I am a great admirer of Montes wines, from the quaffable Sauvignon Blanc to the iconic Montes Alpha M I was drinking (a Bordeaux blend with 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, which if I remember correctly, was the first Chilean wine that broke the $50 price barrier almost aa decade ago and made the importing nations take a note of the quality and aging capability of Chilean wines.
I did not have the fortune of meeting Douglas who died fighting cancer at the age of 68 on June 30th, but Sanjay Menon, owner of Sonarys, the Indian importer of Montes, had met him a couple of times ‘He was a true crusader for Chilean wine and a great friend of India,’ says Sanjay.
‘He travelled to India on just two occasions in the late 90s and then about five years ago. But his karmic connection with India was evident from the fact that he had the largest collection of the statues of Lord Ganesha outside India by a non-Indian; over 300 was the last count I heard about 3 years ago before his wife threatened him with dire consequences’ says Menon who feels he may have already taken re-birth in some part of India.
In his unique style, Sanjay pays his homage to the man he informs was listed in Japan, along with four others including Gaja, as one of the great statesmen for wine in the world a few years ago, ‘I am happy to inform you that Douglas was reborn somewhere in India. GOD KNOWS we need one of the great spokespersons for wine down here! But the memory of the old Douglas shall live on in the minds of all his friends in India who he repeatedly touched with the memorable missives that he painstakingly penned! With love and gratitude for his friendship we would like to rejoice together with his family, both immediate and extended, in celebrating the life of this great man.’
Perhaps his passion for Lord Ganesha and the faith inspired him to design the famous angel theme that became synonymous with the Montes label. He often said and strongly believed that angels protected him throughout his life.
Reminiscing about the man who helped devise the DO system for Chilean wines and was the founding chairman of Wines of Chile, Menon adds ‘he was refreshingly old-fashioned in that he, until recently when illness overcame him, wrote out all his communications by hand. In fact he touched us almost 20 years ago with a long captivating communication.’
For the record-conscious, Montes was the first wine imported from Chile into India- by the Taj Mahal Delhi way back in 1991 when all the restrictions were still in place. This was the first wine label Sonarys, who was into beers and spirits business before, imported into India
Along with partners Montes, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand, Murray had founded Discover Wines in 1988; the name was soon changed to Viña Montes. Starting with production of just 10,000 cases, Murray helped grow the business to its current level of 800,000 cases annually, including 150,000 cases of their Argentina venture, Kaiken). Viña Montes exports over 300,000 cases and is one of Chile's most prominent wineries in the world market.
Looking after the international markets and the results achieved by the company- and Douglas did open up the Asia and India markets, he was like a superman of sales. However, Sanjay does not like him to be referred as such. He says, ‘I beg to differ, he was not a salesman in that hardcore sense like I know some people to be. He inspired you to want to sell more of Montes and the great wine that they made the task easy and pleasurable.
I join Sanjay in sending heart-felt condolences to his family and the partners of Montes, who will all miss him- and as Sanjay says, Lord Ganesha may have granted him his wish and he will be re-born somewhere in India!