What first strikes me when I get to Montsecano is the dazzling light, especially when flying out from Europe early March on an endless winter night. I feel like a bear finally getting out of the cave after long hibernation!
Well, the hole in the ozone layer over Chile makes lights there so overwhelmingly radiant that the colourful landscapes jump right in your face; and, that the passionate-hearted people living there spray out their feelings out of the blue and over the top, compared to the tranquil restraint of my native Alsace!
Secondly, at Montsecano the hill is hieratically dry with steam dust that floats in the air like a mineral spray, giving the place a mist of mystery and a kind of sacred majesty.
Here again, I find myself far from my green Rhine valley, with no rock to rely on but local granite like at Clos Mathis, very similar at first glance yet so different.
And even though both Alsace and Chile are exposed to seismic risk due to the dangerous rubbing together of tectonic plates, the latter outclasses the former when it comes to terremoto (earthquakes). No doubt this fact also enhances the localsʼ character. After all, they do not fear, as we the Gallic people do, the sky falling on their heads but rather the earth moving under their feet!
The Montsecano Terroir is an intense combination of overwhelming light, rainless sky, mineral hill and constantly moving earth, as well as of nearby Pacific Ocean, which sprays vines at dawn with a precious offering thus preventing excessive irrigation; and, above all, of a pristine and previously unfarmed soil, with no signs of modern pollution at all -no cell phone network there. All these big assets make the place so unique.
At Montsecano, energies are strong and palpable, raw and untamed; they are not weakened nor perverted through the harmful effects of civilisation. You can feel them through the vitality of indigenous yeasts, the variety of birds taking shelter there and the many native trees growing in perfect synergy with vines. The local intensity of life and protected biodiversity just embody these energies.
On top of that the place is so charming! Montsecanoʼs beauty reminds me of the way I have ever felt about Muenchberg. Such breathtaking and gut-wrenching beauty shows once again that there is no great wine without a great place. And a great place, above all, is a place whose beauty brings you joy, which then turns inevitably into love.
With Montsecano, it is love at first sight. That feeling of amazement is the direct opposite of the first conquistadorsʼ warlike feelings. The challenge here is to understand rather than to conquer, and to listen rather than to constrain. This is the biggest issue about any terroir anyway, is it?
Besides, can we really talk about Montsecano without mentioning friendship behind the project? Montsecano was indeed initiated by four friends sharing their love and views of wine, and who lived or are living in France -by the way, this is the reason why Montsecanoʼs official language is French!
And harvest is a very special opportunity to get together the four of us and share our efforts, sweat, dreams, joys and pains, with wine around.
Everyone knows that friendship is a wonderful catalyst: Wine transcends friendship, and vice versa at Montsecano!
The 2013 Harvest and My First Look at the 2012ʼs Right after Bottling
Before harvesting the 2013ʼs on March 11, we first bottled the 2012ʼs on March 7-8. 2012 was a warm and very dry vintage, with no more than 243mm (9.57in.) of rain. We harvested early, Refugio on March 6-8 and Montsecano on March 6-7 and 9, respectively. Yields were very low at Montsecano with 7.5hl/ha, but what outstanding musts!
We paid highest attention to grapes by using 100% de-stemming, indigenous yeasts, soft maceration process and hand pressing.
Ageing took place respectively in 100% concrete egg-shaped vats for Montsecano, and 25% concrete egg-shaped vats / 75% stainless steel for Refugio, without either fining or filtration. We used sulphur in homeopathic doses, just enough to protect the wines.
The 2012ʼs are great natural wines, fulfilling and sensual terroir wines with gorgeous mouthfeel and mineral depth.
2012 is a great landmark vintage at Montsecano.
2013 was a heavy rain vintage in the Casablanca valley with 487mm (19.18in.) of rain or twice as much as 2012. Still this is much lower than the ca. 600mm (23.62in.) average precipitations in Alsace!
In 2013, the temperature range was wider than in 2012, with a rather fresh early cycle and then quite hot weather from end of January.
We harvested Refugio on March 11-12 and Montsecano on March 13-14 and 18-19.
We are very happy with the yields which are up to 15hl/ha for Montsecano, so we will have a little bit more wine to sell in order to meet pending customer requests!
Itʼs been eight years now, and the vines have gradually set in. Triple ploughing and heavier rains have also been of great help. A lot of work, but what a reward!
Musts are very well-balanced with lovely acidity and saline finish; and, thanks to the cooler average temperatures, we could even find an Old World side in the 2013 vintage.
So far the 2013ʼs are babies in nappies and we are patiently longing for their first words to come out, so we can hear whether they speak good French!
Socio-Vintner at Montsecano