Veramonte came to life in the late 1990s in Casablanca, a valley unheard of at that time within the wine industry. Led by Agustín Huneeus, a visionary and pioneer of Chilean wine, Veramonte was the first to invest on a large scale in the area and introduce the world to Casablanca Valley. Today, Veramonte is a part of González Byass, a family-run company founded in 1835; the winemaking will continue to be driven by sustainable and quality-led practices.
In 2012, Rodrigo Soto joined as Chief Winemaker for the Veramonte group of companies which includes the Primus wines. Rodrigo has extensive experience in biodynamics, gained predominantly with leading consultant Alan York at Fetzer and Benziger wineries in California. He believes that conventional farming is hampering the progress of the Chilean wine industry and more producers should embrace organic and biodynamic methods to boost quality levels. He details soil fertility is one of the biggest issues in Chile: stating that whilst they are healthy with respect to vine pests and diseases, their low fertility levels mean that the vineyard manager has to interfere. Using conventional fertilisers, however, promotes vigorous growth with the associated increase in canopy size creating a separation between the physiological ripening and accumulation of sugar curves, affecting the wines alcohol to flavour balance.
This belief of Rodrigo’s that organic practices are the best fit for Chile has driven his thinking from day one. All three estates adhere to organic practices to ensure the best conditions for developing sustainable vineyards that express their terroir’s maximum potential. Alongside making organic compost, they employ cover crops between the vineyard rows, graze sheep to maintain the grass length without compacting the soils and maintain biological corridors to preserve biodiversity and ensure a self-sufficient ecosystem in and around the vineyards, about 15% of the estates are preserved as a natural green belt.
The company’s organic certification process will be completed by 2017 for all 680 hectares in Casablanca and Colchagua. The first Veramonte vintage to be certified organic at the estate will be the 2017. Moreover, Rodrigo has revealed he plans to begin conversion to biodynamics as soon as organic certification has been confirmed. Already, fermentations are being carried out using the vineyard’s native yeasts, producing less aggressive fermentations and smoother, well-integrated wines.