Pais means both ‘country’ in Spanish, and is the name of one of our national wine varieties - the Pais grape. As we celebrate this season's national festivities - and our independence day - we suggest raising a glass with Pais!
The story of Pais starts at the very beginnings of Chilean viticulture - when the Spanish first planted vines and settled in the region in the 1500s. Grapes or winemaking were not native to Chile before, and so the Spanish brought their grapes to make wine for Catholic mass (and perhaps imbibe outside of the church too!)
Known as the Mission grape, it was brought for exactly that reason: to conquer and to convert Chile into a Catholic, wine-producing country. On the 18th September in 1810, Chile declared independence from Spanish rule - a date which we celebrate today with festivities all over the country. The 18 September is the official day, but September becomes a month of national celebration with events spread out over weeks enjoying traditional Chilean parties with friends and family up and down the country. There’s always wine at a Chilean celebration, and for centuries the main wine produced was Pais.
In the last 30 years though, Pais was side-lined for cheaper, bulk wine production, and many of the old vineyards were abondoned. Pais was the most planted variety in Chile for hundreds of years, but it lost ground to international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, which form an important part of our wine identity today.
However in the last decade, Chilean winemakers have rescued the old Pais vines and brought back the tradition of making wine from this ancient grape. A red variety with abundant fruity and sometimes earthy notes, Pais can be made in many different styles: from our ancestral methods in botijas (clay pots) or amphorea, through to modern winemaking in stainless steel or oak barrels. Another resurgence of Pais has been through sparkling wine production, which is perfect for September parties!
As Chile celebrates its national heritage and culture this month, raise a glass with the varieity that is fundamental to Chile’s national wine heritage - with Pais!