This is the story of the Chilean winemaker Francisco Diez Zamudio, and how he started his wine journey in Chile and continues in Margaux, one of the most famous Bordeaux appellations. I had a chance to interview him just before the harvest starts, and the wines start to ferment.
Francisco Diez Zamudio, originally from Chile, is an agricultural engineer and a Master of Science in Enology and Viticulture. During his master degree he studied in the most prestigious wine schools of Europe, including Montpellier SupAgro, Bordeaux Science Agro and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. In these institutes the theoretical and practical classes about wine extend from the vineyard until the glass.
Francisco, right after graduation, decided to work in Bordeaux. I met him in the vineyard of Château Kirwan, where he’s currently working. Château Kirwan is a prestigious winery in Cantenac, Grand Cru Classé in AOC Margaux.
N: How did you decide to work in Bordeaux?
F: It was a natural choice. I had a chance to stay in Bordeaux before for different occasions. Last summer, I was here to make a complete (viticultural, enological and financial) audit in a château in Pessac-Léognan. During this stay, I visited a lot of vineyards and wineries. I was impressed with the wine tradition of Bordeaux. Later on, last December I came back to Bordeaux to make more technical visits in different appellations, both in right and left bank. After these visits, I was sure that I’d like to come back and work in this area, in one of the best wine growing regions of the world with a long and successful history behind.
N: How has been your experience in Margaux in terms of winemaking up to now?
F: It has been three months since I started. I’m working both in the vineyard and in the cellar. My first task was to communicate with our team in French. It has been a very fast learning curve, I learned a lot of technical words which made me comfortable working with everyone. Being a Spanish native also helps, as there are Spanish harvesters in our team. Moreover, I started to pay attention to different details in the process. Making premium wine requires more attention to detail in every part of the winemaking. Not only that, the vineyard management takes a big part of the final quality here. Currently, we are preparing for the upcoming harvest both in the vineyard and at the cellar.
N: Which vintages of the wines of Château Kirwan have you tasted?
F: I tasted Château Kirwan 1981, 2000, 2001, 2013, 2014 and Charmes de Kirwan 1998 and 2013. This gave me the chance to understand the differences between millesimes, but all the time showing the characteristics of their terroir. What doesn’t change in these wines are the distinctive style and honesty of the wines.
Before leaving Francisco I asked him a couple of more questions so that we can enter his wine world.
N: How have you improved your tasting skills?
F: In the last couple of years, I have been attending tasting classes and technical tastings. The classes gave me the rules to follow and I learned which characteristics to evaluate in each type of the wine. This was the key point, as you must have the base information before making a judgement. After all these tastings, I can say that I have a stronger palate and memory to remember them. This is especially important for blending during winemaking, knowing the characteristics of all different batches of wine we have, and imagining how it’d be to bring them together. As with most of the skills in the world, it’s important to practice. So, I taste and taste more in every possible occasion.
N: What was the last wine that impressed you and why?
F: In Vinexpo, we made the tasting with the winemaker Phillippe Bascaules, he’s the winemaker at Inglenook Winery in Napa Valley. He offered us to taste a Zinfandel from Inglenook Winery, it was from 2012. The wine has an impressive aromatic intensity in the nose and is very balanced on the palate, which I can still remember. I look forward to tasting wines with Philippe Bascaules signature in Inglenook winery.
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