Christian Wylie has been a key player in the South American wine industry for over 20 years. He holds an agricultural engineering degree with a specialization in fruiticulture and enology from the Catholic University of Chile; has also studied at the University of California at Davis and completed a post-graduate senior management program at the ESE Business School in Chile.
Since Wine Paths is based in France, we are very aware of the Paris Agreement and the implications of climate change. It seems that at Bodega Garzón you are pioneers in the matter…
C.W.: Yes, at Bodega Garzón we are committed to our promise of sustainability at every level: in the vineyards, LEED* in the winery and renewable energy sources. We take the environment very seriously: from energy efficiency to reduction in water consumption, from using low-emission local equipment to responsible construction waste management, from collecting rainwater to restoring biodiversity… We’ve implemented diverse environmental strategies in the winery’s design and construction.
For example: since it is built atop a rocky outcrop the winery will spend 40% less energy than other similar facilities thanks to the efficiency of the premises. And, in situ production of wind and photovoltaic energy will be able to generate up to 40% of all energy needs.
Today, our winery is recognized as a worldwide icon, as we are the first sustainable winery built outside North America in accordance with the strict requirements set down by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
*LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is a rating system developed by the USGBC which consists of a set of rules regarding strategic plans aimed at ensuring building sustainability.
The winery was built in an idyllic location, on a remarkable Uruguayan terroir perfect for the production of superb wines. In addition to fabulous tastings, visitors can join unique activities on-site or in close vicinity to the wine estate. Tell us about the “Garzón Experience”.
C.W.: For us, the true Garzón experience has a lot to do with the place where our winery is located. As you said, the bodega is indeed in an idyllic location: our visitors connect with it in a unique way as there is no better way to truly enjoy our wines than overlooking the incredible landscapes that surround us or enjoying a fantastic lunch at the hands of Francis Mallmann paired with our best wines. It is this intimate connection with our soil, the scenery and nature that makes for an unforgettable visit.
When visitors come to Garzón, they can enjoy exclusive wine experiences that range from private visits to the vineyards and a guided tour of the winery to a fire station Francis Mallmann’s style, while tasting our most iconic wines. We also offer an original way to visit our vineyards… in a carriage pulled by a tractor, followed by a wine and extra virgin olive oils tasting and a local delicacies gourmet platter. However, our most sought-after experience is without a doubt, our hot-air balloon tour above the vineyards, almond and olive tree plantations, including views of the Colinas de Garzón’s windmills -our extra olive oil boutique production plant. A truly memorable way to take it all in and really connect with Garzón and nature.
For those wishing to arrive in style, we even offer an exclusive helicopter ride service.
We know that one of your passions is traveling the globe -just like the Wine Paths’ travelers. Can you share with us your two favorite/best memories of wine & travel?
C.W.: I have been lucky to have had quite a few memorable experiences of “wine & travel” around the world, in countries like Brazil, Canada, the US or Mexico; but I definitely have a “Top 3” that comes to mind.
The first one was around five years ago in Belgium. At the time, I was working for a winery in Chile and our Belgian importers were a family, the Declerc, who have been fine wine merchants for generations. They invited me to their home for a truly unforgettable blind tasting: we started off with 1970 vintages, then we moved on to bottles of Château Leoville Las Cases, a superb 1990 vintage of Château Mouton Rothschild and a 1990 Viña Santa Carolina. After all these amazing wines, our hostess went down to the cellar and came back with a decanter. We had no idea what it was. We blind-tasted it as we had done with the others and agreed it had to be a “between wars” wine. Then, we narrowed it down to a Bordeaux red, specifically a Pomerol, and finally we concluded it was a merlot. I realized it was a Vieux Château Certan and… a 1929 at that! In fact, our hosts had received a case as a wedding present and that was their last bottle, so it was quite moving that they had shared it with me. It truly was a magical night and an incredible experience. Some say that the best cellars in the world are in Belgium and I think there is some truth to that.
Another quite incredible experience was the Balasto* photo shoot at the Great Wall in China. After having received fantastic reviews on the first edition (2015), we were invited by James Suckling to join him on his annual Great Wines of the World Asia tour that included Hong Kong and Beijing stops. The highlight of the trip was a truly unique tasting and photoshoot on the Great Wall with fellow wineries from around the world. We were incredibly lucky to enjoy a beautiful, clear day at a truly breathtaking location. It also just happened to be the day Donald Trump visited the area.
Balasto is Bodega Garzon’s icon blend, the first Uruguayan wine -and one of the first South American wines and few New World wines- to be sold en primeur (pre-release) via negociants (wine merchants) in Bordeaux and Hong Kong. Its name comes from the “ballast” soil typical of Bodega Garzón’s terroir: decomposed granite rock -the result of the separation of the South African and South American plates during the “Pangea” period; they are effectively some of the oldest rocks on the planet. These ballast soil provides excellent drainage and minerality that translate into the complexity, energy and vibrancy of this iconic Uruguayan wine.
Lastly, a truly “extreme’ “wine & travel” experience comes to mind: an Arctic safari in the Finnish Lapland, in the search of the “perfect pairing” for a carmenere wine that had won the Best of Show award. We stayed at a cabin in the Arctic Circle and used sledges to move around.