Cultivating change

Grupo Vinos del Pacifico managing director Ernesto Muller concurs: “In China it is all about understanding the best route to market to find the best opportunities to sell premium wines – brand building is key and it is a long term strategy. There are no short cuts and it takes time and resources to become successful in this market. We opened offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai to be able to be close to the market and understand the fast-moving dynamics of China.”

What are the key trends in plantings, wine styles and consumption patterns in Chile? Viña Leyda was one of the pioneers of coastal plantings in the Leyda valley, planting in high density cool-climate varieties such as Riesling and Sauvignon Gris and using different clonal material.

Chief winemaker Viviana Navarrete tells DI: “In the early 1990s the style was for strong, ripe and oaky. Today, it is totally opposite, giving birth to wines with character, fresher, lower alcohol and less oak.”

Rodrigo Plass, Viña Errazuriz commercial director for Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, says: “Chile is roughly the size of Bordeaux, 120,000ha. We could go to 150,000ha but long term it is not volume – that is taken by Australia and Argentina. We would rather go quality and we are looking for a cool-climate orientation.” He points to the company’s Manzanar vineyard in the Aconcagua Costa region, 12km from the Pacific coast, as the way things are heading. He says the temperatures are similar to Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc country in New Zealand. Combined with the slate/schist soils, the wines are refined, restrained and elegant, even its Syrah. No fruit bombs here. Its ‘icon’ Las Pizarras Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs obtained 98 and 96 points respectively from James Suckling in the first harvest.

Portuguese wine producer Sogrape owns the Château Los Boldos range of wines. Brand manager for premium wines Chris Appleby says: “Chile is increasingly looking at being more serious, provenance and longevity with clean, expressive fruit, balanced by blending.”

Being Portuguese, the company has planted Touriga Nacional, says Appleby and European area manager Alexandra Adler. We will have to wait two to three years before we find out whether the major grape variety in port likes Chile.

Marcelo Papa, CyT chief winemaker for Casillero del Diablo and Marques de Casa Concha, says: “Over the past few years it has been sparkling and rosé wines that have been accounting for much significant growth in the overall wine category. We find very good Carignan in the Maule Valley, excellent expressions of Pinot Noir in Leyda and Casablanca, and exceptional Chardonnays in Limarí.”


Tabalí’s Müller East says: “I think Chile has been moving into more extreme areas. The new projects left the Central Valley and started moving towards the coast, north, south and, just recently, a couple of them in the altitudes of the Andes mountain range. More extreme climates and different type of soils, slopes, and sun exposures. Also new and high-quality clones, especially Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

“This means Chile has a promising future because the exploration of better places, better DNA in the vineyards, slope plantations and more knowledge about climate and geology will bring very good quality in the near future.”

Müller East adds: “This is the only way to build names and brands, quality, consistency and character. In terms of challenges I think this a hard business – it normally requires big investments so we need to make it a sustainable business for the small wineries and producers, so they can have profits and live from the activity. If they don’t have a space in the market they will end up closing and leaving all the market for the big wineries.”