Chile’s Viña Carmen has launched a new brand called Wave which the producer hopes will challenge New Zealand’s success in the UK with Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Wave’s packaging should appeal to surfers
The label was shown exclusively to the drinks business last week by Carmen’s chief winemaker, Sebastián Labbé, who admitted that Wave was designed to attract consumers of New Zealand wines such as Oyster Bay, Villa Maria and Brancott Estate.
As a result, Wave comprises just two wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Leyda made in a crisp, relatively light-bodied and unoaked style, with modern and simple packaging.
“The wines are made in a light style and are meant to be fresh and fruit-forward,” Labbé told db, stressing that the Pinot Noir had not been exposed to any oak.
Continuing, he said that the new brand had been created to attract “a younger audience” and would be launched in the UK before a global roll-out.
“We have 25,000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and 15,000 cases of Pinot Noir, and, if things go well, we can double or triple that quantity in three years,” he said when asked about the volume potential for Wave.
He also said that the wines would retail for an off-promotion price of £12 and he hopes to extend the range of two wines to include a white and red blend.
The latter he said would use grapes from parent company Santa Rita Estates’ new plantings in Pumanque, a recently-created coastal DO within the Colchagua Valley, where the company has a dominant presence.
This would be a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot according to Labbé.
Although born in Chile, Labbé moved to New Zealand when he was 19 and studied Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in Christchurch, before working at Margrain Vineyard in Martinborough.
Comparing Wave Sauvignon Blanc to similarly-priced wines from New Zealand, he said that his new wine used grapes from Leyda, which is slightly warmer than Marlborough, and as a result, Wave has a slightly richer texture than an equivalent from New Zealand’s most famous source of Sauvignon.
He also said that the aromatic grapefruit character evident in the Wave Sauvignon was achieved by adopting winemaking practises learnt in New Zealand.
“We ferment the grapes at low temperatures [from 12-16 degrees Celsius] using two yeast strains, which is something I picked up when I was working in New Zealand,” he said.
This involves co-inoculating the must with commercial yeasts Anchor VIN 7 and Lalvin QA23 because, according to Labbé, the two yeast strains together produce a better expression of Sauvignon Blanc.
Furthermore, he emphasised the importance of a gentle pressing for Sauvignon-based wines. “We use a ‘Champagne Cycle’ and increase the pressure very slowly so we extend the length of the pressing cycle, but in small increments, and that is essential to the quality of Sauvignon Blanc.”
Next year, Carmen will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the re-discovery of Carmenere in 1994
Viña Carmen is in fact most famous for its wines made from Carmenère, as the winery produced Chile’s first varietal bottling of this grape, starting with the 1996 vintage.
Because next year will be the 20th anniversary of the re-discovery of Carmenère in Chile, Carmen is planning to release a 100% Carmenère from Maipo called Twentieth.
Labbé told db that Carmenère needs a warm climate and deep clay soils to perform best – and fails to produce good results on the alluvial terraces favoured by Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile.