Antiyal | Handcrafted Wines from a Unique Terroir
Alvaro Espinoza and Marina Ashton, the owners and winemakers of Chile’s Antiyal winery, both studied wine in Bordeaux.
Alvaro got his Diplôme national d’œnologue and Marina a degree in history. Their time in Bordeaux allowed them to discover smaller wineries, a rarity in Chile back then, and encouraged them to dream about starting their own winery. In 1996, they bought a two-acre vineyard in Maipo, next to Alvaro’s former employer Viña Carmen.
After spending time learning about Maipo soils – known for the best red blends in Chile – they decided that it was the perfect place for Antiyal. Located in the central part of Chile, near the capital of Santiago, the Maipo Valley is surrounded both by the Andes mountains and the Coastal Range. Antiyal is situated in the foothills of the Andes at 600 metres of altitude with basaltic soils with the mother rock Andecita. The climate is influenced by the mountains with cold nights, with more than 20°C of difference between day and night.
Antiyal is often referred to as a garage winery, an expression originating from Bordeaux. It was coined in the early 1990s to describe a 0.6-hectare parcel from a Château in Bordeaux that was recognized to produce some very fine wines. “Back in 1996, when we planted our two acres, I think we were the only place to be so small that we handcrafted our wines. Luckily today, you can find many small projects, but in those years, it didn’t exist in Chile, just big wineries,” says Alvaro.
Antiyal is a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard and Alvaro is a pioneer in Chile. Biodynamic farming observes and uses the forces of nature to intensify soil and plant life – an approach that is based on the 1924 work of the philosopher Rudolph Steiner. In biodynamics, the winegrower goes beyond organic farming techniques. He takes the pulse of the elements that surround him and integrates them into a global vine-to-glass approach that considers everything in the ecosystem. “Being certified biodynamic gives us the confidence that our customers can be sure of what they are enjoying. It’s been hard economically, but we have made this effort since the year 2000, to certify our wines and agriculture in a sustainable way, which is the way we feel agriculture should be: clean, regenerative, and viable in the future. We want to reassure our clients about what they are drinking,” says Alvaro.
Since its introduction to Opimian in 2018, Antiyal has developed a cult following among Opimian Members, who recognize the quality of these premium and unique Chilean wines. While some wines define a country, a region or even a style, those who are dedicated and committed to Antiyal wines embrace Alvaro’s wine principles – handcrafted wines that express the purity of the fruit and the terroir, with minimal handling and while respecting the natural process.
Q&A with Alvaro Espinoza
Since its introduction to Opimian in 2018, Antiyal has developed a cult following among Opimian Members, who recognize the quality of these premium and unique Chilean wines. While some wines define a country, a region or even a style, those who are dedicated and committed to Antiyal wines embrace Alvaro’s wine principles – handcrafted wines that express the purity of the fruit of the place, with minimal handling and respecting the natural process.
Antiyal is 100% family owned. Can you tell us who is working at your vineyard and their responsibilities?
Marina is the general manager that sees administration and sales. Clemente Espinoza, Alvaro and Marina’s son, is in charge of marketing, sales and social media. Their other son, Vicente Espinoza looks after the production while Alvaro is the winemaker.
What are the joys and the challenges of working as a family? What are the strengths that each family member brings to the table?
Work as a family gives us a lot of challenges. It is not easy, but we must learn how to do it with patience and respect. We must learn to balance our feelings with the responsibilities.
What were the challenges of starting your winery and what are they now?
The challenge at the beginning was to learn how to do it and to find suppliers that could sell us bottles, corks, etc. in small volumes. Now the challenges are bigger with all the problems related to the global climate crisis and the needs to have good regenerative agriculture. Our aim is to teach and spread the knowledge of the benefit of regenerative agriculture.
Is there anything that you would have done differently or plan to change in the future?
No big things, maybe invest more money in the market and less in the farm!
What are the main differences of working in larger wineries (Fetzer Vineyards and Carmen) versus a small one like yours?
Many differences. What I love in small-scale wineries is that you have to learn from many different areas, and the days are always punctuated with different situation and experiences, and the results are more directly related to your efforts.
What is your wine philosophy and how is it reflected in your winemaking?
Our winemaking principle is that our wines express the character of the place, with minimal handling and respecting the natural process. Our wines are made with minimal input.
Can you describe the different styles of the Pura Fe, Kuyen, and other Antiyal wines? How many bottles of each do you produce?
The style of our wines is handcrafted wines that express the purity of the fruit from Maipo. We produce around 40,000 bottles, around 6,000 bottles of Antiyal and Antiyal Carmènere; 14,000 bottles of Kuyen, and 25,000 bottles of the Pura Fe line.
How do you envision Antiyal in the future?
We would like to continue growing in quality and sustainability.
What would you like Opimian members to know about Antiyal?
To be known as a quality and responsible wine producer from Maipo, Chile.