Should new world wineries specialize?

As I write I’m sitting in the lounge of my hotel looking out over the docks of Valparaiso, Chile’s main port, and third largest city. We spent the day at Casa del Bosque in the Casablanca Valley.

Today’s wines prompted some discussion. Should new world wineries specialize? Casa del Bosque make excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, and good Pinot Noir. These are from their 250 hectares of vineyards in the coolest bit of Casablanca.

But they also make a large range of reds from warmer climate regions, where they buy the grapes in. In comparison with the Sauvignon and Syrah, these are quite ordinary. So why don’t they just specialize on their special talents?

The answer the export manager and general manager gave was that the all important export markets want a Chilean producer to provide a full range of varieties. They don’t want two Chilean agencies, but one producer who can meet all their Chilean needs.

And the reason there aren’t more smaller, specialist high-end wineries is because people expect Chile to deliver value for money, not fine wine. And the Chilean market can’t support small high-end producers.

Yet without small specialist wineries, Chile will struggle to convince the world it is capable of greatness. It’s frustrating for the growing band of talented, ambitious, informed young winemakers who could do great things.

Dr Pedro Parra, the terroir expert, says that Chile has a wonderful diversity of terroirs, but doesn’t yet have a wonderful diversity of wines that fully express those terroirs.  While the terroirs are widely different, the wines are currently too similar. He thinks it will be perhaps 20 years before the high-end Chilean wines manage to express the brilliantly diverse Chilean terroirs adequately. I hope it is sooner.

12 comments to Should new world wineries specialize?

  • Jaime,

    Quite frankly, I find your assertions to be lost in time, rather tired and predictable, and I am surprised from someone normally so well informed. Truth is sir, some do specialise, and they are, in a word, in Chile at least: Movi – the Movement of Independent Vintners. We have been taking on your task for quite some time, most of us going on ten years now.

    I find it odd you have not been in touch for over the past couple of years we have been in the press in the UK, and we have received many like yourself from abroad who have shown interest in getting off the well-beaten path of trade organization / corporate hospitality. With all due respect to Pedro, a good friend and colleague in things mountain grown, if you are interested in seeing the future today, give me a bell on the cell number beneath. It is not often I can show someone the future, and I would get a kick out of it.

    Cheers,

    Derek +569 9750-0379

    Garage Wine Co.

    Director
    Movement of Independent Vintners

    pd – Are you not travelling with Peter Richards?

  • Mark Donovan

    Hi Jaime,
    Interesting comment. I can see the attraction for an agency in being able to ship a container load of mixed wines that can then service a wide range of differing demands in the on and off trade. The problem from the producers point of view is that there is a whole raft of producers making wide ranges of varietal wines at similar price points. How do you distinguish yourself from the crowd? Casas del Bosque are a case in point. They clearly excell at Sauvignon Blanc but feel the need to produce everything else at 4 different price points. Is this a lack of self-confidence, perhaps? I’d like to think that if you have an outstanding product and are prepared to rack up the airmiles to promote it, you will find a receptive audience.
    Have fun with the rest of your trip.
    Mark

  • Hi Jamie, I think there are a number of specialist wineries in Chile – Loma Larga in Casablanca stands out, as does Matetic in San Antonio. However, the point made in re importers wanting a “one stop shop” supplier makes sense so I can see why some wineries don’t specialise. But look at Undurraga who have the fabulous TH range of “terroir” wines covering pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and other varietals from a range of different origins.
    For me, Chile is developing extremely well in this regard to the extent that I believe it is possible to consider a full-scale tasting of Chilean regions of origin, with varietals which highlight their origins well.
    Hope you enjoy the trip and mind how you go in Val – head up to Vina instead, it’s more fun!
    Dermot
    PS City’ll do nothing this year LOL

  • Hi Jamie,
    I am a Norwegian wine writer and I came back from Chile a week ago. I visited Maule, and found several great specialist (small) wineries. I love their focus on dry farming and Carignan from old vines around Cauquenes. Terroir focused producers, hard working and proud. My article from this trip will be about the “other” Chile I found, about the Carignan Club, MOVI, dry farming etc. Check out Gillmore!

    Enjoy your trip in Chile!

    Heidi

  • HI.. Jamie… Ya surely, new world wineries will specialize. It will take a time but they will. Wine business is growing very rapidly and becoming more and more popular now a days. All category of people are liking wines and some of the farmers started growing vine crops in their fields. Its business is very very profitable in today’s world. I like that you asked this question and also appreciate your desire of learning new things…

  • Alex Lake

    Sorry, but high-end Chilean wines still leave me cold. They seem over-priced and lacking charm. I suppose I should look harder.

  • When I was there last week I got a great introduction to MOVI. Sven and Ed Flaherty took us through around 16 wines from various MOVI makers and they were all excellent. It was very exciting to see. In the Vinos del Mundo (or Mundo di Vinos) a shop in Santiago, some of them are on sale on the “garagistes” shelf. Try ‘em!

  • I agree with Derek here … These journalist trips leave me cold. Who pays for them? Who decides where they go? Why would a well informed journalist today not want to visit Movi? Have they not heard about it? Are they not curious? Maybe they will taste the wines and decide they suck, but not to taste seems odd to me. It is like watching the FIFA world cup announcement yesterday gave me the same feeling of powers that be continuing on a tangent of tradition unawares of the where football really is..

  • Alex

    Seems that movi should be a unifying commercial entity. Can one buy (in the uk) a mixed case of movi wines?

  • Paul McIntosh

    Alex
    you certianly can. Naked Wines carries several MOVI wines.
    Cheers,
    Paul

  • I can’t say enough about the quality of wine that Chile possesses. Keep traveling through the regions, tasting, and enjoy the changing terrior. I’d recommend Casa Marin, Von Siebenthal, and Errazuriz.

  • Lee

    Interesting point in on what is available and specialisation in Chilean production. In BC Canada with our monopoly buying the wine we only get the Sav Blanc, Syrah and Pinot Noir from Casas Del Bosque. I guess someone is doing something right. We don’t get the small lot (Pequeñas Producciones) wines they produce which is too bad as I have to bring them back from Chile myself.

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