Wine world waking up to Chile’s top shelf
From San Antonio de Maica in the Maule Valley to the Pinot Noir from the Leyda, viticulturalists give ThisisChile the lowdown on the hidden treasure of Chile.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Low levels of vineyard parasites and viruses make Chile’s grapes some of the healthiest in the world. Photo courtesy of Wines of Chile/Facebook.
Chile’s status as a prolific wine producer has long been known to consumers worldwide. Yet up to now the international market has remained largely in the dark about the abundance and diversity of premium quality wines that are being produced across the nation.
For the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world, Chile’s wine revolution occurred comparatively late. Stainless steel fermentation and oak barrel aging techniques were being used in wineries across the world in the 1950s, though these methods only arrived in Chile in the 1980s. Since then, Chilean wine’s growth story has been awe-inspiring, with annual exports having increased from 8 million to one billion liters between the 1980s and the present day.
“Chile is a paradise for wine making,” viticulturist Felipe Luisi told ThisisChile. “The soils are fantastic, and the country has a unique geography in terms of the latitudes it spans. The different air currents coming off the Pacific, the varied topography - all these factors lead to a host of micro-climates that supply ideal conditions for a variety of vines.”
Despite this diversity, consumers overseas are predominantly exposed to a small number of entry level value products. According to journalist, wine retailer, and wine judge Gurvinder Bhatia, international consumers are only just realising the quality Chilean wines have to offer.
“I’ve been drawn to Chilean wine since I judged the Wines of Chile competition in 2010,” Bhatia told ThisisChile. “I’ve been continually blown away by some of the wines that are on offer in the country that you simply can’t get here (the U.S. and Canada).”
Bhatia said that over the last two years he has started to see more premium products available overseas, and puts this down to vineyard managers’ growing confidence in their products.
“Just last week I was in Chile tasting wines from San Antonio de Maica in the Maule region. The wines there they are so fresh with a great minerality and acidity,” Bhatia said. “Another great wine is the Pinot Noir from Leyda Valley, and the Erasmo Bordeaux blend is just outstanding.”
“Many winemakers in Chile ask me what they need to do to change the image of Chilean wine as a value product and shed light on its quality,” Bhatia continued. “My answer to them is just to export more - the product is so good, distributors will carry it and journalists will talk about it. There needs to be a higher volume of products on the international market that reflect the true quality of Chilean grapes.”
Luisi agrees that Chilean grapes do not have the reputation they deserve.
“Chilean grapes are continually undervalued, sometimes being priced at a sixth the cost of California grapes and a tenth the cost of French grapes,” Luisi said. “This is not an accurate assessment of the quality of the grapes. With the right marketing this will begin to change.”
While Chilean wine makes international inroads, scenic tours of the country’s vineyards are well established and second to none. For fun and innovative ways of viewing them, click here.