A few years back, while on a wine benge that lasted two months too long, I found a bottle of Cono Sur pinot noir tucked in with a few dozen other “Wines from South America” in a local store not far from the casa in Denver, Colorado. Why this wine? For the same reason I choose all my wines, the label! Wine snobs say what you will, but if it’s a red and it’s in a sweet looking bottle, I’ll drink it.
The label was simple; a white back drop, some stylish text and the clincher, a picture of a classic, old school bicycle. I bought two.
I’ve had my fair share of wine in the years since I found that bottle of Cono Sur pinot, but I don’t remember any of them. The bicycle made me curious, and while trying to learn more about the wine behind the label I found out that the bike was representative of the wineries commitment to sustainable agriculture, and the way the employees navigated the vineyards.
Cono Sur Winery, founded in 1993, sits at the southern tip of Chili, where they make some of the best tasting wines in the world. Of course I don’t have the qualified palette that makes such a bold statement worth much, but I’ll bet you a bottle it would be hard for you to disagree.
Since 1998, Cono Sur has committed themselves to environmentally friendly vineyard management with a total of about 740 acres under organic certification, and several carbon footprint reduction projects completed.
Oh, and the bicycles. Brand Ambassador Maximiliano Erlwein was kind enough to tell me a little about them, and a couple other ways Cono Sur is producing quality, sustainable wines. Pour a glass and read on…
Can you tell me a little about Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery?
Cono Sur was founded in 1993 with the goal of creating wines that represent the style of the new world. We have three main objectives which are producing quality wines, maintaining a commitment to and respect for the environment, and constantly innovating in terms of new varieties, new technology and new styles of wines while holding true to traditional vineyard practices.
The Cono Sur bicycle is a distinctive emblem on your “Bicycle” and organic wine bottles. What’s the importance of bicycles in the vineyard?
We chose the bicycle as an emblem for three reasons: the first one is the most of our workers come to work by bicycle, so it’s a tribute to them. The second reason is our commitment to the environment because the bicycle is one of the cleanest means of transport. The third reason is that riding a bike is a fun experience; it´s easy and simple and enjoyable, so it’s the perfect symbol for our organic wines.
What style of bikes do you use? Any employee favorites?
We use an old model of bikes (think grandpa-style) for our visitors and friends, but the workers use mountain bikes.
Along with using bikes to navigate the vineyard, what are some other environmental practices being implemented?
We use all of the plant residue including the stems, skins and seeds from the grapes to produce compost, which we use for the organic nutrition of the plants and sustainable management as well. We use geese for pest control with the burrito de la vid pest (Naupactus xanthographus), a kind of beetle that eats the vine shoots. We also encourage biodiversity through our biological corridor where our goal is to increase the number of plant and wildlife in the vineyard which attracts pests away from the vines as a by-product.
Cono Sur uses geese in the vineyards instead of pesticides. How good are geese at getting ride of pest?
They’re really good, actually. When the burrito beetle comes out of the soil in the spring time, we tie a cardboard band around the trunk of the vines that’s covered with vegetable oil and garlic. The smell of the garlic stops the burrito beetle from climbing up any higher on the vine to the shoots. That’s where the geese come in to eat them. For other types of pests, we use different forms of green control but the geese are the ones that keep our vines healthy against the burrito de la vid.
Part of using bike’s on the vineyard is to minimize the emissions of Co2. Has Cono Sur always been carbon neutral?
No, at Cono Sur we first got our Carbon Neutral delivery certification in 2007, making us the first winery in the world to get this certification.
Finally, which wine is your favorite?
That’s a tough question because each wine is unique in its own way, but if you make me choose, I’d have to say Ocio Pinot noir and 20 Barrels Limited Edition Syrah out of our red wines and 20 Barrels Limited Edition Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc out of our white wines.
To learn more about Cono Sur Vinyards & Winery visit conosur.com or better yet, pick up a bottle and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Kyle FitzPatrick is a photographer, environmentalist, and editor for Outdoor Minded Mag. In-between time spent behind the lens or in front of a computer you can find him surfing, skating, dabbling and eating burritos.