This Nonprofit Is Using Bolivian Wine To Save Endangered Rainforests

Jillian Dara, Forbes:

After more than a year of virtual happenings, it may seem counterintuitive to continue to host events of the like when state restrictions on social distancing and mask mandates are eased. Rainforest Trust, however, leans into the opportunity to attract an intimate audience for the better good, hosting a series of wine tastings to raise funds to help save two million acres of Bolivian rainforest.

A section of the Bolivian Amazon that Rainforest Trust is fighting to protect from deforestation.

This evening, June 30th, Rainforest Trust—a nonprofit organization dedicated to safeguarding imperiled tropical habitats by establishing protected areas—hosts their second wine tasting in partnership with Chufly Imports. Leslie VanSant, vice president of philanthropy at Rainforest Trust says over 100 people attended the first wine tasting in March—which supported the blue-throated Macaw in Bolivia’s rainforests—where experts from Chufly engaged attendees on the regional wines that paired with a discussion about the Trust’s conservation efforts in Bolivia. 

“We work with an international audience, so this virtual event was one of the most positive outcomes of Covid,” said VanSant, who explained the goal of the wine tasting is to not only help to raise funds but also to raise awareness of Rainforest Trust’s projects in other countries.

Though the organization works to establish protected areas across Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, this particular fundraiser was established to save an area of the Bolivian Amazon, known as the Bajo Paragua Rainforest. “People don’t realize that 55 percent of Bolivia is covered in Amazon rainforest; this project is on the edge of the deforestation line,” explained VanSant.

A series of three fundraiser events this year, the wine partnership is meant to emphasize the region of Bolivian Amazon that’s being destroyed, due to deforestation, by incorporating the socioeconomic impact of wine in Bolivia, and highlighting regional wine areas that aren’t necessarily mainstream, but have been producing wine for multiple generations.

“All of the vineyards with which we work, run their wineries in an environmentally sustainable manner—as in minimal intervention farming techniques,” said Ramón Escobar, co-founder of Chufly Imports, who emphasized Chufly’s mission to empower communities to transform their local economies through sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development. He added that the wines, and winemaking techniques, are meant to contribute to the greater conversation of the topic of deforestation throughout Bolivia, also his home country. “We see the Rainforest Trust’s conservation mission as a crucially important complement to our efforts as we must pair environmental sustainability with economic development.”

In this particular area of the Bajo Paragua, Rainforest Trust also partners with Fundación Natura Bolivia, the local governments and the Guarasug’we indigenous peoples to create the San Igancio and Concepcion Municipal Protected Areas, which comprises over two million acres. The fundraiser—this one set for over $2.3 million—create the money to engage the communities on the frontlines, working to train, equip and deploy patrols to protect the forest and its indigenous residents, which also include its unique ecosystems. “The forests are still identifying new species in this part of the world,” said VanSant, describing the latest species of golden bat, Myotis midastactus, that was discovered in 2014, providing a compelling argument as to why we can’t let these habitats disappear.

During the tasting, Chufly Imports draws the parallel of a healthy ecosystem to the wine regions of Bolivia, and spotlights the curated labels as sustainably certified, high-elevation Bolivian wines, including 1750’s 2017 syrah and 2020 Pedro Gimenez Dulce, as well as a 2018 cabernet franc from Aranjuez

Escobar explains that Samaipata, between the Andes mountains and the Amazon basin, is the birthplace of 1750 wines and the frontier of South American viticulture with 400 years of wine history, where the winery is run by Maria Eldy, a winemaker of indigenous heritage. “The 1750 labels don the image of a Guarani woman—a tribute to the native people whose women were revered as fierce and noble warriors and Maria Eldy’s status as one of the only women winemakers in Bolivia,” said Escobar. 

As for Aranjuez, this winery was Bolivia’s first to win an international gold medal for its tannat wine. Escobar shared, “tannat wine set the stage for Bolivia’s improbable rise to wine prominence.” The third-generation, family-owned vineyard in Tarija Valley straddles Argentina’s northwestern border and implements social programs to include financing, capacity-building, and vineyard expansion opportunities for their small-landholder suppliers, explained Escobar. 

“It’s a different part of Bolivia than the Amazon, but their attention to the land and dedication to sustainability struck a chord with me,” added VanSant on how the collaboration came to fruition.

The next tasting will take place on October 21, for which you can find the latest information at to be sure to sign up in time to receive the wines for the tasting and to learn more about Rainforest Trust’s efforts in this part of the world and beyond.

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