Manuel Moraga Gutierrez is the owner and winemaker of Cacique Maravilla, a winery focused on traditional and non-interventionist Chilean wines in Yumbel in the Bio-Bio Valley of Chile’s Southern Regions. Manuel is the seventh generation of the Gutierrez family to call Yumbel home, and at least the fourth generation to tend vines. His great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Francisco Gutierrez Gutierrez, arrived in Chile in 1750 from the Canary Islands in search of gold and eventually amassed enough treasure to acquire land in Yumbel, some of which has remained in the family and is still owned by Manuel Moraga today. Francisco Gutierrez earned the respect of the local indigenous Mapuche people and was given the nickname ‘Cacique Maravilla’ (roughly translating to ‘Magnificent Chief’).
Although the Gutierrez family has been tending vines in Yumbel for generations, Manuel is the first to bottle and sell the wine under his own label, instead of selling grapes and bulk wine to other larger producers as his predecessors did. The 16-hectare estate consists of old, pre-phylloxera vines (some well over 100 years old) of País, Moscatel de Alejandria, Torontel, and Corinto. The volcanic vineyards are completely dry-farmed with no irrigation, no chemical intervention, and minimal pruning. In the winery, Manuel is similarly hands off. Fermentation is always spontaneous, the wines are never filtered, and no sulfur is added.
Tragically, Manuel’s first vintage coincided with the February 27, 2010 earthquake in Chile, one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. The winery and much of their machinery were completely destroyed in the earthquake. Manuel still managed to make wine that year with practically no means at all. Content with the outcome of that first year, he realized not much was needed to make wine and this has been their philosophy ever since. He has spent the last ten years slowly rebuilding while making honest, rustic wines that evoke a crystal clear sense of place. As Manuel says, “One day I want good, trained sommeliers to taste my wine and say ‘This wine is from Yumbel, Chile.’”
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