Weekly Interview: Aurelio Montes, Jr.

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 08-28-2015

Aurelio Montes Jr.

Aurelio Montes Jr.

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Aurelio Montes Jr., the head winemaker at Kaiken Wines in Mendoza, Argentina.

Kaiken is a branch of Montes Wines. Some of our readers may recall that we have interviewed the chairman of Montes Wines, Aurelio Montes, who is this week’s interviewee’s father. This interview provides an important insight into a significant winemaking family. Below, we ask Aurelio Jr. about the influence of his father on his winemaking.

Aurelio Jr. is not, however, a home-grown winemaker. Instead, he traveled across the country to work at many wineries not affiliated with Montes Wines before he returned to the family business in 2007. It’ll be interesting to observe the next generation of wines from the Montes family.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where were you born?

My family comes from different places around the world. From my mother’s side they came from Spain, and from my father’s side they came from England. But all of them came to Chile many years ago. I was born in one of the most beautiful cities of Latin America — Santiago of Chile — as were my father, mother, and siblings.

What has been your career path to where you are?

Winemaking has been always been a part of my life, through my father and my family. Growing up, I understood that being a winemaker wasn’t easy. There is a lot of work, traveling, being away from your family and friends for many days every year, but at the end, it is a life of passion. That is what seduced me.

I studied winemaking at the Catholic University of Chile, the third most important university in Latin America and #1 in agriculture and winemaking. When I finished my studies, I decided to travel around the world to learn more about winemaking. The first place that I chose was Australia, because it was a country new in winemaking but very aggressive in the way of making wine — a great learning experience. There, I worked at a few wineries, such as Rosemount Estate and Cape Mentel.

Then I went to the United States because I loved Napa and its passionate atmosphere of winemaking. In the year 2000, I worked at Franciscan Estate.

When I returned to Chile, I decided not to work in the family winery, as I wanted to develop my skills further. Ventisquero Winery opened their doors to me, and it was an absolutely great experience.

In the year 2007, I joined our family winery in Chile, Montes Wines. After a few years there I moved to Mendoza, Argentina, to oversee Kaiken Wines as the Head Winemaker. Kaiken is part of Montes Winery.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

There are many ways how you can look winemaking. For me it is not only a beautiful work, but also a lifestyle. Making wine is not only trying to make a good bottle, it is also working to express the pure and real terroir. My main motivation is terroir, quality, and taking care of small details.

How would you describe the influence of your father on your winemaking philosophy?

He has been INSPIRATIONAL. Since I was a child, I would go along with my father to the wineries. He showed me the good and the bad things about this world, and how big your passion for winemaking should be if you wanted to make your own special wine . He showed to me how to create good wines with passion and commitment, and explained the meaning of quality and terroir.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Every day I have different challenges as a winemaker. There’s so many new places to discover, so many new varieties (for me) to taste, so many places to visit, and so many wines to try. On the other hand, the world changes day by day, faster and faster, so you need to understand the direction of the world. One of my biggest challenges is to find a special terroir and to be able to express the essence of the place through a bottle of wine.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

There are many winemaker that I admire. Of course my father is one of them, and others include John Duval and Miguel Torres. In general, I admire any winemaker who has the courage to challenge themselves and the world, going beyond the limits. It is very easy to make a wine; it is very difficult to make a special wine.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

For me my number one place is Burgundy, and then Tuscany. Both places have all that I love: passion, history, culture, and of course very good wines. There is one thing about these places that may sound simple, but is very important — both places are so beautiful it makes you happy when you are there.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Vega Sicilia 1962, not because I think it was the best, but it was the most interesting. That wine showed me a piece of history of Spanish viticulture, and also I sensed the essence of the terroir, unique and elegant.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

In my cellar there is one rule, “every day is a good opportunity to drink a good bottle of wine.” So I have a good collection of wine, but I drink all of it every year with my friends. So I buy all the time wine from different places of the world. My oldest is a Montes Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, which was the first harvest ever of Montes!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Nothing because I just drank it all. I open every day a new bottle of wine. Life is too short!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Red will be Malbec, and white will be Chardonnay.

Is beer ever better than wine?

YES, beer is part of the history and culture of every winemaker. After a big day of wine tasting, a good bottle of beer is the best! I’m not producing my own beer but it will happen soon.

How do you spend your days off?

I’m the kind of person who loves to squeeze every part out of his day. Even on my days off, I wake up early, 7:30 a.m., and I go for a run. After that, normally, we take a few thing and we go for a picnic in the mountain or sometimes in the park. We don’t like television, we have our natural television when we go out and see how life moves. Also it is very common for us to organize a big BBQ with friends and family. At BBQs, we eat 2.2 pounds of meat per person, we drink a lot of wine, play soccer, and have fun.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I love to skydive!

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Without any doubt, drinking wine and having some work related to nature. I love to be outside, smelling nature and working with the environment.

How do you define success?

Being happy, being able to reach my goals in life. Having time to enjoy all that I have built (family, friends, wine, etc.), and being able to travel and to meet people around the world.

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