Cono Sur was founded in 1993 by the legendary Chilean label Concha y Toro, with the aim of producing premium, innovative, and environmentally respectful wines. Their production has skyrocketed in volume over the years as they have grown in popularity – there are very few companies in the world able to produce wine of such exceptional quality in these quantities.
The name Cono Sur refers to South America's 'southern cone', the western edge of which is Chile. Cono Sur has selected the best and most expressive vineyards from the northernmost to the southernmost corners of Chile, so their wines could be said to capture the best aspects of this southern cone.
Cono Sur is focused on utilising as much of nature's resources as possible and Chile is in fact surrounded by natural protection for its vineyards: mountains to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atacama Desert to the north and glaciers to the south.
They are trying to minimise the use of chemicals, and some vineyards are organically farmed. Rolling back years of monoculture they frequently sow flowers between the vine rows to restore habitat for insects and their predators, introducing animals such as geese to control insects, to combat certain pests and diseases in a natural way.
This ancient ingenuity contrasts greatly with the cutting-edge technology present in their winery. Situated at Chimbarongo in the heart of the Colchagua Valley, it boasts temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks as well as temperature and humidity-controlled cellars, and was the first winery to attain a carbon neutral delivery status in 2007.
In fact, Cono Sur lays claim to a plethora of firsts: they were the first in Chile to produce and export viognier, the first to produce riesling and sparkling wine under the Bío-Bío denomination, the first Chilean producer to use synthetic corks in 1995, and in 2002 were the first to discover the benefits of using screwcap closures to retain the freshness in aromatic white varieties.
Another accolade, of which they are particularly proud, is the creation of Chile's first ultra-premium pinot noir: Ocio, launched in 2003. The Spanish word 'ocio' loosely translates as leisure time, but Cono Sur explains it is in fact a concept deeply rooted in classical philosophy: it is the calm after the storm of the day, the soul's chance to contemplate and to grow.
The wine blends new world character with Burgundian vinification; they make sure of this by consulting Burgundy's Martin Prieur about vineyard management and terroir. The grapes are handled with care: as well as being hand-harvested and going through a selection table at the winery, they use the gentler foot-treading method for pressing, and age the wine for 14 months in new French oak.