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chi le: on-trade

the wines, styles, and flavours that are emanating from exciting new vineyard areas, and from the passionate young Chilean winemakers hell bent on reflecting a Chilean sense of place and identity.”

Muggoch thinks that Chile could “make

more of its old vines, especially Maule Carignan” and Lam states emphatically that what is going on in the country’s northern and southern regions “defies categorisation”. Pinot Noir from Chile was particularly singled out as being the grape variety above all others that Chile alone in the New world can produce well and at attractive prices. What is more, Lam reports that sommeliers are often


“very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Pinot Noirs”.

Other varieties singled out included Syrah, Carmenere, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Gris.

The situation is, however, looking up and clearly a move in the right direction, as it were, has begun. CGA Strategy figures show an increase in value for Chilean wines in the on-trade, an encouraging increase in volumes of red wines other than Cabernet and Merlot and a particularly strong increase in volumes of white wines, particularly Chardonnay. CGA’s figures show Chardonnay volumes rising nearly 25% in volume over the last year from 14,998 hectolitres to 18,747hl and a 38% in value from £24.38 million to £33.74m (all figures MAT to 12.06.11). Even greater has been the rise in other assorted white wines. These have increased by 53% in value over the same period from £1.4m to £2.14m with an equally large increase in volume (see chart, above left).


Varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Merlot have also registered increases. Cabernet and Merlot have in fact registered very small decreases in volume (0.08% and 0.96% respectively), but counterbalanced this with rises in value, which is encouraging as it hints at a gradual rise in price for what


have long been considered Chile’s staples. Simpson thinks that the real ground where Chile can continue to exploit this growth is “likely to come through the gastropub/brasserie sector rather than the Michelin-star sector, margins in the former are more reasonable and consumers seem happier to experiment”. This hints at what was mentioned earlier about Chile lacking the degree of sophistication in consumers’ eyes that the Old World appears to have in spades; they’d rather pay for something deemed more suitable for the occasion when out at smarter venues. However, as Chile’s own positioning is so low down in the on- trade it makes sense to build up gradually rather than try and be over-ambitious. Chile’s base in the off-trade is incredibly

strong and there is no reason not to now shift some of that momentum across to the on-trade. It would be a shame if Chile were relegated to mere house wine status in perpetuity because of a lack of exposure generated by the producers and

a subsequent lack of inquisitiveness from the on-trade. Why merely accept the usual offerings when considering Chile? Bio Bio Pinot Noir or Casablanca Chardonnay is no state secret known only to a select few. Could sommeliers or restaurant groups not ask for, even if just a few, new additions to the Chile category? The status quo is often stale, lacking in imagination and far removed from what is really happening in Chile at the moment. As Cox concludes: “Chile’s sheer diversity is its strength and I urge the on-trade to treat Chile as it would a farmers’ market full of exciting, fresh meat, fruit and veg – in other words, with relish and with the objective of creating something that expresses individuality and that will please the customer. After all, the off-trade generally realised some time ago that modern Chile not only suits their ranges but pleases their customers. Now is the time for the on-trade to spice up their wine lists, be more creative, and let Chile prove its worth.” db

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