Collaboration is the future for Chilean wines

Julie Sheppard

Julie Sheppard

16 June 2016

Change is continuing apace in the Chilean wine industry according to experts at the 2016 Chile Update. The seminar and tasting held today at 67 Pall Mall in London was hosted by Peter Richards MW and winemaker Marcelo Papa.

The pair highlighted six major areas of development, with Richards noting: 'Chile moves so fast; there's lots to talk about and write about, but it's almost out of date as soon as you've written about it.'

He pointed to a new era of collaboration as being one of the key factors for change. 'There used to be very little collaborative spirit in Chile, but that's changing now,' said Richards, who cited the example of the VIGNO group of winemakers, who are championing Carignan wines.

Other grape varieties to watch include Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter grape is still Chile's most widely planted variety at 44,176ha. 'For a long time, for me, Cabernet Sauvignon underperformed in Chile; the wines were bland,' said Richards. He name-checked Viña Santa Carolina and Viña Ventisquero as wineries that have changed their approach to Cab, making leaner, more elegant styles.

Pinot Noir is also a work in progress according to Richards, who described the grape as 'a barometer of Chile's aspirations, as well as its shortcomings'. Around two-thirds of the Pinot planted in Chile is under 10 years old. 'We planted the right material in the wrong place – and we had no concept of what a good Pinot Noir should be,' added Papa. 'We now need to understand what we want from Pinot Noir,' he added. 'We will start to see some world-class Pinot Noir coming out of Chile,' predicted Richards.

Regions that are making strides include Itata in Chile's deep south and Limarí on the fringes of the Atacama desert. 'Chardonnay has shone so far in Limarí,' said Richards, 'giving wines with bright acidity and a very savoury element.'

The final area of growth for Chile is sparkling wines. 'Currently sparkling only accounts for 5% of the total volume of wines exported from Chile, but the average case price is $37 – compared with $28 for still wines. It's also a growth category, with value and volume both up,' said Richards. 'It's a trend that's just starting to take off,' he added.

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