Chile rides out

24 July, 2018

“Regarding styles, the key is balance. We have learned that ex-cess is not the way forward. We are looking for well-balanced wines that really express the character of the varieties and the terroirs.”

Santa Rita Estate’s Viña Carmen head winemaker Emily Faulconer says: “The trend is to renew vineyards with a better understanding of our terroir and viticultural maps. We have learnt from our mistakes. But also we are rescuing what has proved to work.

“We have gone from a classic, safe, production of wine towards a more authentic one. There is a greater understanding of what each wine or place needs to do to be able to achieve the best expression. Producers have the confidence to go out there and show their wines in this fashion more than trying to please the crowd,” Faulconer adds.

Gillmore says: “Wines that are both more approachable and easy to drink are an important trend. Cool valley wines, not highly interventionist nor highly oaked, elegant styles and sparklings are gaining market share and Chile has many terrors and varieties to suit this demand.”

Undurraga’s Andrés Izquierdo says: “We are trending towards rediscovering our roots, both in agricultural terms – old vines and traditional grapes, such as País and Cinsault – and in winemaking terms, where we have been focusing on giving more character to the wines, more authenticity.

“Also, there has been a trend to push the boundaries in terms of new plantings of ‘traditional’ grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, where we’ve seen that the winemaking map of Chile has expanded with brave, new people planting in what were once considered non-traditional areas,” says Izquierdo.

Santa Carolina Larraín reckons that Carmenère is finally being seen as “the Chilean variety, and emerging markets are demanding huge quantities of this wine”. He also believes bad harvests in Argentina have opened a door for Chilean Malbec.”


Torres says: “To deliver the message that there is another Chile is still a challenge. It is still not easy for a País or Carignan winemaker to deliver the message in the market. Many of these wines have little distribution and some wine buyers prefer to play safe with Cabernet or Sauvignon Blanc. It is in the res-taurants were these wines are appreciated the most, thanks to the great work of many sommeliers.

“The other big challenge is climate change,” says Torres. “But that is not a specific Chilean problem, it is global one. If the rise in temperature and lack of water continues, a lot of wine regions in the world will probably have to replant grape varieties that are resistant to high temperatures and water stress, plant vineyards at a higher altitude or in cooler regions.

“Because of the unique geographical layout of the country, Chile has an interesting range of possibilities. We bought 230ha of land in the Itata valley in 2014.

“The climate criteria to decide for this area was not only the cooler temperatures but the fact that a river was flowing nearby.

“I am not a fan of irrigation – we try to avoid it. But in the future we will have to confront the reality and this is that water will be essential for vines to survive in certain regions,” Torres adds.

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Nick Strangeway

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