The days of Chile being considered the Volvo of the wine world – safe but boring – are long gone according to Aurelio Montes of Montes.
Speaking to the drinks business during a recent trip to Chile, Montes said: “Tim Atkin’s famous comment in the early noughties about Chilean wine being like a Volvo – reliable but boring – really hurt us, mainly because there was truth in it, but it’s not true anymore.
“We’re a New World wine country so there is a lot of space to grow and things to discover. We focused on traditional French varieties at first as it was a good way to build brand Chile but we’re delving deeper into different things now.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the Chilean new wave with our Outer Limits series, where we seek to push the boundaries of viticulture in some of Chile’s more extreme regions working with grapes like Cinsualt, Moscatel, Grenache and cool climate Syrah.
“These wines are amazing but they’re a hard sell, so the commercial guys hated the idea at first but it’s important to do new things and keep pushing forward.”
But while Montes is passionate about innovation and change, he also believes it’s important that winemakers continue to play to their strengths in Chile.
“We mustn’t lose sight of who we are and what we’re known for, which is Cabernet. Cabernet is king in Chile and accounts for 70% of our production and sales so we have a big responsibility towards it and we need to keep improving the quality of our Cabs.
“For me, Alto Maipo is the best region in Chile for Cabernet. The expressions you get there are lighter, more feminine, mineral and floral with herbaceous notes.
“Cabernets from Marchigue are more like a wild horse as they are muscular with a lot of power, colour, tannin and ageing potential,” he told db. “I’m also really excited by the potential of Cabernet from Caucenes,” he added.
When the company was founded by Montes’ father, Aurelio Montes Sr, they were something of a lone star in Chile due to their fine wine focus.
“People were shocked when we came out with a $20 Cabernet when Montes first launched but someone had to get the ball rolling. It has been a long process but we weren’t afraid about taking a high-end approach.
“We’re so well known for our Cabernet some people think that we’re called Montes Alpha. The wine is on sale in 120 countries,” he said.
“Alpha is a blend of Cabernet from Apalta and Marchigue in Colchagua. The former is like an elegant racehorse and the latter like a strong wild horse. “We could charge more for it but we’d rather over-deliver on quality,” he added.
Looking ahead, Montes believes it is paramount that Chilean producers start collaborating more and working as a team for the greater good.
“Chile needs to work together as an industry better – at the moment there aren’t many producers pushing premium wines, but it’s our responsibility for the next generation,” Montes said.
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