Q&A with Adolfo Hurtado of Cono Sur

Adolfo Hurtado is chief winemaker at Cono Sur, based in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. He lives in Santiago with his wife and four children.

What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?

Pinot Noir is an extremely delicate grape that you have to master in order to properly express its fruit, freshness, acidity and gracefulness. That being said, I think the best way to define a good Pinot Noir is the concept of “drinkability”. A good Pinot is a delicate wine with fresh, juicy flavors, smooth tannins, good acidity and great expression.

What regions of the world have the potential to produce high quality Pinot Noir? 

The ideal winemaking regions for Pinot Noir are those in which there is a combination of red, mineral soils and a cold, dry climate. Burgundy, of course, is the best example, but areas such as Casablanca, San Antonio and Bío Bío have the potential to become major representatives of the variety due to possessing the aforementioned characteristics.

How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?

Since we began working with Martin Prieur on our Ocío Pinot Noir project, our vinification style has changed tremendously. In the past, we treated Pinot  in the same way as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah.

With time, we learnt that extraction and concentration weren´t the way to go about making a good Pinot Noir, so turned our focus to balance, freshness, smooth tannins, acidity and minerality as the key is elegance. Managing yields, harvest dates, carbonic maceration, the amount of extraction and barrel usage have all been factors we’ve considered in order to produce the most complex and elegant Pinot Noirs possible.

What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in Chile?

Due to being geographically isolated from the rest of the world, Chile is one of the most traditional wine consuming countries, as the majority of consumers continue to primarily drink red wine, 70% of which is Cabernet Sauvignon. This shows that the Chilean consumer has always been a lover of concentrated wines with firm tannins, which is why at the beginning, Pinot Noir wasn´t so common here.

However, we are now seeing a group of people, especially among wine buffs, that are really starting to appreciate the variety´s concept of finesse and gracefulness. These are usually younger people who are more open minded to trying something new. Pinot Noir consumption in Chile is still quite low, but it is increasing at an interesting rate, and those who have tried it have become hooked!

What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?

There has been a global consumer trend towards approachable wines that offer instant pleasure. The wines leading today’s consumption trends have a lower alcohol content, less extraction and concentration, softer tannins and are simply fresher. Pinot Noir fits this description perfectly.

Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?

Cono Sur´s current Pinot style is largely due to us having worked with Martin Prieur from Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault for the last 14 years. His wines, philosophy and the way he works inspires and motivates us.  

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