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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, 06 July 2010 11:23

Blog: Death of a Chilean Wine Statesman

Sipping a glass of Montes Alpha M 2006 during my flight to Santiago this morning from San Francisco, my thoughts were full of sadness for the untimely and sad demise last Tuesday of Douglas Murray, a founding partner of Viña Montes and a pioneer and leading proponent of the exports for the contemporary Chilean wine industry, who might soon be reborn somewhere in India.

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!

Subhash Arora



Subhash Arora Says:

I agree. I thought we had a silver lining in Shri Sham Chougule but obviously many of us have been disappointed. I hope he still can achieve that spot if he dedicates himself to the cause of Indian wine rather than Indage and only family. Subhash Arora

Posted @ March 09, 2010 15:50


Sakib Alam Says:

Dear Subhash, Really nice article,loved it.I wish and i pray someday,somewhere,a Douglas murray will take rebirth to take us forward in this industry.We really need personalities like Mondavi and Rotschild!!!!!!!!!

Posted @ March 10, 2010 15:40


Sylvia Cava Says:

Hi Subhash!! Thank you very much for all your support to our country. Really, I know your information from your website.web, because I´m in charge of Concours Mondial du Sauvignon in the first edition at  Bordeaux! Douglas was human, and profesional....I had the opportunity to work with him...he is a legend now for all of us....He was a great support in all our activities for all the chilean wine  industry around the world but sure...he prefered Asia. Thanks for your words, about my friend Douglas in your speech about Nestor in Hyatt seminar.Thanks!! Regards, Sylvia Cava

Posted @ July 19, 2010 10:20


Carlos Serrano Says:

Dear Subhash, Many thanks for your very nice article. It reflects perfectly our dear Douglas. He was our Marcopolo, our mentor and the iniciator of the modern history of Chilean wine in the World. He was not only a great sales person, he was passionate about wines, loyal, full of integrety and a great friend. We will miss him a lot. His spirit is all around us at Montes. Once again, many thanks. Carlos Serrano Export Director/Montes

Posted @ July 13, 2010 18:00


Christine Vitali Says:

Thank you Subhash for this sensitive and delicate article. I must say you are a great communicator and a great wine taster too. I'm living in Italy and am a sommelier. Your articles help me understand the ITALIAN wine world !! Thank you for this. Your endless admirator, Christine

Posted @ July 10, 2010 11:20


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