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Chilean winery releases ‘dry farmed’ vintage

An unirrigated future may not be complete hell, discovers Chilean winemaker, Aurelio Montes.

Spot the difference: Cabernet Sauvignon before and after irrigation

Chilean winery Viña Montes has just released its first ‘dry farmed’ vintage – Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – relying only on natural annual rainfall for growing grapes.

“I have concerns about global warming and the fact there’s less and less water throughout the wine world,” explained founder and CEO Aurelio Montes. Imagining a future where irrigation was no longer possible, he said: “I told my head winemaker, I want to touch hell, before I go there.”

Montes Alpha 2012

Water usage has been reduced by two thirds from four million litres per hectare to 1.5m since the project began in Chile’s Colchagua Vally in 2009.

“I wanted to see what it would be like without water,” he told the drinks business at the UK launch earlier this month. The plants didn’t die. They suffered, but they have adapted with shorter shoots and much less fruit.”

While yields are half what they were, the wines may have benefitted.

“We’ve seen in several tasting panels that through “dry farming” we have increased the concentration and quality of the wines,” said Montes.

“We get more ripe fruit and more weight in the mouth.”

He believes consumers will understand the concept when the new vintage appears with the words: ‘sustainable dry farmed’ on the label.

Imported by Liberty Wines in the UK, the duty-paid price for the current 2011 vintage is £10 (ex VAT).


Cabernet Sauvignon vines with irrigation (left) and without


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