In spite of the global economic crisis, the Chilean wineindustry enjoyed good health in 2009, exporting a total of US$ 1.39 billion mainly to the United Kingdom, United States and Brazil.
The success of the Chilean strains is not just the result of a rich variety of climates and the quality of Chilean grapes. It would be useless to have good raw material if it weren’t backed by highly skilled human resourses trained at local universities. This valuable combination has made it possible for Chilean wine to become a top-level export product.
Chile is thus not only an excellent venue for developing enology skills, but also a sought-after destination for professionals wishing to specialize in the subject. Whoever chooses to come to Chile will not have any problem working in the wine industry in any corner of the world, because the academic training in this country offers advantages that place it at an even higher level than other countries participating in the wine-producing market.
To be an enologist in Chile, people are first required to obtain a university degree, generally in agricultural engineering, although other degrees are accepted, such as biology, food engineering, biochemistry and even in some cases civil engineering.
“To be an enologist in Chile it is necessary to have higher education studies, and this allows us to provide in-depth training in the viticultural and enological aspects of wine production”, explains Dr. Alvaro Peña, academic in charge of the Enology and Viticulture Masters program at the Universidad de Chile, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America.
The program, he adds, has another difference in its favor in comparison with top-level courses held in California, U.S.A., Adelaide in Australia, Montpellier or Burgundy in France and Tarragona and Madrid in Spain.
“In contrast with those countries, we place special emphasis on issues related to viticulture, which is essential nowadays. Without good raw material and knowledgeable work in the field it is impossible to make good wines”, Dr. Peña states.
This is confirmed by Noelia Orts, a Spanish professional with a degree in Enology from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia. She has traveled all over the world and worked at different vineyards. She came to Chile to work in her area of expertise, thinking of staying for three or four months, although she was aware of the existence of the Masters program offered by the Universidad de Chile. After personally verifying the superior expertise of Chilean enologists, she decided to enter the course that lasts at least one year and a half.
“While working in a Chilean vineyard and exchanging views with its enologist and other agronomists from the Universidad de Chile I was able to appreciate the high level of knowledge they possess. My visits to cellars with large investments in technology and enviably healthy vineyards confirmed my perception that the Chilean vision is very different from the European one”, she says.
The strong relationship between viticulture and enology mentioned by Dr. Peña as one of the pillars of the Masters program is also highlighted by the Spanish enologist. “They are not presented as two parallel worlds but as a whole, something that is forgotten in Europe. This may be because in order to be an enologist in Chile you first have to study agronomy, whereas in Spain you can be an agronomist or hold a degree in chemistry or pharmacy. To make a great wine it is necessary to produce an excellent grape”, she stresses.
World class enologists
Studying enology in Chile allows students to learn concepts that are different from those used in other parts of the world, with the exception of New Zealand, a country that works in a similar fashion to Chile.
The training and experience offered by the Chilean programs also translates into excellent performance by its professionals, even at the highest international standards. During their training, enologists from the Universidad de Chile usually go abroad to carry out grape harvesting activities, where they put their skill levels to the test.
“Our graduates travel to all the continents. We are speaking of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and both Western and Eastern Europe, where they are highly valued professionally. They feel that what they learned in Chile is on a par or on an even higher level than what their foreign peers learn”, states Dr. Peña.
A similar view is expressed by Ms Orts, who believes that Chilean professionals have nothing to envy their foreign counterparts. “They are people who have traveled extensively and worked in other countries. This high level of quality is also apparent in the teachers, for whom the program is not only a job but a passion, and that passion is transmitted to the students”, she concludes.