Aurelio Montes (AM) is a proud son of Chile, and it is evident in all of his wines. When you look at a bottle of Montes, like the Montes Apha M, the label, as with all labels for all the products, are printed, “ From Chile with Pride”. Wolfgang's Steakhouse at InterContinental Hotel Robertson Quay was the host of the Montes Media & Sommelier Luncheon, organized by Crystal Wines and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to Aurelio Montes and ask him all about wine-making, and what he sees in the future for the wine industry.
Cuisine & Wine Asia (CWA): How receptive is the Asian market like for Montes Wine?
AM: It’s extremely receptive! Today, more than 50% of our wines are enjoyed in Asia, and the demand is growing!
CWA: What’s your personal favourite of the wines in your selection?
AM: The Alpha M. It was a little bit of my personal challenge when I did think of the Alpha M, I wanted to do a Bordeaux kind of wine, and I wanted to prove to the world and myself that we were able to do a very high-level quality wine with the Alpha M. It’s a typical Bordeaux, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, so it’s a typical Bordeaux blend, but made in Chile, with our own grapes, with our own terroir and our own climate. I feel the quality is up to the level of the Bordeaux wine, so I am very happy we achieved it. So that’s why it’s one of my favourite wines out of all the wines that we produced.
CWA: What makes the terroir of your vineyard in Chile so unique?
AM: Well-structured soils, medium to low organic compositions on hill sides. The great coastal influence providing optimal Mediterranean conditions. Our topography, with mountains very much everywhere results in diversity of micro-climates. I would say that it is common in Chile (to have this climate) but one of the good things that Montes did different from the very beginning was to create a different approach to wine making. I’m talking about thirty years ago when we started in 1988. No one was doing the hard work in finding the correct terroir for the different grapes. So for example all the white grapes that give birth to the white wines like the chardonnay and the sauvignon blanc, the Rieslings and so on, and the Pinot Noir that is the red wine, they are much better grown by the coast, which is a cold climate, influenced by the cold breeze coming in from the Pacific Ocean, than producing those grapes in the warmest spot. But in the old days everyone was producing all of the varieties from the same place, which is easy but wrong because you want to have the cabernet in a certain climate and the red and white in another climate.
CWA: What challenges have you faced to keep evolving and being ahead of the competition?
AM: Stay on our toes, constantly innovating both in viticulture and winemaking.
CWA: Your wine has the tagline, “From Chile with pride.” How much of your wine and company represents Chile and its culture?
AM: We are proud of the terroir conditions and our wines certainly represent the highest potential this terroir can deliver.
CWA: Environmental climate is important for someone working in an industry like yours. What methods are you using to combat climate change that’s occurring all over the world now?
AM: I started to worry about this about 8 years ago when I realized that global warning and climate change something that may stay for a long period of time or forever, so I asked myself what to do? How can I react if a worse scenario comes, like say, no rain happened at all? How could we react to a very critical situation in the future? So with the team we started working on the control of water. We started working with different levels of water and different techniques of canopy management, of soil management and water management. We have managed to reach, after 70 years, the incredible figure of using 25% of the historical use of water for wine. We normally use 4 million liters of water for one hectare, and now we are using 1 million. The amount of water we are saving thanks to this new technology is enough to supply the needs of 20,000 people per year. If we were to supply water to a little town just with the water we are not using, we could do it. Ultimately, we did it by improving Viticulture (less intervention) and a more efficient use of water. Dry farming viticulture plays a huge role in our Sustainable practices. Viticulture (less intervention) and a more efficient use of water. Dry farming viticulture plays a huge role in our Sustainable practices.
CWA: What future trends do you predict would happen in the wine industry especially in the Asian-Pacific Region?
AM: As wine emerging markets evolve, we expect consumers to become more conscious about the intrinsic quality of the wine and, with it, will be more open to explore the diversity in terms of origins and grape varieties, not just the Cabernet Sauvignon.