In preparation for my upcoming trip south, I consulted my trusty World Atlas of Wine, which contains precisely zero information about Colombia. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia was scarcely better, mentioning the country just once, in a table, noting that it has approximately 1,500 hectares (about 3,700 acres) dedicated to vineyards, in contrast to Argentina’s vast 207,985 hectares.
None of this was a great shock — Colombia, after all, won’t win a Ms. Fancy Wine South America pageant. Of my research tomes, only the ever-comprehensive Oxford Companion to Wine offered any prose about the country. Only in the 1990s, it says, did Colombia start producing wine from vinifera grapes in any measurable amounts. Production, such as it is, centers in the country’s southeast, away from the tourist centers of Cartagena and Bogotá.
I was most interested to read that vines must be annually de-leafed by hand, a project which temperate-climate winemakers would doubtless find baffling. Why strip the leaves of perfectly healthy grape vines? Defoliating the plants forces them into a state of dormancy normally induced by winter a season which seldom comes to these equatorial vineyards. No dormancy, no fruit.
I hope to find one or two examples of Colombian wines to try out, otherwise I suppose I’ll be relegated to the local aguardiente. But I hear of a restaurant on the island of Providencia that makes its own tamarind wine, and after being beaten down by this relentless cold and snow, the idea of sipping some tamarind wine by the sea is all that’s keeping me from huddling under my down comforter until spring.