“I had a discussion with someone who was unhappy that people are drinking Carménère with burgers. I said, you know what, I’m happy that someone is drinking Carménère with that burger instead of a beer.” – Cristián Mubert, Estampa Wine
Having never taken a journalism or writing class in my life, I tend to approach interviews the way I approach teaching: Mixing a dash of obsessive compulsiveness, I read about the drink/brand/establishment he/she works with (I clearly tend to interview winemakers, beverage brand ambassadors, bartenders, sommeliers…) and pore through the subject’s LinkedIn profile with the skills of an online stalker (potentially giving Penn Badgley’s Netflix character a run for his money).
When I was asked to exclusively interview Cristián Mubert of Estancia Wine, I naturally went through the same routine, hardly expecting anything from his profile…
… And boy, did his credentials blow me away.
(At this point, those whose curiosities I’ve piqued are probably looking for him online right now… He’s on LinkedIn and YouTube!)
Yes, his day job involves being the Export Director of Estampa Wines. What struck me most, however, was one of his degrees: A Wine MBA from BEM (Bordeaux Management School). The degree was a joint curriculum between the powerhouse wine schools in the world: UC Davis (USA), WSET (UK), and UniSA (Australia). Plus, he is also an adjunct professor in Chile.
Upon meeting him in Flames (Discovery Primea), I braced myself for a very geeky conversation (the kind I like, being a geek myself), kicking things off with my admiration of his academic achievement…
Only to find out there’s even more layers to the man.
In the immortal words of Jonathan Van Ness of the Queer Eye fame, “Can you believe?” He is also working on his YouTube channel, which features his passions: Great wine, a proper motorcycle, exotic locations, and really good rock n’ roll.
Wow. An erudite wino, gearhead, traveler, and rocker.
Having realised all that, I thought to myself… Estampa Wine could not have picked a better person* to represent their brand, which famous for making an art form out of blended wines (wines that are not made from 100% of one grape).
Note: When we spoke about blending wines, he injected a story about an argument he had with a guy who said that making blends is a copout and a shoddy way to make wine. While I mentally picked my jaw off the floor, weeping internally for all the legendary wines from Bordeaux and Rioja (famous regions that produce wines from blends), he proceeded to voice similar thoughts, as well as explaining the added difficulty of making business sense out of that winemaking practice (i.e., should a winemaker determine that this year’s bottle would be a blend of specific proportions of certain grapes, decisions would then have to be made for the excess amounts the grapes).
He proceeded to demonstrate Estampa’s capabilities of making powerhouse blends through their wines. We kicked things off with the Estampa Reserva Viognier Chardonnay. Completely deviating from the European style of Viognier, Estampa’s take involves fermenting in steel tanks, giving it a lighter, less rounded style. The Chardonnay used to create the blend was harvested early, giving it a refreshing acidity, and making a wine that is both fragrant and refreshing.
I had to ask Cristián what his philosophy is when it comes to choosing wine. He said, “(It) is dependent on who you’re with. I don’t drink wine that I’d have with my friends and dad with my mother. She doesn’t really eat red meat so she’s not gonna want red wine. Then, what’s available (in the area I’m in). Then, how much money do I have? And the occasion. Am I gonna have it for lunch? Later in the evening? Is it a special occasion? Am I celebrating something? So. The best wine is the wine that is available for you, with the right person and the right food. So there’s not one answer. Each wine has a time, a place, and ambiance.”
I had to ask, “Given those philosophies of yours, what ambiance can you imagine yourself being in as you drink the Viognier Chardonnay?”
He replied, “Sitting out on the porch munching on different things like prosciutto, salad, or asparagus… In a very simple environment with friends, just chilling out, you know? Talking about life, talking about simple things… It belongs to a relaxed environment. Is it a serious wine? Yes, it’s a well-made, serious wine, but it’s not pretentious.”
Next, we were served glasses of Estampa Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay Viognier.
“You know the New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc? Very itchy, with a very strong acidity?” Cristián asked.
Sniffing the wine, I had a momentary panic attack. It was in no way, shape, or form reminiscent of the New Zealand style, a style that is etched in my memory for countless reasons (it’s a staple in my chiller because of its accessibility, plus, I needed to use one for my teaching demo in London *twitch*)
Cristián said, “This is the opposite.”
Phew, I wasn’t losing it after all.
Cristián elaborated further. “The reason why we added 3% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier is because we wanted to lower the acidity, give it a more full-bodied sensation, and we wanted a Sauvignon Blanc that’s not from Loire, but from Entre-Deux-Mers**… A more fruit-driven European wine and staying away from that very acidic style. Now, commercially speaking, this is a love or hate wine.”
Trying the wine, I see what he meant. While I personally liked it, because it was such an adventurous Sauvignon Blanc, it can turn off a particular segment of the market. What I loved about it, I told Cristián, was that I could pair it easier with food versus a typical Sauvignon Blanc.
He lit up, telling me about how it was doing well in Malaysia. After further discussing how traditional cuisine in different parts of the world could also make an impact on a region’s preferred style of wine, I realised this take on the Sauvignon Blanc is perfect with flavours and textures of Malaysian and Thai food. The rounded flavours and rich structure, as well its fragrant, aromatic notes would hold its own with different curries, and even Rendang.
It all made sense.
I know this is such a tease, but I need to end this article here. Part 2 of A Colorful Conversation with Cristián and Chilean Wine in the next entry. Cheers!
*He has also lived in different parts of the world, so his cultural representation (and accent) is also a blend of all the places he’s been
**Loire has a crisper, more acidic, more austere style versus that of Entre-Deux-Mers, which is more rounded versus that of Loire
For Cristián. Thank you for the lovely conversation. To mutant oysters, long hair, and Armenia. Cheers!
Very, very special thanks to Mr. Chester Cabrera for setting up this wonderful interview