Cultivating change

20 June, 2016

Spanish producer Torres has invested US$4m over 20 years in its Escaleras de Empedrado project to produce what it claims is the first slate soil Pinot Noir from Chile.

Torres boss Miguel Torres Maczassek says: “Chile has a 400-year history of viticulture and winemaking before Cabernet Sauvignon arrived. But it’s time now to look back and to see, with the new technology, how we can show other sides, other regions and recuperate ancient wines.”

He says Torres is looking at País in its sparkling wine, Estelado, and also in the “mono-varietal red wine, Reserva de Pueblo”.

Rodrigo Soto, director of winemaking at Veramonte, has a slightly different perspective. He says: “In general the trend is to work with the same varieties, but with more precision. We are in a positiday where we have developed more knowledge of soils, climate, clones, etc. So there is much room for improvement working with the traditional varieties.

“Also, traditional wine growing areas are being explored and brought back into the scene, such as Bío Bío, Itata and Cauquenes. We are replanting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, given the deeper understanding we have gained of our own terroir, its soils, climate, and the best way to manage them. Instead of doing more, we want to do it better – be the best at what we do and what we know.”

“We are learning and understanding more and more each time about our soils and winemaking regions. We hope our positioning is always moving towards a respected producer, with quality wines at all price ranges,” says Soto.


GVP’s Muller achieves both cool, classic and sparkling with his Undurraga brand. He says: “Cool-climate planting is a clear trend today as Chile is looking for more diversity, authenticity and quality new sites in coastal as well as higher-altitude regions.

“Classic red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère still represent the bigger share of our sales. However, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from cool-climate vineyards are getting very interesting growth and international recognition.”

“I see Chile also competing in the sparkling wine category – our wines are extraordinary. It is perhaps the best keep secret in Chile,” adds Muller.

And so to conclusions. On the slightly negative side Alliance Wine’s senior wine buyer Liz Donnelly says: “In the UK Chile is still struggling to be viewed as anything more than good value, reliable, varietal wine. This is unfortunate, but with four or five big players dominating the industry it is inevitable.

“I think Chile should have lots of opportunities – I think the work that is being done by [the collaborative project] VIGNO, MOVi [the Movement of Independent Vintners] and other small wineries is critical to getting the right image of Chile across to journalists and consumers.

“Chile does not need to have one strapline or motto – nor should it try to emulate Argentina’s success with Malbec – the Carmenere campaign was flawed and didn’t work. Chile needs to exploit its quirky-side and emphasise what it does well from coastal area and what it does well in the hotter areas… The message needs to be that Chile is ‘cool and exciting’. The challenge is the marketing of it, especially when the four or five big players dominate so much and need to sell,” concludes Donnelly.

Tabalí’s Müller East adds: “Chile urgently needs diversity in terms of appellations, style of the wines, sizes of the wineries, etc... if only the big ones survive we will be a very boring country in terms of our offer, probably with lots of correct wines but much more on the commodity style, all of them very similar in price and flavours, and that would be very sad.”

Whereas, on the positive side: “I see Chile growing and bringing up our current positioning. I think there’s every day more specialisation and knowledge and, as you can have heard.... Chileans are hard workers,” blasts Bravo.

Müller says: “If we are able to change the actual image of only good value for money it would be a great step. We need to be considered by the global wine industry as serious and potential high-end wine producers.

“We have nature on our side in this country and, with the help of the new generations of entrepreneurs, winemakers and viticulturists, I’m sure we can and will do it.


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