Sunday, November 19, 2006

New world wines continue their challenge

Santiago, Chile. Yestredya I visited a vineyard here in ChileĀ“s central valley not far from Santiago. This vineyard was founded in 1880 and is currently producing 19 million litres a year. I have seen similar operations in Australia, although not on this scale.

A German in the party asked about the concept of terroir which is very much emphasised by European wine producers giving a wine its distinctiveness. However, this was clearly of no importance in Chile. As in Australia (now suffering from a glut of wine), Chilean vineyards produced drinkable and affordable wines for the world market. They then keep the best wines for themselves, as in Australia. At a reception at the presidential palace in Santiago, I had one of the best reds I have ever drunk.

There is no appellation system in Chile, only reserve wines finished in oak barrels and other wines. The New World wine countries have eight years to come up with a system, but this is proving difficult.

Our guide was less emphatic than those in Australia about the merits of screw top bottles or synthetic corks but pointed out that the rising price of natural cork meant that it could cost as much as the wine.

As the discussions about the reform of the European wine regime meander on, there is no sign here in Chile that the marketing challenge they present to European producers is going to diminish.

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