Whine critics

Is Chile moving away from heavy, oaky, and rich wines?

Chile is the second largest wine producing nation in South America, behind Argentina, and the fourth largest exporter globally behind Italy, Spain and France.

Tim Atkin, British Master of Wine and award-winning wine journalist, has been writing about a ‘New Chile’ and a shift away from the “heavy, oaky, rich, sweet wines of yore” and that Chilean producers have “changed dramatically”. Let’s see if we can corroborate his view with Chileans.

According to a Chilean sommelier in Paris, with decades of experience in South American and European markets, “The concept of ‘new Chilean wines’ is somewhat misleading. Chilean wine is in constant evolution and the industry has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to changing tastes.”

“Chilean wine is in constant evolution and the industry has shown a remarkable capacity to innovate.”

Chilean sommelier, Paris

The sommelier notes that, although Chile has produced wine for centuries, it is only a few decades ago that producers have tried to address international markets and compete on a global scale. “The presence of Chilean wines in European and North American stores is relatively recent.”

According to a traditional Chilean producer, “The development of new styles of wine is not a massive trend in the industry but an effort by producers independently to expand into new markets and reach customers who are permanently looking for different experiences.”

The real trend all of our sources commented on was the industrialisation and professionalisation of the industry, as one producer noted, “As the market has consolidated and many of the old vineyards have disappeared, the remaining producers have focused on volume and margins.”

“As the market has consolidated and many of the old vineyards have disappeared, the remaining producers have focused on volume and margins.”

Wine producer, Chile

Another producer we spoke to felt that the pandemic and difficult global economic solutions may have affected the type of wines being exported, “Cheaper wines have done well in 2020, international investors seeking prestige stopped buying.”

The pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year for Chilean wine exporters according to the producers we spoke to, “Sales dropped significantly in several months this year and we had problems associated with the closure of borders.” The local market has remained strong though and there is some excitement about increasing exports to Asia.

So, rather than a “dramatic change” or a shift away from “heavy, oaky, rich, sweet wines of yore”, it seems that more commercially focused Chilean producers are just tailoring their offering for international markets.

For those of us who love those “wines of yore” let’s hope the traditional producers can survive!

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