Antiyal Winery, Changing the World of Wine

Previously published by VIDA Magazine

The car snakes its way around mountains and roads that are too small for anything larger than a bicycle. A mother dog and her pups stare at the car like it’s the one out of place and watch as a black Mercedes wiggles its way cautiously down the hill. Hills and peaks circle around us as we reach the valley bed and we are greeted by neatly organized farms and crops of grape trees. Varying colors make the fields look like a watercolor palette, fallen leaves around the ground like bleeding colors. It’s a Chilean winter, with temperatures about 65 degrees and showing no signs of getting close to cold. There is a rhythm to the Maipo Valley, something that can only be explained as a heartbeat. The mountains act as bones, protecting it from harm and encasing it from the elements.

Marina Ashton greets us at the gate closing off her business from the outside world. She is the leader of the clockwork that is Antiyal Winery. Together with her husband Alvaro Espinoza, they produce 30,000 bottles of organic wine on their farm every harvest. Espinoza has been in the business for years, working at another winery before creating Antiyal with Ashton in 1996. Compared to larger companies that can create one million bottles a year, Antiyal is considered “boutique”. Though this winery is small, Antiyal adopted a closed cycle for their winemaking process known as biodynamic which makes them unique amongst other wineries. This cycle emphasizes not only what kind of wine they make but how it’s made.

“It’s brought from within, we don’t lose anything,” says Ashton.

A biodynamic process pertains to everything that is used to create a final product. From the soil to the water, all components are recycled and used in other forms. This is an efficient and effective way to decrease waste and create a more natural product. Antiyal doesn’t bring in outside fertilizers or repellents to grow their grapes, they use what they have on their premises. Everything on their one acre has a purpose that promotes biodynamic and organic production.

The placement of the crops is thoughtful. There are large gaps in between different trees, which are called biological corridors. These corridors allow insects and other animals to thrive and keep ecological balance. This may seem like a waste of land to larger companies, but to Antiyal, it is essential in keeping biodiversity on the farm. That is what keeps the closed system working, detailed intention behind everything. Cultivating a working ecosystem is imperative to keeping Antiyal organic because the bugs are integrated into the soil and land. When companies use chemical pesticides it creates bugs that have developed an immunity to the chemicals, warranting newer stronger chemicals each season.

The soil is fertilized by compost created on site. Animals that roam the premises are sourced for manure. The leftover grape skins are put back into the land after being pressed. To add nutrients to the compost Antiyal uses “biological preps”, animal intestines stuffed with herbs, to integrate valuable bacteria and create rich soil. Branches and clippings from harvested trees line the pathways to keep the mud at bay and the rest is put into the compost.

“Compost is life, there is gold in biodynamics”, says Ashton.

The winemaking process for their varying types of wine starts in April when the harvest begins. With less than twenty workers on the farm, the crops of grapes are picked and cleaned. The grapes are then placed on the roof of the building that holds the machinery and is pressed, letting gravity transport the juice to the fermenting machinery. The juice goes into specific fermenting equipment depending on which type of wine they are making. Their standard Antiyal and Queen wines go into traditional receptacles while the Carmenere, which is specific to Chile, is placed in egg-shaped cement barrels to create continuous movement and fluidity.

From there the wine is placed in wooden barrels to age. The average aging time for their wine is about 10 months, after which the wine is bottled and sold to the public. Only 20% of their product is sold in Chile, the rest is exported and sold online. This is common amongst wineries in Chile, where most of their product is sold out of the country. Chilean wine is becoming more popular due to its varying types of land used to grow the grapes. Most red wine is grown in the Maipo valley due to its heat and dry climate, whereas white wine is mostly grown near bodies of water because of the wind that brings moisture. Antiyal is solely red wine, for now.

When looking ahead Ashton does not see a large booming business but a smaller, efficient company that continues to look for better ways of making their product. Instead of putting money into expanding, Antiyal is currently trying to create a solar powered water irrigation system by taking free flowing water from the Andes and using it for the land. This process takes time and money, but that is the nature of the game when growing biodynamic. It is also the reason why many wineries in Chile have not switched to biodynamic, to keep production costs from increasing.

“It’s not magic,” says Ashton.

Antiyal represents a large commodity in Chile and they are leading a business that has as much focus on the land and the process as they do the final product. Antiyal has felt the ripples of climate change and the surge of frequent earthquakes. Due to record-breaking measures of rain this season, they had to gather their grapes quickly, leaving a large portion behind. When the most recent earthquake shook Chile, Antiyal lost barrels of wine to the tremors. Antiyal is responsible for ensuring that the valley is taken care of and that their product reflects that. They celebrate what Chile has to offer and set an example of wholesome business. While Antiyal moves through the 21st century, they are focused on undoing the technological conveniences of today and that is a skill that companies still have to learn.

“People don’t want to learn, but we all have to try,” says Ashton.