Alice L'Estrange (Strange Grapes) - Itata, Chile

Alice L'Estrange (Strange Grapes) - Itata, Chile

Alice L'Estrange is an Aussie making proper natural piss (that's 'wine' in Aussie natural winemaker parlance) in Chile's Deep South. She had a job sourcing coffee across South America before she got into wine. She used to export all the good natural wine from southern Chile (Roberto Henriquéz, Mingaco, Macatho, Leo Erazo, et alia) to Australia before moving to Guarilihue to make her own.

Alice now shares a bodega with Ignacio Pino Román in Guarilihue. It's thanks to Alice that I'm now importing Nacho's wines, as well as her own. Her wine project is called Strange Grapes. She makes natural wines focused on the heritage grape varieties of Itata and Bio-Bio. She works closely with her preferred growers in Itata and has convinced them, by a combination of persuasion and cold hard pesos, to abandon Glyphosate and saltpetre, and instead work organically, often without tilling, with the life of the soil and the long-term health of the land in mind.

"We champion full transparency, she explains. "As such, we work with a tiny amount of producers and support them in their journey beyond box-ticking organics towards true soil regeneration." 

I've got a lot of admiration for Alice. For her to step into this patriarchal world of rural southern Chile, a gringita from half a world away, and not just to create a space for herself and make wonderful wines, but to do it with such obvious sympathy for the environment she lives in, and the community she lives among, in this extraordinary uncharted wine territory - she doesn't get half the credit she deserves.

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