Tasting with Adolfo Hurtado of Cono Sur
For the last few years, I’ve thrown a dinner party around Christmas time for some of my friends. It’s a tricky one for me because my budget doesn’t extend to buying expensive wines for an evening in which we’re likely to consume a case or two. So it would be an understatement in the extreme to say that value is the key for me. For my first party some years ago, I decided to go with the Cono Sur ‘Bicycle’ Pinot Noir and I didn’t end up disappointed. All of my guests loved it too, so it’s fair to say that I’ve always viewed Cono Sur in a favourable light. So when the opportunity arose to meet Cono Sur’s chief winemaker Adolfo Hurtado on his recent visit to Dublin, I didn’t need to be asked twice.
I’ve met a number of different winemakers over the past few weeks and the one thing that has really struck me is the passion they have for their wines. The other thing that has been of interest to me is that each winemaker clearly has a passion for a specific aspect of their business and for Adolfo, that seemed to be environmentally friendly, organic wines.
Cono Sur has made, quite frankly, extraordinary efforts to obtain organic certification and limit the negative environmental impact created by producing, shipping and selling their wines. I get the sense that Adolfo isn’t just pursuing this as a PR campaign but truly believes that these methods produce better Cono Sur wine.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty of how Cono Sur is reducing the weight of their wine bottles to reduce their carbon footprint but instead will mention some of the innovative methods that Cono Sur have adopted to control the influence of pests in their vineyards.
I had previously read about Cono Sur’s famous geese on sourgrapes.ie but still had to stifle a giggle when Adolfo explained that the geese were critical to keeping control of the ‘burrito’ insect. In essence, insects and pests can destroy a vineyard, so the team at Cono Sur have had to develop innovative alternatives to pesticides in order to adhere to their organic principles. In this case, the vines are coated with a mixture of stinky garlic and sticky glue which either traps the ‘burrito’ with its adhesive or repels it toward the grass with its pungent aroma. Once on the grass, the hunter has become the hunted so to speak, and it’s every ‘burrito’ for itself. The hunters? – A gaggle of the resident geese that patrol the vineyard in pursuit of their next insect feast.
There are other similarly crazy methods of containing the red spider (basically breeding a battalion of its mortal enemy – the white spider) and the California Thrip insect (planting colourful poppies alongside every 5th row of vines to provide a far more attractive home for these insects that the plain green vine leaves).
Cono Sur has an extensive portfolio of mostly single varietal wines. I decided not to taste the wines on my own and but instead took up the offer to go through the wines individually with Adolfo. Not so good in terms of note taking, but much better in terms of getting a sense of the background to each of the wines.
We tasted the full range of Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines with a couple of other Cabernet blends thrown in. I liked nearly all of the wines, the only low point for me being the organic Cabernet/Carmenere that just didn’t really float my boat. Everyone else at the tasting loved it though. In terms of the Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs, you could really see the increase in complexity and quality as you progressed up the ranks from the general Bicycle/Bicycleta range to the Reservas and then to the 20 Barrels selection.
I thought that there were two particularly interesting wildcards in the tasting. Firstly, Cono Sur is launching a range of single vineyard wines (Visión) in Ireland in 2012. I hear they will be no more than a couple of euro more than the Reservas but, in the case of the Visión Sauvignon Blanc 2011 at least, provided a very different flavour experience – really zesty tropical fruit. Not necessarily any more, or less, enjoyable than the Reservas but just an alternative which some may prefer. Keep an eye out for them next year.
The other wildcard was the Ocio Pinot Noir 2008. I’m calling it a wildcard because this is the top wine of the estate and there isn’t an equivalent Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot version etc. This was Chilean Pinot Noir at its best – elegant and smooth with a magnificently long finish – a very complex and thought-provoking wine, a real beauty! Since I’ve always read that Pinot Noir goes well with turkey, I’m going to treat myself to a bottle for Christmas
The wines are imported in Ireland by Findlater Wine and Spirit Group and details of stockists are below:
Cono Sur Bicycle / Bicycleta (Varietals) – €9.99
Very widely available – all supermarkets (Dunnes Supervalu etc) and most off licences
Cono Sur Organic Cabernet / Carmenère – €10.99
Corks, Terenure, Dublin; Redmond’s, Ranelagh, Dublin; Mac’s, Ennis Road, Limerick; Lohan’s, Galway; Village Stores, Ballyvaughan, Clare; O’Rourke’s, Newbridge, Kildare; Ryan’s, Cong, Galway; Sweeney’s Finglas, Dublin; Nolan’s, Fairview, Dublin
Cono Sur Reserva – €11.99
Dunnes Stores; Supervalu; Next Door Off-Licences; O’Driscoll’s, Ballinlough, Cork; Redmond’s, Ranelagh, Dublin; Cases Wine Warehouse, Galway; and all good independents
Cono Sur 20 Barrels – €21.99
Eugene’s, Kenmare, Kerry; O’Driscoll’s, Ballinlough, Cork; Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Dublin; Next Door, Enfield, Meath; Redmond’s, Ranelagh, Dublin; Sweeney’s, Finglas, Dublin; Stewart’s Wine Shop, Ballycoolin, Dublin;
Cono Sur Ocio – €48.99
Redmond’s of Ranelagh
Cono Sur Sparkling – €14.99
Dunnes Stores; and all good independents