Atacama fertile land vintner barrel

Viñateros del Salar de Atacama: More than 10 years producing wine in extreme conditions

With the aim of generating a unique wine industry, rescuing and impregnating the Atacameño identity in each bottle, 18 families from the town of Toconao are part of the Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay and break every scheme by creating wines for more than 2 meters above sea level.  

The Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay represents the union of farmers and winemakers from the town of Toconao who came together in 2009, with the aim of growing quality grapes in one of the driest deserts in the world. "We were officially formed in 2017, but this effort is a joint effort that we have been carrying out together with Atacama Tierra Fértil since 2009, when a call was made to all people who would like to know more about wine processes," explained Wilfredo Cruz, manager of the Cooperativa Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay. Atacama Tierra Fértil is a program that has been inserted in the territory of the Salar de Atacama for 10 years, promoting agro-productive activities in order to develop sustainable, innovative and profitable development plans. The initiative, promoted by SQM, works hand in hand with winemakers, providing technical support and supplies for production processes. “For the cooperators this has meant a benefit. An example of this is the productive growth of some users who in previous years produced around 80 kilos of grapes and currently reach 2.500 kilos. In addition, we have the support of materials and annual inputs such as agrochemicals, fertilizers, sulfur, replacement plant, maintenance of the vineyard and irrigation system ”, added Cruz. For his part, the Vice President of Environment and Community of SQM Salar, Alejandro Bucher, highlighted that “with Atacama Tierra Fértil we want to promote the development of sustainable and sustainable businesses within the Salar communities. The formation of this cooperative is a clear example of the work and associativity of those who have achieved exceptional growth in their products. We are very happy to be able to continue supporting this project, which results in unique wines with an identity stamp of the Salar de Atacama ”. Wines and pandemic In the town of Toconao, the vineyards of the different winemakers in the area cultivate and process various strains of grapes in unconventional climatic conditions and with extreme temperatures. Sergio Jara, enologist of the Ayllu project, indicated that “here we produce 11 different varieties of wines and we are trying to highlight particularities of the territory, experimenting with different local raw materials. For me, it has been very comforting to see that wine is being made like the old cooperatives in Chile did, that is, a series of local producers with their families and neighbors aligned to produce grapes of excellent quality ”. The main clients of the cooperators, until before the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, were tourists. With this, winemakers have had to reinvent themselves in order to increase their sales during this complex scenario. “With the pandemic, our potential market decreased a lot, so we began to promote local trade more, starting a work with the distributor El Bidón, which helps us with the sale to regions, since we, due to the remoteness that characterizes to the territory, it costs us more to arrive ”, indicated the winemaker. In this regard, Wilfredo Cruz, added that “we have been affected in recent times, since we depend on tourism. Today, with this distribution agreement, we allow small farmers to sell their products, since we not only make wines, but also trade with other stumps that sell local products ”. “Very good months await us. It has been a cold year, so we hope to have a good quantity and quality of fruit. We are going through a new stage in which new wines are coming, we have a lot to do between now and the end of the year ”, concluded the manager of the Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay.
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