WINE 360: The Rise of Chilean Wines Globally
For decades Europe has dominated the global wine market, however as the wine industry grows, more key players have entered the game. One of these rising stars is the scenic country of Chile. Currently, Chile is the 7th largest wine producing, and 5th largest wine-exporting country in the world. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a country that didn’t enter into modern wine-making until the 18th Century. 70% of the wines produced by Chile are exported, making it the world’s most globalized wine industry, with great flexibility, innovation and a long term commitment to quality.
In any discussion on Chilean wines, the one producer that stands out is Concha y Toro, the largest producer of wines in Latin America and a global leader. Founded by Don Melchor de Santiago Concha y Toro in 1883, Concha y Toro has a long history in producing several award-winning brands. From Chardonnay to Carmenere, their wines are enjoyed by discerning consumers in every significant market.
Chilean wines are becoming increasingly popular globally for three main reasons. Firstly, Chilean wine-makers adopted modern viticultural practices, which have allowed for competitive wine production. Secondly, the Chilean landscape couldn’t be more ideal for wine making and thirdly, it has seen the rise of a new generation of vintners who are attempting to challenge the stereotypical wine-making practices of Chile and the rest of the world.
Modern Viticultural Practices
Despite many challenges faced by winemakers in Chile historically, such as laws preventing winemaking and the banning of wine exports, the resilience of Chilean vintners has paid off. In the late 18th Century the Chilean government saw an increase in global interest for Chilean wines, especially the sweeter varieties, such as Muscatel and Pais. As a result, by 1831 Chile had 19 million vines planted across its rich terroir.
During the 1980’s Chilean winemakers began to adopt modern viticultural practices in order to cope with the flux in interest for Chilean wines. This move is what really put Chile on the global wine map.
It’s all in the Landscape
Due to the country’s temperate climate and ideal array of terroir, Chile is predisposed to producing premium-quality wines. While the northern half of the country is dry and arid, the south is more humid and cold. This allows for different varieties of grapes to be grown, to produce the considerable variety of quality wines that has made Chile a celebrated producer amongst wine-lovers the world over. Another favourable aspect is its proximity to the Andes, which results in a large disparity between night and daytime temperatures. At night, the temperature levels drop low enough to put the grapes under the right amount of stress to concentrate the flavours, while balancing out the acidity. The Andes also help with irrigation as water is rerouted through the Andes’ ice caps and into the nearby vineyards.
The Rise of Modern Vintners
As their wines become more popular, more and more Chileans are getting involved in the industry. And as the market gets more competitive, new, innovative wines are needed to maintain Chile’s fast rise to the top. This need for something different has created a lauded group of winemakers that separate themselves from the industrial wine culture, in order to produce wines that use organic theories of winemaking. Through their commitment to environmental sustainability and healthy agriculture, these wines are becoming more popular worldwide.
Their continuing quest for a new type of wine could be just what Chile needs to boost it to the number one position in the global wine market.