What if I told you the highest winery in the world was in Peru? It is not yet, but soon will be. Currently planted between 2850m and 3000m, the Apu Winery has plans to become the highest in the world by planting at 3300m.
It was started by Fernando, from Lima and Meg from Washington with the first vines being planted in 2011. When they met, Meg was ( and she still is) exporting Pisco to the US and Fernando was studying to be a sommelier, whilst earning a living as an economist.
What changed their world was one simple question from Fernando to his tutor on the sommelier course,
“Why does no-one make a great wine in Peru?”
The answer was simple- the wine in Peru is grown on the coast, where there is not enough temperature variation from day to night to make great wine, which needs the heat to produce sugars, and the cold to maintain acids. So Fernando spent the next few years studying topographical maps and driving around the country to find the perfect microclimate.
He found it in sunny Curahuasi- 125km and 3 hr 15 from Cusco. Situated only 25 km from Choquequirao and the tropical cloud forest means that even at 3300m, there is never a frost at night. Combine this with calcareous soil and it soon became clear, they had the opportunity to push the boundaries of winemaking in Peru.
When they first started, they pruned and harvested according to the seasonal schedule Peru`s coastal winemakers use. But it did not produce good results. So they switched to the schedule of the Northern Hemisphere, pruning in February and harvesting in September and October, with much better results.
Meg and Fernando live with their two small children, 15 minutes up a dirt track from the small town of Curahuasi. Living in such a remote part of the Andes is not without its challenges. Socially you are very cut off, and educationally you are limited. The children go to the village school run by German evangelicals- so while the education is good, it also comes with a very particular religious stance. The German influence extends to the bakeries with Curahuasi having some of the best cakes outside of Cusco. We even found some great homemade gnocchi in a local restaurant that would have cost double in Cusco.
Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese are currently producing, with Tannat grapes soon to be planted. The winery is off the grid with water coming from the glaciers above and being gravity fed to the vines. Solar panels everything else.
Their aim is to produce 2000 litres per hectare, across 3 hectares, they are going for quality over quantity. Last year they produced just under 200 litres, so it is a slow process.
But the results are worth the effort- much of the wine was bought outright by top Lima restaurants such as Central.
As their consultant said to Fernando, ‘It’s not you that is going to see the results of this project. You are planting it for your children and their children to enjoy.’
If you want to visit, they currently have one guest room, with another to be finished by the end of the year. It can be combined with our 1 day Apurimac rafting trip, or with a visit to see the condors flying in the Apurimac Canyon at Chonta, making for a very different two days/ one night excursión from Cusco.
If you prefer a day trip, no problem, that is what I did. I left Cusco at 8 am, enjoyed a spectacular drive through awe-inspiring Andean scenery, arriving around 11.15 am for a tour of the vineyard and some wine tasting, followed by a nice lunch with Meg and Fernando. We washed it down with some homemade grappa, that they make with our friends at El Albergue in Ollantaytambo, who normally distill Caña Alta. Then I was home for 6 pm. This was a lovely way to see a different side of Peru and meet some great people. If you are big into your wine, I think you would really enjoy it.
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