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.