Dazed Digital

Santiago

Garage Wine Company

October 27, 2011

We speak to the staunchly independent and artisinal hero vintner Derek J. Mossman Knapp

  • Text by Terence Teh

The Garage Wine Company is a true celebration of craft and amazing artisinal spirit from a unique and staunchly independent winery. A family run collective who actually did start back in 2001 in their family garage, they are proud founding members of MOVI - Movement of Independent Vineyards Chile and the newly formed Vignadores de Carignan. We speak to Derek J. Mossman Knapp about his inspiring process.

Satellite VoicesL Can you please introduce Garage Wines?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: Garage Wine Company is a small firm that crafts 1500 cases of wine per harvest by hand. GWCo. makes Mountain grown Cabernet from Maipo (1000 mts), Cabernet Franc-pure, and dry-farmed, old-vine Carignan - Grenache blends from small farmers in Maule. We are three partners: my wife winemaker Pilar Miranda, Prof. Alvaro Peña and myself the cellar rat.

SV: What is your mission statement?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: In a Garage one doesn’t write mission statements - it wreaks of self-help. We are boot-strappers, no seven steps, no giants within, we just dared and did it. As I said to my wife as we finished the grafting on old-vines this year: if we had known how difficult it was going to be we wouldn’t have done it, thank heaven for our bullheadedness and decided lack of planning. Ah on the boxes it says: Small lots, made by hand in origin in Chile. Unfiltered and uncensored. That is sort of a mantra I think.

SV: Can you talk about the distinctive bottles and design on Garage Wines?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: We re-utilise previously imbibed bottles generally champagne bottles. We acquire these from one of the oldest glass recyclers / re-utilisers in Santiago. Reduce, re-use, recycle, is the phrase but we are all so quick to want to recycle and reduce the packaging weight that we forget the best for the planet is re-use. Strangely, the bottle firm is on shaky footing financially, so our growing and spreading the word is helping another small firm back to health.

We wax the bottles with three rich colours that we buy from a small crayon / school supplies maker. These food safe waxes help put work in the hands of another small firm still content to make things where others run to fabricate on massive scale.

SV: What is it about Chilean wines that makes them so special to you?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: Most Chilean wines are made for market in the five pound segment, but some, more and more everyday, are made in origin and with volition, on a human scale. I am not yet convinced enough of these wines are travelling enough around the world yet so be prepared - they are coming soon to a restaurant near you. I am also not very convinced the world recognises Chile for what it is capable of producing— because they know it too well for the five pounders. Chile is a veritable mosaic of terroirs and wines and will start to knock peoples socks off more and more, in years to come. Be sure to have an open mind about the labels folks, as many of these pleasers will not come from the traditional manufacturers.

SV: Can you talk about the global appeal of Garage? I found the wine in Denmark and they seem to really follow what you do?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: We began doing what we do because we wanted to. Soon we were too busy doing it to think about how we should be doing it. It just felt right. Then we wrote some things on the web and Twittled them and next thing you know people started getting in touch like Kenn (Our Danish importer) who just connected with what we do from the get-go. We are working with six importers around the world today and each of them understand and even celebrate what we do and how we do it.

Again, if we had thought about it, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. There a thousand reasons one should scale-up and mechanise. I am just happy to be working with my hands doing something I love to do, and that people recognise the wines as being well made in this way.

There are so many thing in life that have been commoditised, from clothes to cars to furniture. It is a fact of life and one that makes so many more people on the planet more comfortable and perhaps even happier with their lot in life. But wine [and food] shouldn’t be made this way. How much time to do we have for our families and friends? In those precious hours where we can let our hair down and relax who wants to do it with processed foods and a wine made on an assembly line?

No thank you. Not many of us will ever own a Maserati with hand-stitched leather seats, but most all of us can afford 30 bones for a bottle of wine with character made in origin that tells a story of the nutter who made it against all common sense. We are going to make the world a happier place one table at a time.

SV: What do you love about the Santiago lifestyle?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: Santiago is more interesting every year. More dodgy neighbourhoods are becoming hotspots of new restaurants and lounges with refreshing fare and MOVI wines everyday.

SV: What about local Chilean food, produce and restaurants?
Derek J. Mossman Knapp: Fresh vegetables and fruit in Chile fresh are tough to beat anywhere in the world. Sushi for example ufffff. I’d stay for the tomatoes alone. In general the fresh ingredients in Chile are second to none. Quinoa is my favorite grain. The interesting part is how meals in Chile transform themselves into hours of conversation. Servings per say do not exist. Family gatherings are festive like the parties of Fezziwig in Dickens.

Photo by Matt Wilson

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