink wines without added sulphites young, he has a no-added-sulphite Chardonnay from 2018 which, he says, tastes like a 12-year-old white Burgundy. “Its evolution is faster,” he says, adding that this has more to do with the lees in the bottle than the lack of sulphur.
The No es Pituko white wines are also bottled without fining or filtration. Roberto – one of several Robertos in the 284-year history of Viña Echeverria – is fine about selling cloudy wines.
“We recommend a bit of a shake because the mouthfeel is super-rich,” he says. “But the wine is clean and elegant; it doesn’t have natural wine fault.”
As well as drinking and selling it young, the important considerations for a no-added-sulphur wine, he says, are low pH and high acidity – “this is what makes the wine stable”.
To ensure the pH is low, Roberto picks slightly early “for freshness” but he also balances it with maturity, aiming for alcohol levels of about 13-13.5% for the reds and 12.5% for the whites. To ensure the maturity, he opens up the canopy to let plenty of sunlight into the fruiting zone.
He also picks early in the morning, so the grapes from the cooler-climate Maule region come in cool.
The wine is bottled with a Diam stopper and wax cap to give it an artisanal appearance.

Roberto NEP range
The No Es Pituko line also includes a Viognier, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, and an orange wine made from single-vineyard, old-vine Sauvignon Blanc that has been wild fermented and left on skins for 60 days.

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