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The hard work behind a wine bottle: tourists pick their own grapes in this Chilean winery trip



Dozens of tourists, armed with sharp scissors and wearing dusty gloves and aprons, walk through rows of green vines and harvest dark purple grapes that become Chilean wines around the world.

It's hard work under a scorching heat The sun and the professional pickers watch her from afar, knowing. But the tourists have paid for the practical experience of the Chilean harvest, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, so they carefully cut the precious grapes into bunches and place them in wooden crates at the Viu Manent winery.

"The truth is that you always drink the wine, but you do not really know the process behind it," said Gina Cuesta, a visitor from Colombia.

Chile is the world number 9 wine with a production of about 800 million liters last year. It was the world's fourth largest exporter and the leading producer of the "New World".

The Danish tourist Jins Skuvrup carries his freshly cut grapes in the Viu Manent vineyard. While paying tourists do not keep the grapes they pick, they are rewarded with grilled steak, fermented grape juice and a glass of Malbec.
(AP Photo / Esteban Felix)

The South American country has been producing wine since the mid-16th century, when Spanish settlers brought the first vines and became known for producing reliable and affordable wines.

Visitors pay up to $ 90 (about Rs 5,863) for the tour of Viu Manent, which includes riding on horse-drawn carriages or bicycles on the pastures of the Colchagua Valley, one of Chile's most famous wine regions.

And they receive the grapes.

While the tourists can not keep the grapes, they complete their work with grilled steak, fermented grape juice and a glass of Malbec in the winery's Visitor Center, which this year was named Best of the World by British magazine Drinks International. Viu Manent was founded in 1935 and voted Wine Estate of the Year by the Wines of Chile Association in 2017.

Tourists pick grapes from a tree more than 100 years old. Visitors pay up to $ 90 for the tour of Viu Manent, including horse and carriage rides on the pastures of the Colchagua Valley, one of Chile's most famous wine regions, and the gathering of grapes.
(AP Photo / Esteban Felix)

"There are some vineyards offering similar initiatives, but none is so complete and focuses on the vast experience of wine production and oenology as ours," said Freddy Grez, who is responsible for the tourist activities of Viu Manent.

Each year, approximately 37,000 visitors – most of them from Brazil and the United States – visit the winery some 140 km south of the Chilean capital. The two-hour drive from Santiago along the country's "wine route" offers tourists the opportunity to enjoy wine in inns and restaurants that are famous for its Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varieties for which Chile is renowned.

Tourists visit Viu Manent vineyard by horse-drawn carriage in Colchagua, Chile.
(AP Photo / Esteban Felix)

Chile's natural barriers have much to do with the successful growth of its wine industry. It is shielded by the Pacific Ocean in the west, the Andes in the east, the Antarctic in the south and the driest desert in the north. This has helped protect Chile from plagues by allowing growers to grow untreated vines using ancient farming techniques.

In recent years, Chilean winemakers have also experimented with other temperatures and terrains. In search of more interesting tastes and characters, they have grown grapes in extreme locations such as the icy south and the Atacama Desert.

Wine bottles line the wall of the dining room in the Viu Manet vineyard.
(AP Photo / Esteban Felix)

Back in Viu Manent, the tourist team collected about 500 kg of grapes. It seems to be a lot, but Grez says that depending on the harvest, professional workers can choose two to four times as much – from 900 kg to 2,000 kg per day.

"I found it interesting because I set myself on the shoes of the people who do this work," said lawyer Ana Maria Farren. "We were half an hour here and tired, the (workers) are here for hours, this experience allowed me to understand all the heavy work that is behind a bottle of wine."

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