Twin brothers Rafael Tirado, 40, and Enrique (4 minutes later), are the head winemakers at Chile's Veramonte and Concha y Toro wineries, respectively. While Enrique has produced wines of classic quality (95 points and up) on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, Rafael's star is also on the rise for his ability to craft several bottlings of single varieties and blends of very good quality (85-90 points) that sell for $20 or less. Though the brothers share some inspirations and ideas about winemaking in Chile, their formative experiences and tastes are very distinct. The Tirados were asked the same questions, but were unaware of each other's answers. What emerged was proof that winemakers as well as wine drinkers--no matter how closely related they may be--develop their own views and appreciation of various wines and styles.
Wine Spectator:What was your first vintage in the wine business?
Rafael Tirado: 1994.
Enrique Tirado: 1993.
WS: What other wineries have you worked at, prior to your current role?
RT: I worked at Terranoble from 1994 through 1997 before joining Veramonte in 1998. The first experience was in Maule, which is influenced by the Andes mountains with cold nights and warm days. The second one, Veramonte, is affected and inspired strongly by the maritime influence [Casablanca is very close to the Pacific coast of Chile]. I also worked in France--two harvests in Sancerre with Sauvignon Blanc (1995 and 1996). After that I was in Bandol (1997) and then many other vintages in California with wineries such as Quintessa, Simi, Estancia, Franciscan.
ET: While an Agronomy and Enology student I did my thesis research at Viña Errázuriz. I then joined Concha y Toro right after I graduated in 1993.
WS: What got you interested in being a winemaker?
RT: I believe the real interest came from the wine itself. I do not remember any special person who influenced me in this area; if we look for a name, I could say Enrique, who, in some kind of way, maybe he did it.
ET: Growing grapes and making them into wine has something very special to it. There's a kind of magic behind the process. Your senses are stretched to the maximum and you get a chance to create something that is in close connection with nature. In addition, several factors coalesce to make winemaking such an interesting and attractive profession. There's all the work you do in the vineyard, then there's the tricky workings of the cellar, and finally there's the challenge of honing and bringing to bear each one of your senses to make sure the result is what you intend.
WS: Who have been your biggest influences as a winemaker?
RT: The main influence came from Henry Marionnet, a French winemaker who I had the opportunity to work with for four years. Also Larry Levin, an American winemaker at Franciscan who I have been working with for eight years. I also have to mention Jacques Boissenot, a consultant, who I have worked with.
ET:Bordeaux enologist Jacques Boissenot, a consultant to Viña Concha y Toro since 1987.
WS: What is the best valley for producing wines in Chile?
RT: Casablanca for whites and Alto Maipo for reds.
ET: By all means, the best reds come from the upper reaches of the Maipo Valley, specifically Puente Alto. Differentiating between areas of the valley is crucial.
WS: What is your favorite food pairing with Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Sauvignon Blanc?
RT: [For Cabernet] I like very much wild birds like ducks and quails, cooked in wine. [For Sauvignon Blanc] seafood is always a very good match, but lately I have been mixing them with spicy vegetable creams.
ET: For Cabernet, I love lamb. Sauvignon Blanc I tend to enjoy with seafood, especially seviche.
WS: What is your favorite wine [other than one of your own]?
RT: For Chilean wines I like Don Melchor. I also like Australian Syrah and Rieslings from Leasingham or Barrosa Valley Estate.
ET: While I don't have a particular favorite, I enjoy a good Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
WS:Who's better looking, you or your brother?
RT:Enriquito is the prettiest and tidiest. He has always been the good and compliant kid.
ET: While I think Rafael is better looking, fortunately my wife thinks the opposite.
WS: If you could be one other person in the wine business for one day, who would it be, and why?
RT: Choosing from a winemaker for an important French château (Margaux, Pétrus), a wine consultant for different high quality wineries or my boss during my performance evaluation day, I would choose the consultant. It would be great to taste a lot of big wines together, the same day, and to have the opportunity to understand them.
ET: I'd love to be a wine writer who's participating in a great Port tasting.
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