The Beauty of a Family Tradition
Today we had the great pleasure of visiting the Cousino Macul Winery. This scenic winery is perhaps the most beautiful, historic, and enjoyable location we have visited thus far. Our host Maria, who spoke impeccable English, gave us a tour of the winery’s original building which was built in the 1800s. This massive brick building holds humongous stores made of Chilean wood, where the grapes ferment. These containers, that hold almost 30,000 liters, are no longer in use, because fermentation now takes place in massive metal containers that are easier to control. The original storehouse, with its old brick, plaster and wood frame ceiling looked like something spectacular out of a movie. The candlelit passage to the underground storage reminded us of a scene from Zorro! The Cousino family stores decade’s old wine in a gated, dusty room. The oldest bottles on hand date back to the 1920’s.
After sampling a tasty Chardonnay and signature Cabernet, we enjoyed a three course lunch at the winery. The pumpkin soup, vegetarian pasta, and fruit dish were all delicious—much like our other meals thus far in Santiago. After lunch, we heard from a member of the Cousino family, Señora Veronica Cousino, who explained in greater detail the history of the winery and its major challenges. According to her Cousino Macul was a risky undertaking in 1856 because wine-making was not well-known in Chile, and the scientific principles behind fermentation were still being explored. Isolationism and the decrease in global trade following World War I, as well as the Chilean government’s misguided land expropriation measures in the 1960s, threatened the winery’s existence. In the 1980s, Cousina Macul modernized its wine-making facilities and prepared to compete in a global market that had become flooded with wine options from around the world. In the new millennium, the Cousino family chose to concentrate its efforts on producing smaller batches of higher quality wine, as opposed to becoming a huge winemaker.
Presently, Cousino Macul harvests grapes from two separate locations in Santiago that amount to 740 total acres. They sell around 5 million bottles of wine each year, with 45% of sales coming from domestic markets and 55% of sales from foreign markets, especially the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico. Cousino Macul benefits from two significant advantages. First, Cousino is a mature company for mid-size wineries so it employs operational experience. Second, Cousina enjoys brand recognition, especially among Chileans who associate the wine with fond childhood memories.
Our trip to Cousino Macul provided a glimpse into the wine-making industry—an important part of the Chilean economy. As our host said, Chile used to be rather unknown, but now it is known for its wine. Cousino Macul in particular illuminates the importance of family in Chile, as this business has been in the family since its conception. Cousino Macul is more than a wine-maker, it is a family tradition that exemplifies the very best of Chilean heritage, and the ability of the human spirit to adapt and thrive in challenging times.