For 400 years the Codpa Valley, 110 kilometers to the south of Arica in the northern tip of Chile, has produced one of the country’s most ancient wines. To this day it is made using the same techniques that the Spanish pioneered when they reached this leafy valley in the arid Atacama Desert.
Pintatani is a sweet wine made from red País grapes. Its fame carried up to the high Andes and turned it into the principal activity of the people of Codpa in the 18th century.
Today, the valley is home to fewer than 200 people, but little by little travelers are taking a growing interest in finding out about the region’s heritage and history, and the Missions Route, which visitors take through the cultural landscapes of the high Andes in the Arica and Parinacota Region.
In Pre-Hispanic times, Codpa stood alongside the great cities that are now Arica and Iquique, thanks to its fertile soils, pure water, and temperate climate. The Spanish moved in with their troops and cultural traditions, including the production of Pintatani.
The wine was made by 45 families, renowned throughout the region for their skills. It made its way from Codpa to Peru and Bolivia along the Silver Route, but also throughout the valley for the celebration of more than 80 annual festivals in the Altiplano. The most highly prized came from Pintatani, a small village that is now uninhabited but gave its name to the wine. Wherever it was really from, everyone would say it was from Pintatani. Thus, the name became famous.
The highways and trade of the 20th century brought wines with different characteristics at cheaper prices, and Pintatani was slowly forgotten. However, the ancient winemaking techniques involving treading the grapes in stone troughs live on at the homes of a few Codpa families, cultural heritage of the Chilean highlands.