Connoisseur

03 July, 2017

Cono Sur is the star turn of chilean wine brands. Christian Davis meets its CEO and chief winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado

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THERE’S NO GETTING away from it – Cono Sur is a great name with its pronunciation being so akin to ‘connoisseur’. In Spanish, it means Southern Cone, which is the South American region represented by Chile, Argentina and Uruguay – which isn’t bad either.

Although run totally independently, it is ultimately part of the Concha y Toro empire, South America’s largest wine producer. Its affable chief executive, chief winemaker and leading light, 46-year-old Adolfo Hurtado, has just celebrated 20 years with the company.

Hurtado is married with three sons and a daughter, who has caught the bug and is about to start an agronomy course with a view to following in his footsteps and possibly filling her father’s rather large boots.

FARMING STOCK

So how did the man who crafts Chile’s best-selling Pinot Noir get into winemaking? That’s simple. His family on both sides comes from farming stock, his father farms in the Casablanca valley. He is primarily dairy but, undoubtedly, with a little help from his son, he grows grapes and supplies Cono Sur. On his mother’s side, his grandfather had a farm in Apalta in the Colchagua valley.

Hurtado went to agriculture college in 1988 and, during the five-year course, he noticed the huge uplift in the Chilean wine industry. The course had not been popular but the astute Hurtado saw the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and specialise in winemaking.

He took a job at Viña La Rosa in the Cachapoal region and was fortunate enough to work under the auspices of Ignacio Recabarren (famed for Concha y Toro’s Trio and Terrunyo ranges) and Götz von Goerzdorf.

“Ignacio was all about the passion. Götz was a nice, generous man who knew more about wine in Chile than anyone else. He was generous with his knowledge.”

The German happened also to be technical director at Concha y Toro. So, when the opportunity at the outlying Cono Sur operation arose, Hurtado jumped at it. That was 20 years ago last month (June).

“At that time there was only a winemaker, marketer and a commercial guy. That was it,” says Hurtado.

They were making 70,000 cases and the UK’s number one retailer Tesco’s Wine Club was a major customer. Cono Sur is now the second largest exporter after CyT and, with 430ha under Pinot Noir, it claims to be the largest producer of Pinot in the world. Its leading brands include its entry-level Bicicleta brand, Reserva Especial, 20 Barrels and its flagship Ochia, which retails for approximately £35.

Leaving the rest of the Chilean wine industry to fight it out for share of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc et al, Hurtado and his team have focused on the more challenging Pinot Noir, along with aromatic varieties such as Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon.

“We are the largest producer of Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Riesling in South America,” boasts Hurtado.





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