I had a conversation with a customer last night who told me, flat out, without exception, that they didn’t like Chilean wine. It always floors me a little when people make such broad statements and it happens quite a lot with this product sector. I almost felt the need to jump to Chile’s defence, I feel more than confident that if I were to taste through a selection of wines with this customer, knowing what I know about their wine tastes, I would be able to find them Chilean wines that they would fall in love with.
The doubt surrounding Chilean wines stems from the fact that that they so often feature as the house wines in bars and restaurants and consumers therefore assume that this is all that Chile is capable of. These are good quality, fruit forward, gluggable wines that taste great but lack that wow factor. Chile’s ability to produce wines which are extremely competitively priced comes from a number of factors which include:
1 – Their almost perfect natural environment for growing grapes meaning treatments or preventative methods for issues such as rot or hailstones is minimal
2 – Their geographical isolation meaning that the number of vine pests and more serious diseases effecting vines are much less prominent than in many of the world’s wine producing countries. This also means that producers don’t have to graft vines on to different rootstock. This is a method used across the world of wine to protect vines making them 4 times more expensive to plant
3 – Labour costs in Chile are lower than in many wine producing countries and land is cheaper
4 – Chile’s population is relatively small in comparison to the amount of wine they produce, they therefore have no choice but to be competitive in order to sell their products in a highly competitive market
Because of this I can completely understand where this perception of Chile’s ability to only produce entry level wine comes from, it is however completely inaccurate. Chile is well and truly up there with some of the world’s finest wine producing countries. It is exciting and enthralling and for me it is all about discovery. Chilean winemakers don’t rest on their laurels, they are always searching for the best plots of land for their grapes and the good quality producers, the ones striving to make the very best wine that they possibly can, never take the easy route. A number of Chile’s vines are planted in almost dessert like conditions, where not only is there virtually no rainfall, instead underground channels have to be built to get water to the vines. This not only ensures they produce grapes but is essential to keep the vines alive. Why bother? I hear you say, why not just plant the vines elsewhere? This harsh natural environment this leads to vines with low yields and subsequently grapes with masses of intensity. The vines have to struggle and struggling vines make for great quality wine.
A recently held Wines of Chile event I attended in Manchester was a testament to this quality. I was blown away by the standard of wine coming from Chile’s signature grape varieties. Their Sauvignon Blanc falls stylistically somewhere between that super intense, high acid Marlborough style, and the more refined Old-World examples from the Loire. The good ones are vibrant, full of fruit yet perfectly balanced. With regards to their signature red grape Carménère, I have never quite tasted so many seriously good examples in one sitting and year in, year out they seem to be getting better. Blueberry fruit stood out for me as well as violet characteristics and subtle menthol. Not only this, but there was a sensational barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, a Solera based, non vintage red blend, beautiful examples of aromatic grape varieties such as Gewürztraminer and Riesling and very good quality Traditional Method Sparkling Wines. I woke up the day after the event frantically ordering new products by the bucket load, and they are selling so fast and more importantly, seeing really high levels of repeat purchase which is my ultimate aim, introducing my customers to wines they love so much they want to drink again and again.
Keep exploring this fabulous wine producing country. Pick the more premium Chilean wines on a restaurant wine list, look at some of the higher level tiers from well knows producers or check out our range of Chilean wines on online shop and pick out a couple of the gems that we found https://www.thebubblywinecompany.com/shop/?filter_country=chile
We love to hear from you so please let us know if you try anything that you love. Happy weekend everyone.