International boom in independent Chilean wines

A new wave of independent, organic and boutique wineries is transforming the country into a premier wine destination.

Suddenly its on everyone’s lips; independent Chilean wines are the hot topic of the wine loving world – Harper’s, Jancis Robinson and The Independent Wine Review are just some of the internationally-renowned publications and critics singing its praises.
With the increased publicity has come increased sales, and Chilean wines are on a fast track to the top of the market share.
Wines of Chile’s European director, Michael Cox, told Harper’s magazine – the preeminent wine-reviewing publication in the U.K – that Chilean wines now account for 10 percent of market share in the independent sector.
That surge has made the country the fourth largest supplier of independent wines, knocking out Old World heavyweight, Italy.
But according to Cox, Chilean independent wines have only just began to make their mark, and still have enormous room for market expansion.
“There are too many Old World wine regions with stories and names that get stuck in people’s minds,” Cox said, explaining why Europe has traditionally dominated the independent wine sector. “[But] at these higher price points, Chile can more than hold its own.”
In the United Kingdom, the online and direct mail market has been responsible for the majority of this growth, with retailers like Wine Society and Direct Wines accounting for around a quarter of total sales in the sector, according to the latest Nielsen statistics.
Meanwhile, sales in restaurants and other venues accounted for 35 to 40 percent of the sales, while off-trade – sales made in liquor stores and other retailers – made up 40 percent of overall sales.
And though the off-trade market is still accounting for the highest number of imports into foreign markets, independent retailers have surged ahead of major retailers, accounting for 10.2 percent, as opposed to 8.9 percent of overall sales in independent wines.
According to Cox, that’s not such a bad thing. “Consumers are buying into supporting a good indie, [and] I can’t say I’m sorry that supermarkets are starting to lose their vice-like grip on the market.”
For a look at wines to try in 2012, including which independent labels to sample this year, read our guide to Chilean wines here.