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Viña Montes unveils its ‘most ambitious project’ in Chiloé

Aurelio Montes Sr, founder of Chile’s famed Montes winery, has revealed what he calls, “the most ambitious project” to date, making wines in one of the most southerly wine regions in the world on a tiny island in Chiloé, south of Patagonia.

Aurelio Montes (left), founder of Vina Montes

The new project will see the winery planting five different grape varieties over two hectares of vineyards in a “totally wild” isle called Mechuque in the northeastern part of Chiloé, the largest island in Chile, the vintner told dbHK at Vinexpo in Hong Kong.

The project if it succeeds will transform Mechuque, a small isle of only about 120 inhabitants, into a new frontier for Chile’s winemaking, he predicted.

“It’s a place that’s totally wild, it has never been planted. the grapes we are going to try are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, and Riesling. it’s a small pilot project,” said Montes ecstatically.

The planting will start in the second week of this month but the winery will wait for two years to see which grape variety works best with the local climate and terroir.

Asked about the temperature of the tiny isle, Aurelio asserted that it’s warmer than neighbouring regions even given its southern latitude, thanks to the fact that the cold Humboldt current only affects the western side of Chiloé, sparing the islands dotted inside of the gulf.

In Summer, the maximum temperature is 23 degrees celsius, while in winter the lowest temperature is 4 degrees, he said.

“I know the extremes and understand the extremes,” he stated, adding that he has been sailing to Chiloé for decades, which was also how he came up with the idea of planting grapes on the island. “I have been thinking for 50 years, ‘when am I going plant you Chiloé? I will beat you someday. I will plant you’,” he confessed.

Mechuque island is located in the northeastern part of Chiloé archipelago as indicated in the map

Additionally, he argues the location of the isle is inside waters that resembles a lagoon, trapping warm ocean currents, therefore, “frost will never be a problem here.”

But asked about possible mildew because of high humidity, the vintner said spraying can help and use of plastic roof over vineyards can also manipulate growing conditions.

“With the roof, the temperature increases by 2 degrees, then the ripeness will come early. There are tools we can explore, we want to start organically if it doesn’t work we have technological tools,” he explained.

The soil on the island consists of volcanic ashes from the Andes mountains with good drainage, he added. “It’s really the diversity of Chile. I am so confident about the study of temperature and water,” he concluded.

It’s still yet too early to predict the quality or success of the wines from the small isle, but Aurelio suggested that a sparkling wine is definitely in the pipeline, and its first commercial release from the project might be in 2021.

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