Drinking Divine Chilean Wines

Drinks

February 22, 2016 | BY Chloe Street

Winemaker Aurelio Montes del Campo discusses eco-farming, romantic dinners and the acclaimed vineyard his father started — Montes — with Chloe Street.

Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, both highly experienced wine professionals, wanted to realise their dream of producing Chilean wines that were a quantum leap higher in quality than the standards of the time. In 1988, they joined forces with Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand — together, the four established the Montes vineyard (initially called Discover Wine) with the express intention of becoming a pioneer producer of premium-quality Chilean wines. The Garcés and Barros families later joined the team, bringing a solid entrepreneurial background, a long-term vision and an unshakeable commitment that has helped Montes earn its worldwide reputation for excellence.

What has been the key to your success when creating Montes wines?

Every prosperous winery owes its success to multiple factors. For Montes, the most important factor has been the quality of the wine. It may sound obvious, but without a great product, success would have been impossible. The second factor is consistency: it’s easy to produce a great wine as a one-off, but it’s a big challenge to produce a great wine every year as we do at Montes. Thirdly, you have to be successful commercially — to be known and selling in as many countries as possible. Today, despite not being a large vineyard, we sell our wines in more than 120 countries.

Do you use any special techniques when making your wines?

For us, winemaking is a very natural process. We believe that the less you intervene, the better the quality you get. We have, for example, a 100 per cent gravity-flow winery (which doesn’t use pumps) to avoid damaging the wine. We also started a dry-farmed initiative a few years ago — an environmentally friendly way to use less water through non-irrigated cultivation.

Do the Chileans have a sophisticated approach to wine?

In Chile, we have been producing and drinking wine for more than 500 years. The main change over this period is that the amount of wine consumed has reduced — from 56L per capita in the 1950s to 16L today. As wine knowledge increases, Chileans are drinking better-quality wine in reduced quantities, while new generations are drinking less spirits and beer, and more wine.

What is the best wine you’ve ever drunk?

Drinking a good bottle of wine is always an extremely pleasant experience. One bottle I enjoyed over a romantic dinner with my wife was particularly memorable for the amazing setting. On the Sirmione peninsula in northern Italy, we had a romantic meal under a big tree with a beautiful view over Lake Garda — and shared a lovely bottle  of Cascina Morassino.

How are your wines received in Asia? What are your strategies here?

Asia is, by far, Montes’ most exciting market. Unlike in Europe, where people already know a lot about wine, people in Asia are curious and want to learn. There is still work to do to change the image of wine being an exclusive luxury product to be enjoyed by a few, but our strategy is to invest time in the market and visit often, so that we can educate and expose people to our wonderful wines.

What’s the greatest achievement since you started?

After 25 years of hard work, we have succeeded in putting Chile on the map of the premium terroirs of the world.