Sustainability, organic farming and minimal-intervention winemaking may now be long-established terms, but Cono Sur’s foresight ensured such ideals were an intrinsic part of its business when it was established in 1993.
These long-term goals began to be realised with the move into organic farming in 2000. Today Cono Sur owns more than 300ha of organic vineyards San Antonio Valley and Colchagua Valley, in addition to transitioning vineyards over to organics on its El Encanto estate in Aconcagua Valley plus exploring organic possibilities in Bío Bío Valley.
Cono Sur further commits itself to a raft of initiatives aimed at minimising the effect wine production has on the land, and employs a team of staff dedicated to this aim. ‘We are always developing projects to reduce our environmental impact,’ says Cono Sur’s winemakng director Matías Ríos. ‘Solar panels make our electricity use sustainable, plus we set goals for our waste production and water consumption per litre of wine produced.’ Always aware that the greatest imprint occurs when its wines leave the property and are sent out across the globe, Cono Sur became one of the first wineries in the world, in 2007, to achieve CarbonNeutral® delivery status – a mark it has achieved every year since.
Other than the holistic benefits of such projects, Ríos believes the rewards are also captured in the bottle. ‘It is difficult to confirm that an organic wine is necessarily of higher quality than a conventional one,’ he concedes. ‘However in our experience, vineyards that we have transformed to organic management result in lower yields, obtain greater character and concentration, and better express their terroir. You must add these positives to the benefits to the environment, the workers and consumers.’
Pinot Noir, Cono Sur’s renowned flagship variety, is a grape that Ríos believes thrives under organic conditions. ‘We know that Pinot Noir is an extremely sensitive and challenging variety that does not allow mistakes,’ explains Ríos. ‘Farming Pinot Noir organically is a greater challenge but it also brings greater benefits, with the balance in the vineyard directly reflected in the wine’s quality. There’s nothing like an organic Pinot Noir planted in the right terroir: balanced and healthy. It’s the best way to produce this variety.’
It is this belief – that it is possible to realise the full potential of both variety and vineyard while always being devoted to the care of each – that best crystallises the convictions of Ríos and his team. ‘As winemakers, we believe that it is paramount to send a message to the world,’ he declares. ‘We can drink high-quality, innovative wines that are genuinely exciting, but that don’t need to make a negative impact on the environment.’