ON THE EDGE OF BEING quite exciting were the opening remarks of Richard Hemmings MW at his Redefining Chile masterclass at the recent London Wine Fair.
A contributor to jancisrobinson.com, Hemmings prefaced the tutored tasting by saying he did not claim to be any expert on Chile, but he has visited. He said he had consulted with Peter Richards MW, an acknowledged Chile watcher, plus a MW student who is doing his dissertation on the emerging “most exciting new region in Chile”, Itata. They all concurred that Chile is on the cusp of “being exciting”.
Hemmings went on to showcase three Chardonnays, a “benchmark comparison” for a wine-producing country with aspirations to join the great and the good. He showed a wine made with País grapes taken from wild vines in a forest; an old bush vine Cinsault aged in clay amphorae; a Pinot Noir and a top-of-the-vine Chilean icon wine, Conch y Toro’s Don Melchor, a classic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Casa Silva’s Mario Pablo Silva, the current president of Wines of Chile, is equally excited – but then he would be. He tells Drinks International: “Producers understand today that terroir is key. We are looking to express the real fruit of each small piece of land. The diversity of Chile is one of the most important advantages of our country.
“We can produce freshness, elegance, soft tannins, from the foothills of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean, and also today excellent wines in the very north of Chile – Atacama – or in the very south – Austral region, Chilean Patagonia,” adds Silva.
According to Wines of Chile, sales are growing in the US, albeit slowly. The UK is Chile’s number three export market but sales have decreased. “The UK market is not easy and the prices are very low, not only for Chile,” says Silva. China is growing fast for Chile, Japan as well. “The Asian countries like the style of Chilean wines and also the relationships are very good. With China, for example, we have a free trade agreement,” he says.
Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in the whole of South America. Corporate export manager north zone, Thomas Domeyko, says: “Chilean wines have grown steadily in international markets. Exports of US$1.8bn and 877m litres in 2015 have positioned Chile as the leading New World wine exporter. It is important to note the average price of Chilean wine has increased together with volume, showing stronger growth in the higher value premium categories.”
He adds: “Our major focus is on building strong brands, outstanding in their categories and with global reach. The wine industry is very fragmented and competitive so brands play a key role in defining the consumer’s buying decision. We believe in brand value and consequently we have invested in our brands for years.
“We believe we have succeeded with Casillero del Diablo. In 2015, Casillero global sales grew 12.6%, reaching a total of 5m cases,” says Domeyko.