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Montes: ‘Chile has no expertise with Riesling’

South America’s Aurelio Montes is planning to create a high quality Riesling with the help of a winemaker from the Mosel, because Chile lacks expertise with the grape.

Aurelio Montes has brought in a consultant winemaker from Germany’s Mosel to help craft the first Montes Riesling*

Speaking to the drinks business in Chile last month, Aurelio Montes, head of the eponymous brand, said that the South American country had “never done anything really great with Riesling”, but added, “and that’s because we have no expertise with the grape”.

As a result, he has brought over a winemaker from Germany’s Mosel region to help Montes produce a high quality wine from Riesling, which the Chilean wine brand will launch under its “Outer Limits” label in two years time, according to Aurelio.

The grapes come from a coastal vineyard planted eight years ago in Leyda – a subregion of the San Antonio Valley – which Aurelio said was just 1.8km from the sea, making it the closest planting to the ocean in this area. He also said that the vineyard produced results that were so good, he said he “was shocked by the quality”.

However, he stated, “Chile has no expertise in Riesling, but we need to find a way forward, because people who love Rieslings are big wine lovers.”

The Mosel winemaker, called Helmut Colman, has spent three weeks experimenting with the Riesling from this year’s vintage, making 21 different wines from 20 tonnes of grapes, according to Aurelio.

“He thinks the Riesling is different from the Mosel, but he also thinks there is a chance to create something unique, and I think we will go dry in style,” said Aurelio, before stressing that this is the only consultant Montes has taken on, because, “I thought it was important to have someone with expertise.”

Meanwhile, Viñedos Emiliana is planning to launch Chile’s first certified organic Riesling next year. Coming from Bio Bio, where the Guilisasti family – who own Emiliana, along with Cono Sur and Concha y Toro in Chile – have a 200 hectare estate, Emiliana winemaker Noelia Orts said that she was working with 20ha of Riesling, as well Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, that have been farmed organically.

Because the southerly Chilean region has an annual rainfall of 1,000mm, Orts said it had been hard to convert the vineyards to organic viticulture, but stressed that Bio Bio was “under the spotlight” because grapes can be grown without irrigation and water is dangerously scarce in regions north of Maule, and particularly cool-climate areas Limarí and Elqui.

Although Montes said that Chile did not have sufficient experience handling Riesling, it is worth adding that Cono Sur’s Single Vineyard Riesling was one of the few entries to achieve a gold medal in last year’s drinks business Riesling Masters tasting competition. Furthermore, the grapes for this wine were from Bio Bio – the same source as Emiliana’s impending organic Riesling. You can see the full results of the 2014 Riesling Masters here.

* The planned Montes Outer Limits Riesling will be the brand’s first varietal Riesling, but Montes does already have a late-harvest wine made from 50% Gewurztraminer and 50% Riesling. 

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