Speaking to Vinexpo Daily, Christian Wylie, Managing Director, Bodega Garzon, explains his journey to work for Uruguay’s fastest-growing winemaker
With the incredible growth of Bodega Garzon in the past few years, we asked Christian Wylie, to share the backstory of his life and winemaking in Uruguay.
My story is a love story. I went to Punta Del Este, Uruguay to play rugby. We lost to the All Blacks, but on the same day I met my wife who’s from Punta. We fell in love, got married a coupe of years later, and I worked in a winery in Uruguay. I am from Chile, so I went back there to run the Carolina Wine Brand, which is one of the biggest in Chile.
About four or five years ago, Mr Bulgheroni called me and asked to meet with me. He told me about his investments in the wine industry and how he was building an empire headquartered in Garzon, Uruguay. It’s a beautiful place to live,like the back- country of Provence, it’s very much the St Tropez of South America. Next to it, Punta is like the Cannes of South America. So we moved there.
OUR WINERY IS THE FIRST OUTSIDE NORTH AMERICA TO BE COMPLETELY CERTIFIED BY LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (LEED)
So it’s a very new wine producer?
Yes. Along with producing extra virgin olive oil, it started this millenium. In fact, Mr Bulgheroni is in the energy business and bought one farm for wind turbines as his activities are all very sustainable. For aesthetic reasons he chose to install vines instead of wind turbines, contracting Alberto Antonini, a tremendous winemaker from Tuscany, who, by 2008, had assessed the land for wine-making potential. Sustainability is key; in fact, here at Vinexpo Bordeaux we are announcing that our winery is the first outside North America to be completely certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – that’s our level of commitment.
Wine instead of wind, fascinating. How did the land adapt itself to viticulture?
There’s about 240 ha of actual vineyards spread over 1000 ha of land. We planted the vineyards while respecting the landscape, the native flora and fauna, so there’s a lot of space between the parcelitas. It wasn’t the typical New World ‘let’s bulldoze and make a new vineyard’ and as a result it looks like a little Tuscany; the oldest vineyards are only ten years old. It is an amazing project, spectacular state of the art technology, and not just wine – there’s a strong commitment to experiences, to lifestyle and luxury.
There’s a restaurant by Francis Mallmann, a golf course, a ‘secret’ billionaire’s club, you can ride in a hot air balloon, we’ve already had more than 25,000 tourists visit us. We are near the Uruguayan Riviera which gets more than two million tourists for the summer season, so we can capitalise on that and showcase our wines and other attractions. Mr Bulgheroni has invested a billion dollars in wine-making, his family’s vineyards are in six countries, with 12 appellations, and 21 estates around the world, including organic vineyards here in Bordeaux.
If you had to choose one wine from the current collection, what is your favourite?
That’s a tricky question, because we are all about the future – our signature wine, Balasto, will be incredible in 50 years time – but right now, I am totally into the Pinot Noir Rose. Crispy, good acidity, you can drink it every day, it’s a summertime drink.
What does it mean for you to be at Vinexpo Bordeaux?
I’ve been coming to Vinexpo Bordeaux for 20 years – I feel like the ‘Last of the Mohicans’ but I love this show! I am a winemaker, trained in Chile and California, and for me this show is the wine business. You interact with the principals and decision-makers of the most important companies in the world, and after a great show, people take the time to talk and taste the wine. It’s gorgeous to be in Bordeaux. I am a big advocate of Vinexpo.
Hall 1 / Stand C271
Christian Wylie, Managing Director, Bodega Garzon