One on One with Winemaker: Aurelio Montes of Montes Winery
Things in life often connect in most unexpected ways. Few years ago I read an article about the ways music affects the winemaking. I was unable to find that article or much references ever since. Many times I came across the wine with an interesting label and somewhat peculiar name of Montes Alpha – but I never tasted one.
Few weeks ago I got a note about wine samples from the winery called Montes Alpha from Chile. That note also mentioned Gregorian Chants and Feng Shui been essential elements in wine production at that very winery. This was enough to send my curiosity through the roof and ask for more information – and talk about the way things connect in life, right?
Who can better answer questions wine and winery questions if not the winemaker? I gladly used an opportunity to [yet again] sit down (yes, virtually) with the winemaker and send the barrage of questions his way. I have to tell you that all my questions were answered well in depth – and I think you will find this conversation interesting too. Here is our dialog with Aurelio Montes Sr – Founder and Chief Winemaker of Montes Winery.
Q1: I understand that your winery was built using Feng Shui principles. Are there any specifics in using Feng Shui specifically for the wineries? Do you have any followers from other wineries who came to learn from Montes Alpha experience?
A: We seek to apply the principle of balance and harmony of space in our winery. If you live and / or work in nice balance places, the energy will continue their natural rhythms and will lead to welfare in all its aspects.
It is in this sense, it was incorporated as a fundamental principle in the early stages of design and construction of our winery, the inclusion of all basic elements such as water, metal, wood, stone, etc., in accordance with the principles of this Asian discipline, to ensure this harmony and above all a positive atmosphere.
For example at the entrance to the building is the wooden bridge over a small lagoon, whose water flows toward the building. A fundamental principle of Feng Shui is that prosperity will only come if the water, which represents energy, flows into the center of the building, rather than away from it.
I understand that no other winery has incorporated the Feng shui principle. In our case, one of our founders, Douglas Murray, was always fascinated with this concept and idea of building a harmonious winery and wine with our environment, therefore we hired the advise of an expert in this field to introduce the principles of feng shui in the foundations of our construction.
Q2: Did you apply or can you even apply Feng Shui principles in the design of the vineyards?
A: Feng shui is related to harmonize spaces. In our case it was considered to harmonize the spaces between the vineyards, winery and of course, our people. To get, as a result, the best wine we can possibly achieve. I believe that in a balanced environment, all pieces come together to perfectly to achieve a greater result.
I am not an expert on the subject though, and not sure how Feng shui can be applied to the vineyard. However our vineyards are planted according to quality policies, soil conditions, variety, etc. I believe that the harmony in the management of our vineyards is the result of the best possible quality grapes we can achieve, keeping always in mind the sustainable conditions.
Q3: I heard about Gregorian chants at the winery. How and where do you use them?
A: The Gregorian chants play constantly in the icon barrel room of our winery at our La Finca de Apalta Estate. The wine seems to enjoy it and I love it. In my opinion, besides the physical effect on wine, it does have an important effect on people’s moods and they work with more happiness and confidence. It keeps us calm in the cellar.
Q4: Did you try to test the effect of Gregorian chants on aging of the wines by creating a “control group” of same exact wine from same exact vintage and aging it under regular conditions (no music), and then comparing the two wines in the blind tasting?
A: For long now I have been interested in the effects of music in wine. I am happy to share with you a study we funded at Heriot Watt University about the effect of background music in wine tasting.
In terms of wine tasting the “control” with no music at all had a score 20% lower than the tasting held in presence of music.
Q5: Did you experiment with impact of music on the grapes in the vineyard? I remember reading about some of the experiments in that area, and I wonder if you have any information you can share here
A: Not yet and I don’t know of anyone that has done it. I presume there are so many uncontrollable variables such as temperature oscillation, different weather conditions, etc that would make it difficult to assess the particular influence of music in the vineyards.
Q6: Montes Alpha is certified Sustainable winery. Do you have any plans to become an organic or may be even biodynamic winery?
A: From our beginnings, our philosophy has been to produce wines of the highest quality, always concerned with the care of the environment, developing a sustainable viticulture in all stages of winemaking.
We believe sustainability covers a broader spectrum and a larger concept than being only an organic or biodynamic winery. It not only concerns the caring of our vineyards and the environment that surrounds it, but also the legacy that we leave for the next generations. We are very careful with our habitat, natural resources and above all improving conditions for the community.
Being sustainable also takes care of the social aspects of our workers – having a profitable operation permitting us to offer a stable place to work.
We also minimize our use of energy and treat our waste-water to reuse it in the irrigation of our vineyards.
Having said all the above we still have some plans to develop a line of biodynamic wines in a few years. We have also moved forward in improving our carbon footprint, becoming one of the few carbon neutral wineries in Chile. We have not only traveled to improve our carbon footprint but also to significantly reduce the use of pesticides and replace them with more friendly environmental agents.
No, we are not done yet with the interview, but I don’t want to overload you with an information. I can also bet you are thirsty now, so let me present to you two of the Montes Alpha wines I had an opportunity to taste:
2012 Montes Alpha Montes Twins DO Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Malbec)
C: very dark garnet, almost black
N: a bit of funk, herbs, blackberries, hint of black currant, inviting
P: good dark fruit, chalk, firm structure, pencil shavings, tart acidity on the finish, restrained. Next day the wine acquired some umami complexity with notes of tobacco.
V: 8-/8, an excellent wine hiding under simplistic packaging; outstanding QPR
2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $25, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: cedar, cassis, classic
P: cassis, dark fruit, clean, round, soft
V: 8, outstanding, round, easy to drink
Here you go, my friends. Do you use Feng Shui in your life? What do you think of wine and music? And of course, did you have any of the Montes Alpha wines? I have two more wines to talk to you about, and continuation of our conversation with Aurelio Montes Sr. to share, so stay tuned.
To be continued…