An Afternoon with Cono Sur: On Your Bike!

How’s your relationship with New World wine? It’s a subjective question that is known to divide a room. Before I went to Argentina in 2012, nothing could sway me from my Spanish, French and Italian favourites; but following a few days eating steak so tender you used a spoon and quaffing velvety reds, I swiftly realised there was (literally) a whole other world of wine which I was missing out on. Suffice to say, I’ve been playing catch up since.

Simply down to the lack of time, Chile got shafted on my 2012 trip to South America, so I am pleased to be meeting Adolfo Hurtado, Cono Sur’s Head Winemaker who’s in town to launch their partnership with the Tour de France. The French really do baffle me at times; you know, collaborating with a Chilean winery when you’ve got Champagne on your doorstep and Burgundy down the road. It's one way of thinking global, I guess.

I arrive to the K+K Hotel George on a Barclays Santander beauty channeling Tour de France vibes. There’s a gorgeous garden at the back, which I have noted for future shoot locations, but there’s an even finer selection of bottles waiting to be tasted inside. We get stuck in and the conversation flows just like the wine.

A rich buttery-coloured Viognier goes surprisingly well with the charcuterie on the table. I imagine serving it with juicy garlicky prawns a la plancha and as Adolfo starts to share the story behind the bike on the bottle, he says he'd enjoy it with fish and chips. Good to see someone's embracing the UK! Cono Sur’s employees arrive to work and look after the vines by bicycle, so this logo represents the people behind the product and the brand’s focus on sustainability. This year, to mark the 102nd Tour, Cono Sur has produced 102,000 bottles of its Bicicleta range, each adorned with a gold bicycle bell. The fresh Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc we’re now tasting just got even better.

This leads us smoothly onto the Bicicleta Pinot Noir. Versatility is my favourite thing about this variety; you could have it with flaky halibut, juicy quail, or even crumbly Pecorino. It’s your happy-go-lucky sort of friend, and I’m not surprised why it’s the nation’s favourite Pinot Noir. The next two wines take things to another level. 20 Barrels, Chile’s first premium Pinot Noir, was created using the 20 best barrels from the 1996 vintage; now that is a tasting I would’ve liked to be at. Made in Casablanca, the next wine, Ocio, is a labour of love. Having spent over a year in new French oak, it’s basically the Chateaubriand of Pinot Noirs.

Adolfo’s genuine down to earth personality shines when I ask his opinion of wine being used in more and more cocktails. Not only does he endorse it, he even shares his BBQ cocktail with me, which I just have to pass onto you. Excuse the loose measures, but chuck the following into a blender and you’ve got yourself a turbo Raspberry Daiquiri; one bottle Pinot Noir Rosado, rum, vodka, fresh raspberries and icing sugar.

As we’re quaffing an intense Bicicleta Merlot, the conversation moves to drinks trends. Interestingly, in the UK, whilst we have Mezcal on our minds and a summer of vermouth madness ahead, it’s still all about Aperol Spritz and all things gin in Chile. I am surprised to discover that Adolfo’s ‘Perfect Serve’ is Hendrick’s served in a Riedel stemless glass loaded with ice, garnished with cucumber wheels and mandarin wedges, served with Fever Tree Tonic and a dash of rose liqueur. Hello, summer.

Reflecting on the Pinot story alone, Adolfo hasn’t just put Chile on the map; at the end of the harvest in a few weeks, his team will have crushed almost 6 million bottles of the stuff. It’s clear that with innovation, quality and sustainability at its core, Cono Sur is a brand that will be a household name for a very long time, and we can rest assured, there won’t be any dusty bottles. Grape stuff.