From Didier Dagueneau to Eben Sadie, every generation has its standout winemakers. We asked a team of experts to pick the stars of tomorrow – making wines you can afford today. François Massoc was suggested by Peter Richards MW, award-winning writer and broadcaster and a leading authority on Chilean wine
Intuitive, emotional, impulsive and passionate are adjectives you rarely hear in a Chilean context – and yet they are what define François Massoc. Perhaps it’s the French heritage or the fact he’s from Concepción, Chile’s second city, renowned for nurturing creative, abrasive, anti-establishment types. Either way, this is a man frequently moved to tears talking about wine, or people. Massoc clearly dotes on his family, yet when the massive 2010 earthquake struck, according to his wife Noëlle, his first instinct was to run to save his barrels.
Aristos, Duquesa d’A Chardonnay 2011
An immensely complex, savoury, refined Chardonnay made with Louis-Michel Liger-Belair and Pedro Parra. Justerini & Brooks is moving onto the 2012, but this was a cooler year. The result is magnificent.
Clos des Fous, Tocao Malbec 2013
Made from ancient Malbec vines in the rural heart of Chile’s deep south, the Bío Bío Valley, this is a wild and unreconstructed style, with grippy tannins, minty blueberry flavours and a spicy finish.
You have to leave extra time when driving with him in Chile because he’s prone to stop the car and just stand and admire a vigneron’s dedication and craft. Or to get into a heated argument. Potential careers in law or diplomacy were never going to suit, nor was professional life as a company man. His destiny was wine.
So when, after studying in Dijon, an opportunity arose to make small-batch wine (Calyptra) in a promising site in the Andes foothills in Cachapoal, Massoc leapt at the chance. He hooked up with his close friends Louis-Michel Liger-Belair (of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanée) and terroir consultant Pedro Parra to create the Aristos brand, and then teamed up with Parra, plus Paco Leyton and Albert Cussen, to create Clos des Fous. Most recently, he launched the Massoc Frères brand with his brother.
Massoc may not be the youngest winemaking turk out there, but he is at the forefront of redefining Chilean wine. Whites are his strongest point: the Aristos Duquesa d’A Chardonnay is a case in point as a superlative, expensive and ground-breaking wine.
The Calyptra Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc – rare in being an exceptional, oaked Sauvignon Blanc from the mountains rather than from the coast – and Pandolfi Price Los Patricios Chardonnay from Itata also pay testament to his impressive skill.
Massoc, however, doesn’t believe in talent. ‘Great artists are made, not born,’ he says. ‘I inherited intellectual laziness from the French – my technique is more about omission than inclusion. I sit and I think in detail: do I need to do something? If not, I won’t.’
His non-interventionist yet ambitious approach chimes with the times, as do his endeavours in the south of Chile, working with the likes of old-vine País, Cinsault and Malbec.
Not lacking in innovation, he also makes a delicious fortified red in a tawny port style, and has plans to do a similar white from Moscatel, as well as a ‘Chilean Chartreuse’. Watch this space.