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Q&A: Francisco Baettig, Viña Errazuriz, Ch

by admin / 2018-09-09 10:08 Click: © Francisco Baettig The chief winemaker at Chile's Viña Errazuriz, Francisco Baettig, on suffering egotists, making wine to Iron Maiden, and the poor state of his cellar. By Rebecca Gibb | Posted Thursday, 26-Apr-2012

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Chile – in Santiago, the capital. I lived in Santiago until I was 31.

Where were you educated? 

I studied at the University of Chile. In Chile, all winemakers are agronomists. Five years' studying at the university and then you can become a winemaker, after you pass an exam. Then I went to France, to study at the Faculty of Oenology of Bordeaux.

What drew you to wine? 

When I was a kid, at eight years old I wanted to become a father. I thought it was a very important job. And then I wanted to become a doctor. Finally, I decided to study agronomy because of the influence of my father and the land. My family had a farm in the south of Chile [with] cattle and crops, and they also had a vineyard. My father was an oenophile; he loved wine.

In Chile, I don't know if you know, the wine industry was very depressed for many years in the past. We didn't export any wine until the end of the '80s or the beginning of the '90s. Before that, the industry was a real mess. When I went to study agronomy in 1993 and I had to choose what specialty I would take, the wine industry was just starting to develop.

Do you consider yourself a farmer? 

I would like to consider myself a farmer, but in the end, I guess, I'm more of a winemaker. I work in the vineyard, I follow the vineyard and the grapes, but I have more influence on the wine aspect. But I would like one day to have my own project, so maybe I will be a farmer.

Do you think great wine is made in the vineyard or at the winery? 

For sure, the wine is made – transformed from grape to wine – in the winery. But really, the quality and the potential is in the growing. I think that defines a big chunk of the total potential of the wine. That's why I spend a lot of time in the vineyard, especially during harvest. I think the vineyard is the key for quality.

Q&A: Francisco Baettig, Viña Errazuriz, Ch© Errazuriz | L-R: Views of the Errazuriz winery, inside and out; the Manzanar vineyard in the Valle de Aconcagua

Your view of awards? 

Everybody likes recognition. The problem is when you start chasing the awards and they become an obsession.

Where would you make wine if you were not in Chile?

I have a big relationship with France, because I studied [in Bordeaux] and my wife is French, my daughters are half-French and I have friends there. So I would love to live in France and work there. But I don't know if it's that easy.

Who controls today's fine-wine market? 

Négociants from France, auction houses, the Asian market.

Has wine become just another commodity? 

In big U.K. supermarkets, for sure, [but not] overall. Nowadays, diversity is bigger than ever. If we think of Chile, production was classically in the central part of Chile for decades. Now, we produce from way north to south, and we've started to produce more on the coast. You have the classic areas, but also the world has been developing new varieties in different places. So I think it's more diverse, overall.

Do you think there are still great wine regions that have not yet been discovered? 

I think there are always opportunities to discover new areas, especially in New World countries. In the Old World, it's a bit more difficult. They have more strict regulations and all the appellations are already set. But in the New World, it's something that you see all the time: new areas in Argentina, in Valle de Uco; in Chile, on the coast and in the south. Even in Spain they have rediscovered – or relaunched – places. For sure, there are new terroirs that we will discover in the future.

In wine terms, who are your heroes?

I like passionate, but down-to-earth people. I have met plenty of great winemaker-owners who I respect a lot, like Rob Davis (Jordan Winery), Henri Gouges, Francois Millet (Comte de Vogue), Nick Goldschmidt (Goldschmidt Vineyards), Bartolo Mascarello, Marcelo Retamal (De Martino), Kym Milne (ex Villa María).

How important is the glass you drink from? 

As long as it is a decent one everything is fine, but I use good ones for work. I can't work using these tiny, cheap ones.

Q&A: Francisco Baettig, Viña Errazuriz, Ch© Errazuriz | L-R: Grapes on the sorting table; during harvest; in the receiving hopper

If you could make a special wine for a particular person, who and what would you choose? 

A Port-like wine for my father and a Sauternes-like wine for my mother.

What do you drink on a school night?

I don't drink every night, as I arrive late very often, but usually a beer or a glass of red.

What has been your best – and worst –  experience in the wine industry? 

The best are all the countries and cities I have visited, all the fantastic people I have met, and all the superb wines I have tasted. Worst is the egos and commercial pressure you have to endure sometimes.

Where would you like to be buried? 

I don't want to be buried, it is too dark.

What would you want the last wine you taste to be?

A glass of Champagne.

What do you think would make the world a better place? 

To realize that we are all on Earth for a very limited amount of time

What music do you listen to in the winery? 

We are five winemakers that work together. Sometimes we put on a bit of rock, because harvest is a little bit like rock: very tense and energetic. We're all around 40 years old, so we listen to Iron Maiden quite a lot.

Is there a wine and food match you find hard to resist? 

In Chile, we have a lot of seafood, so I like ceviche: raw fish with lemon and oil. I love that with a good, cold Sauvignon Blanc.

What is it you most dislike in a wine? 

In red, when it's too opulent, too big. I like a bit more elegance – more fresh, juicy kinds of wine with a bit more acidity so you can combine them with food. Also, if the tannins are really dry, astringent, in a red, I don't like that.

What brings you the greatest happiness? 

Traveling. I like knowing places, new food, new people. The most important thing for me is my daughters. The oldest one is six, but she's been traveling since she was three months old to visit her grandparents in France, so for her it's natural – just jumping in a plane.

Do you have any regrets?

All the time. I'm very demanding –  with myself especially – so I have plenty. But nothing too serious. I try to mix things and not obsess with work. I try not to lose perspective of what we are doing. We're only making wine; [it's] not rocket science or saving lives. Wine is passion, it's pleasure, it's having fun.


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