For nearly three years Chile has had to rely on the quality of its wines, and the knowledge and passion of its importers to tell its story in the UK as Covid has prevented it from hosting its usually packed out portfolio tasting. Now it’s back with its first major tasting event since September 2019, featuring over 40 producers, in London on March 31. Anita Jackson, head of Wines of Chile in the UK who has been doing her bit to champion Chile’s cause, sets out what buyers can expect from a tasting that looks specifically to showcase the diversity and quality of wines to be found the length and breadth of this unique wine country.
Wines of Chile is back at Lindley Hall in London on March 31 for its generic tasting. Click here for all the details and to register.
You are back with your annual tasting – what can we expect?
Yes, it’s great to be back to in person tastings again. Our last tasting was September 2019 – and that was the last time we had all the winemakers over. The tasting coincides with harvest this year, so we will have less winemakers this year, but attendance overall is looking great. We have around 40 wineries taking part and showing a diverse mix of wines, across the length and breadth of Chile, from the Atacama in the North down to Lago Ranco right down in the South of Chile (Chile’s Lake District). Most of the wineries attending have UK distribution, but there will also be several wineries there who are seeking representation.
What are the main messages of the tasting that you want to get across?
There’s a lot of exciting wine coming out of Chile right now. There are some interesting, innovative new styles emerging, lots of País and Cinsault, resulting in a lighter, more Beaujolais style which is very on trend, it has a lot of consumer appeal.
We have a lot more wines from the South on tasting this year too, some wonderful cool climate Sauvignon’s, Rieslings, Pinot Noir and Chardonnays, for example.
But it’s important to add, don’t over-look the traditional styles from Chile – we are showcasing some amazing Cabernets and Carmeneres at the tasting, as well as some fantastic blends.
You are looking to showcase certain styles and themes in focus tasting areas – what are they and why have you chosen them?
The first is Sustainable Chile: Chile’s sustainability code is now in its 10th year and sustainable winemaking practices in Chile continue to evolve and advance, we will also host a masterclass on this.
We will also be highlighting the latest styles of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and what opportunities there are there including:
- Re-look at Chilean Chardonnay: our focus table will put the spotlight on the different regional styles, right from North to South, East to West. You’ll find some stunning Burgundian style Chardonnays, wild ferment Chardonnays too, a great offering across a range of terroirs, including volcanic soils.
- Traditional cool climate Sauvignon Blancs from Casablanca, as well as Sauvignon from other cooler coastal parts of the Atacama, Paredones and Lago Ranco. So a chance to taste lots of different styles and flavour profiles, not just one homogenised style.
- Innovations and new releases that best show the new winemaking techniques and styles in Chile.
You are also running masterclasses what are they on?
There are three masterclasses hosted by Alistair Cooper MW, who will be joined (virtually) by some of Chile’s top winemakers.
11:00 am: Sustainable Chile.
13:30 pm: Chile’s Viticultural Heritage that will look at how tradition is meeting the new age in Chile.
16:00 pm: Wines with Personality that will shine the light on winemakers across different wine regions and highligh wines that reflect not only the terroirs but the personalities behind the wines.
Can you give us an idea of what has been like for you as a generic during the pandemic?
It’s been challenging, as it has been for everyone. Day to day the office remained busy, it was a good learning curve to adapt to online tastings and events to maintain activities that updated the trade, press and consumers. It’s so important to keep telling Chile’s story and get our key messages across.
Obviously, the winemakers have not been able to travel so I’m really excited about having some of them here next month. Those who can’t travel will join the masterclasses online.
Are you looking to hold more virtual tastings and events during 2022?
Absolutely, they have a much greater reach, especially for those that can’t always get into London, or the bigger cities. I think that they are here to stay. We are looking at making our activities more hybrid ongoing – combining physical attendance with online, both for audience and winemakers.
What are the main sales trends and growth areas in Chilean wine in UK on and off-trades?
Trends: We are seeing a real interest and demand in our ancestral wines including País, Cinsault and Muscat from the South of Chile.
The South is the area to watch. Winemakers are re-looking at the potential of these heritage varieties – all planted when the Conquistadores arrived in Chile. There is a growing awareness and interest in old vines, heritage vines and there are some great stories behind these wines, that indies and the on-trade can get behind and hand sell the wines.
What do you see as being the next big areas of growth?
Chilean Sauvignon Blanc still has plenty of opportunities, it is currently 21.5% in volume of Chile’s bottled exports to the UK. Last year, Malbec bottled exports to the UK grew 16.7% in volume and 23% in value and represent 5.9% of Chile’s bottled exports to the UK. You might be surprised to learn that Chile’s old vine Malbec goes back over a hundred years – this variety plays a key part in Chile’s viticultural heritage.
With shortages in wine around the world how was the Chilean 2021 harvest and what availability is there?
The 2021 harvest was a good harvest and was up significantly on the two previous vintages (2020 and 2019), which were both short vintages.
The 2021 production by variety: Cabernet Sauvignon reaches 33% of the total production of wines followed by Sauvignon Blanc with 13%, Merlot with 12%, Chardonnay with 10%, Carmenere with 8%, Syrah variety with 5% and Malbec 3% (with plantings slowly increasing).
Any particular grape varieties that you think offer buyers good value and quality?
País is really worth exploring, particularly for customers looking for something different. It’s fun and quirky, very consumer friendly, light and fruity, perfect for summer drinking, and a great BBQ wine. The demand for País continues and most producers now have a País in their portfolio.
Chilean Chardonnays have really evolved, now we see a huge variety of winemaking styles and origin and we are seeing some superb examples that can rival the top Burgundian Chardonnays.
And equally, Sauvignon Blanc across cooler climate regions, allow for a range of different styles and flavour profiles, not just one homogenised, with great value for money.
How is the 2022 harvest looking?
Harvest has only begun, but so far, the reports are good, with good climatic conditions, on course for a good vintage.
What other big themes and initiatives do you have planned for 2022?
More masterclasses specific to the on-trade and independents, we are keen to get people out to Chile again, so will look to organise a trip for press and buyers this year.
If any buyers and operators are looking to work with Chilean wine what can you offer them in terms of support and help
It’s very much a tailored approach, depending on what is require. We are always happy to hear from buyers and importers, to offer advice and guidance as well as commercial support where we can. We have access to lots of resource and information and can also provide key introductions and connections.
- To find out more about the Wines of Chile tasting and to register click here. It takes place at Lindley Hall on March 31 between 10.30am and 6pm.