The Chilean wine industry is significant in global terms, in 2018 it stood as 6th largest wine producing country in the world (12.9mhl. Source: OIV), and has become well-known in export markets, particularly for its well-priced easy-drinking wines, which outperform so many other countries in terms of value for money. However, the inevitable flipside to this success is that Chile has found itself pigeonholed as a producer of the cheap and cheerful: uncomplicated, juicy wines tasting of their grape variety but not much more. ‘Does what it says on the tin’. However, Chile has much more to offer, as I found out last Autumn when I made my latest buying trip to South America. A number of discussions with trade friends and tastings of Chilean wines in the UK, made me realise I must delve deeper into Chile, and so I set aside a few days to do so, and I am so glad I did.
Buying trips seem to warp time. In a few intense days criss-crossing Chile, I had the opportunity to meet with dozens of producers, experience extraordinary landscapes, and taste hundreds of wines, many of which were new to me. The people I met, the vineyards I walked in or flew above, the wines I tried, were eye-opening in so many different and colourful ways.
After a number of tastings and discussions with the growers and colleagues at Corney & Barrow, I am delighted that we have signed an entire handful of producers, five new faces whose wines can take us – and our customers – on a new and exciting journey through Chile. All offer something different from somewhere different, all have their own unique story to tell.
Some of these growers produce just a few hundred cases a year, others are a little larger, but the common thread to all of their wines, is that they have a sense of place and of the people that made them; to use that very French concept, they are wines of ‘terroir’.
These include classic red varietals from Idahue estate in the new DO Licanten (only the fourth appellation in Chile to be inaugurated, just last year!), a jaw-dropping feat of engineering by La Ronciere winery; revived heritage grapes Pais and Moscatel from the rolling landscape of the beautiful Itata valley; an orange skin-contact Torontel from the remote southern Maule and an old bush vine, dry-grown Garnacha made in amphorae. We have a biodynamic Cab Sauv from 80 year-old vines grown at altitude high above Colchagua, and the very essence of Carmenere from a French-Chilean winemaking couple with their own tiny venture in the Maipo. Recently arrived, or about to, all these wines are exclusive to Corney & Barrow in the UK. We hope they will inspire you to learn more about Chile and the many faces of its wine world.