Most wine drinkers in the UK will have had a bottle or two from Chile. Over the past 10 to 15 years they’ve absolutely nailed the export market with low cost, solid quality wines. Lots of investment in the 1990s in both production and the governing laws has led to a really smooth system to produce wines up and down this long thin country.
To the West is the Pacific Ocean, next to that is a large coastal mountain range, then a central valley, then the Andes rising up into Argentina. So you’ve got sea breezes, altitude, valley floors, heat, rainfall, dryness, prevailing winds. You’ve got the lot! Growers have got every chance of creating a top product.
Most of those wines are from what are called “International Varieties”. So that’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz for reds, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and (to an extent) Riesling from for the whites.
It’s the perfect start for a country trying to sell wine to the mass world market. Most people have heard of those wines and are happy to pick them off the shelf and buy it.
The next step for a country like Chile is to then start exporting the local varieties. Once the average wine boozer in the UK, or in Norway, or in Switzerland, or wherever has got used to the idea of wine from Chile, then it’s time to slip in the game changer. The new wine. The one that only grows in that country. The holy grail that is the unique selling point.
Chile have been here for a few years now, but the success of the export market hasn’t exactly pushed producers to change what they’re doing or what they’re growing. There is however one red grape that is beginning to make a move onto the shelves in a big way…Carménère!