Pedro Parra y Familia 'Imaginador' 2016
Pedro Parra has a name you could imagine befitting a Chilean comic book superhero, drawn scruffy and soft-shouldered, with beetroot streaks on his calves from foot-stomping grapes, mud caked in the boots, and a pipette and pickaxe at his belt. His superpower? Digging holes! The terroir (dirt, rocks, soil, earth, etc) expert turned winemaker, having returned from consulting across the old and new world for almost fifteen years, settled back in his birthplace of Concepción and first released wine under the Pedro Parra Y Familia label in 2013. The focus of a man obsessed with dirt could only have been on the very same when choosing where to make his own wine and it is in Itata, very near home, that Parra has gotten his hands on the good stuff: granite! (sandy quartz, chambolic white, you name it).
Today I’m quaffing the Pedro Parra Y Familia ‘Imaginador’ Cinsault 2016, and I say quaffer in the truest sense. It goes down an absolute treat: to the tongue, to the nose, straight to the soul. The ‘Imaginador’ is a village wine from the producer who also offers some other single vineyard cru offerings and Pais blended with Cinsault. But do not be fooled by that label, or the stigma of village. This is (non-certified organic) bangin’ juice. This is Cinsault (SAN-soh!) at her best.
Cinsault, long a bit part in the soap opera of the Southern Rhone, giving Grenache dominant blends a little extra pizazz, a little more of that floral bouquet and softness to the edges, thrives in the heat and is favoured further south in France around the Languedoc where the low tannin, low acid and high yields make it a better fit for easy drinking rosés. You will find single varietal bottlings from France, and elsewhere in the three A’s of Australia, America, Africa and though they are uncommon they are worth the hunt. And I’d say at the annual conference of the Cinsault Fan Club*, alongside French pinks, they’d be pouring and applauding the ‘Imaginador’.
The cuvée is the result of blending the fruit of a handful of plots, 70(-ish and counting) year old bush vines, whose vineyards have been more or less ignored by the heavy planting, the mechanisation, the money hunger and changes wrought by a thirsty consumer and an obliging industry. The vines have been preserved, they have been kept unchanged, only ever dry-farmed and on earth unspoiled. And it seems that is what arrives in the glass: something unspoiled.
Parra hand harvests with a 10 day ferment in steel and concrete, part whole bunch, pumping over (remontage) and ageing in untoasted oak, foudres (big boy vats) and steel. He’ll also make use of a little extra bottle age before release.
It looks like the dark nail polish on the long cello playing fingers of a femme fatale. It smells like the beak of a berry hunting crow dropping dinner for feather-sprouting chicks. It tastes like dusted maraschino cherry, with a subtle splash of white chocolate; like the kind of posh candy you’d find the bourgeoisie buying at Wholefoods with organic aged cranberries and crushed violets in the mix; like there’s a hint of an effeminate cowboy or the muscular dancer working up a sweat in a fruit coloured leotard.
It’s seriously good without taking itself seriously. It’s savagely delicious and drinkable without being brutish. It’s the sweet (not actually sweet) and pretty kiss you always imagine wine might be. It feels old and young at the same time. Somewhere between the old, old unirrigated bush vines of the Itata and the cooling, saline breath of youth from the sea.
It’d be an all round companion at the dinner table. Suited to arrival conviviality and how have you been’s, right down the line over the salad starters and grilled meat mains and berry-based puddings and to the after thought of post dinner reflection when the cigars or the bifters come out and ones gaze turns to the sky, and the mystery at the other side of it. The ‘Imaginador’ is your would-be constant companion.
There’s a community choir, you see, and occasionally between the pop covers and chorale classics there are solos given to the more skilled singers of the troupe. On an ordinary Sunday the usual mezzo soprano, Garnacha, is off sick from hitting it too hard at her sisters hen-do and so the oenophilic conductor gambles on the shy girl at the back: Cinsault. And she shines. She surprises the conductor, the rest of the choir and the audience in tow with the effortlessness of her voice, the prettiness, the reach of it toward something ethereal.
Dried cranberry. Dirt-splashed cherries. Saltwater red toffee. Verbena, bellflower and violet. It’s like rubies. The cut rock of fine jewels. I could easily see it rendered solid and fashioned into a wearable gem, set against yellow gold on the tan fingers of a Chilean debutante. It’s all sweetness and light with an unflinching smack of minerality, of granitic freshness. Dusty, pretty, and damn damn delicious. Nosing the glass you can see the fattened grapes clinging desperate to time-stricken vines, curling into and out of the white earth, seeking nourishment, hunting the sun. You can see Pedro Parra throwing dirt into the air off the back of a pickaxe. You can see the sea far off and still on the horizon. You can see the soloist taking the stage. You can see the beginnings of a great new comic book adventure starring The Dirt Whisperer. You can see it hitting the shelves. You can see it netting you millions. You can see it turned into a blockbusting franchise. You can see your new life, an early retirement in the hills of Bio Bio, and you can see your mansion and your lover stepping naked out of the pool. You can see the whole world in the small quiet space in the wine glass. You can… You can… You can see… oh… I can see an empty bottle.
*not an actual club, that I know of, but I’d happily kick one off if anyone else was keen
tasted April 2021