A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wine in Ecuador

During our cross country trip and our initial foray into Ecuador, I took a sabbatical on my wine blog, Roger's Grapevine ( It probably didn't come as a surprise to friends and readers who knew of our plans to explore Ecuador that my first return to the Grapevine chronicled a wine bottled here in Cuenca: Conte de la Cruz Vinto Tinto Reserva. Suzanne, after reading it, told me that I need to be including some of my Ecuadorian wine observations on our new blog. O.K. Boss, here goes:

Observation number one: Ecuador is far from being a wine lover's dream come true.
While many come to Ecuador for its reasonable cost of living in such areas as real estate, health care and fresh foods, don't count wine among those things you'll save money on. Ecuador is not a high volume wine producer and while great wines are found in nearby Chile and Argentina (wines from these two countries dominate the shelves here) prices are high. Ecuador imposed high import duties on alcohol a short time ago and is considering raising them in the coming year. The result is that I found many of my Chilean and Argentinian favorites at higher prices here in Cuenca than they were in the USA. Not exhorbitantly higher, but higher nevertheless. Variety is also a little more limited and focuses on basic mainstream varietals, some sparkling and a few dessert wines. While I've only been here just over a week, I'm fairly certain stumbling onto a good Brunello or Nebiolo will be an event worthy of a fairly significant celebration. As a result of costs, the bulk afforability of box wines is popular here. That's a growing trend back in the states, as well. But here, the box selection is still restricted to wines that are fairly fruity and young wines, often produced from second run juices. Nothing wrong with those unless you prefer more complex aged and dynamic wines. Wine is readily available here but it is either costlier or simpler in style or both.

Observation number two: Wine merchants are much less sophisticated here.
That's an economic reality and not a reflection on retail capabilities. With higher prices, less variety and lower wine consumption, Ecuadorian merchants are simply not going to invest in developing sophifisticated wine knowledge and expertise. That might change in the future if consumer demand increases. However, don't currently expect a lot of help in choosing from among the labels (most of whom may be unfamiliar) here. You have to do your own wine homework. You also need to be aware that merchant unfamiliarity with wine may extend to proper display and storage as well. Beware of the mercado proudly displaying nearly his entire selection of wine in one of his front windows. Intense sunlight is one of wine's three worst enemies when it's in the bottle and the uv index here exceeds anything regularly seen in the US.

Observation number three: There ARE opportunities here (as there always are where ever wine is sold) to find some really decent wine values, particularly if you're a red wine drinker. Because of the lower consumption levels here, the larger retailers seem to be regularly willing to offer quantity discounts to keep up inventory turns. Smaller shops do not turn inventory as fast and some of these bottles may stay on the shelf for extended periods. However, if it's a well made red wine capable of ageing and it's adequately stored, it just improves. If the retailer purchased it from the wholesaler before the import increased, he probably has kept the old retail. You potentially have a well aged wine at a better retail than its younger vintage counterpart at the big retailer. This can make for a fun outing, exploring the smaller neighborhood shops in search of these potential gems. Remember, many well made wines will have fairly extensive shelf life if not subjected to oxidation, heat or sunlight.
If you enjoy younger, fruitier and sweeter wines, there are some Ecuadorian products (to the best of my knowledge there are three current wine producers in Ecuador) that will please you at very affordble prices. Other saving alternatives are the afoementioned box wines or a line of wines from a Chilean producer labeled Guyasamin. These wines honor renown Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guyasamin who died in 1999 and are produced under license from the charitable foundation in Quito created by his estate. As a result of this and support of the foundation, this wine gets a modification on its tariff and you get a slightly better price point than many of its comparable counterparts.

No, Ecuador isn't a wine lover's dream come true, but wine is available here and with all the lifestyle affordabilities, you certainly don't have to do without a good glass of wine
That's a good thing because Suzanne and i do enjoy an occaisional wine break as we continue juntos en el camino de la vida.


  1. Very good post about the wine situation here. We have our "mules" coming in July with 4 bottles of Wa. wine.. we still have not drank the two I brought last Nov. Maybe we will have to have an Event.. so we can do a tasting with you at the house.

  2. Interesting post. I never gave thought to the wines in the mercado windows, and the sun's effect on them. The information on Guyasamin was helpful, and I will keep that brand in mind. Your search in some of the small intiendas can indeed lead to some pleasant surprises when buying alcohol and even getting better prices than say SuperMaxi. I am not by any means the wine aficiando you and Suzzane are, but I found your post informative. Thanks for sharing. Jim Mola

  3. hi, when are you having the next wine test? we love to join that how much is the cost? were? we are in Cuenca. thanks. Jenny.