Ecuador isn’t known as a wine producing country. According to experts, such a geographical area without distinct seasons isn’t suitable for the planting and harvesting vineyards. Therefore, the lovers of this drink in this small South American nation are used to getting their wine from either Chile or Argentina, or of course from countries like France, Spain and other European nations. Perhaps this is why the consumption of this beverage was limited to upper income groups here.
But apparently this trend is beginning to turn around. Consuming wine has begun to cease being a luxury and is now becoming a daily habit. According to a recent article in Quito’s El Comercio newspaper, the taste for wine is growing among Ecuadorians. In fact, several national brands have now made their way onto the domestic and foreign markets – and with considerable success.
According to this daily, although the Ecuadorian market is small, the per person consumption of wine showing a marked increase in the last ten years. Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are the major Ecuadorian cities where wine is increasingly drank with meals and even at meetings. This is true not only in luxury hotels and large celebrations, but in middle-class restaurants and at social gatherings of all types.
This increase in consumption is going hand in hand with the growing of more — and better —Ecuadorian wines. Several lovers of this grape drink have taken the risk and, advised by foreign and national expert, have rolled up their sleeves to begin producing home-grown Ecuadorian wine.
One such brand is “Dos Hemisferios,” whose wine has already received nine international awards. This company’s five brands (Paradox, Mist, Enigma, Del Morro and Cruise) have also been recognized for their quality by wine experts in blind tastings.
The company is the result of the dreams and efforts of two entrepreneurs: Guillermo Wright and Alejandro Taramelli, who initially thought of only making wine for their families and friends. Towards that end, in 2004 they brought their first French Cabernet Sauvignon plants to Ecuador, and the following year they imported Brazilian clones of Cabernet and Malbec vines. Currently, their company produces 60,000 bottles each year of their five brands.
Chaupi is another Ecuadorian label that has made its way onto the domestic market. In an area of six hectares (about 15 acres) near in the town of Yaruquí (12 miles northeast of Quito), this effort began in 1994 as another family adventure. The strain of grapes known as “palomino,” originally from Spain, are used here to produce a white wine.
Against all odds, the vineyards that were planted by the Duran family and later purchased by an American (Dick Handall) adapted to the Yaruquí area’s rainy and sunny season. Indeed, the wine made here has also won international awards. Currently 30 different varieties of red and white wine are produced by the company, which puts out around 5,000 bottles per year under the brand names of Palomino Fino, Meritage “Alyce,” “Alyce” Gran Reserva, Pinor Noir and Viognier Chardonnay.
Along with the production of wine in the country, the supply and diversity of foreign brands has also grown. The main cities in the country – Quito and Guayaquil – can boast the best wines in their restaurants, as well as having specialized and increasingly knowledgeable vendors in stores. In addition, the “Cofradía del Vino” was founded in 2002 with the aim of educating people about wine and wine drinking. With over a thousand members, the group meets periodically to learn more about wine and wine pairing, as well as to enjoy new varieties. In short: Wine culture in Ecuador is making solid steps forward, and experiencing its production closely is another good reason to visit this beautiful country.