Chile shows off creative streak

Santa Rita Estates is seeking to inject greater charisma into Chile’s wine offer with the launch of a South American-inspired range, its first ever oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc and a pair of surfer-themed wines.

Terra Andina“Chile is doing better wines than ever,” claimed Santa Rita Estates export director Andres Lavados. “That said,” he admitted, “in some countries we lack a bit of character. We’re slowly working towards addressing that and trying things that are a bit different.”

Among these changes Lavados highlighted a revamp of the group’s Terra Andina brand, which from its 2012 vintage has “changed completely”, from labels through to its “more easy to drink” style.

“It’s not a Chilean vibe, it’s a South American vibe,” Lavados told the drinks business as he outlined the brand’s five-strong range, which features a “Bold” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Scandalous” Carmenere and “Fresh” Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, as well as a “Rich” Argentine Malbec and finally a sparkling Moscato from Brazil.

While the latter country has recently enjoyed a flurry of interest from UK importers as a result of the impending FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, Lavados identified a further commercial attraction. “Moscato is huge in the US,” he observed, adding: “It’s so different and a normal sparkling wine in Terra Andina is too serious – we needed something festive.”

Despite this US opportunity, Lavados acknowledged the challenge of finding a large market for this style in the UK, where “the legacy of France is very strong”, as well as Asia, which “is all about face and brands.”

Indeed, he stressed that the Terra Andina range was about adding charisma to Chile’s offering rather than advancing its fine wine effort. “We’re not going to send it to be rated; it’s not that kind of audience,” explained Lavados of the wine, which retails in the UK for around £9 through agent Berkmann Wine Cellars.

“I think of my nephew who is 20 and wants a bottle to take to a barbecue,” he continued, outlining the brand’s target audience. “He doesn’t want to drink what his dad drinks and is new to wine so doesn’t want something very tannic.”

In a similar vein, Lavados highlighted a new wine under the Santa Rita label, which saw its first commercial harvest this year and is due to launch at the end of 2013.

“It’s a different proposition,” he told db of the group’s first ever oak aged Sauvignon Blanc, which will form part of Santa Rita’s Floresta range.

Carmen head winemaker (and keen surfer), Sebastian Labbé

Carmen head winemaker (and keen surfer), Sebastian Labbé

The new wine has been produced by Santa Rita Estates’ technical director Andres Ilabaca using a blend of 77% Leyda fruit with the remaining 23% coming from Casablanca. After whole bunch pressing, 40% of the juice was fermented using wild yeast in a combination of new and old oak barrels.

Introducing the wine, the company’s PR & Corporate Communication manager Maria Cecilia Pino explained: “Casablanca gives a more citrus character and Leyda is very concentrated in minerals.”

“We want to position it a bit higher,” continued Lavados, who noted that quantities for the initial vintage were restricted to around 100 cases of the new wine, which will carry an RRP of about £20.

Meanwhile the group’s Carmen head winemaker Sebastian Labbé has focused on coastal regions and earlier picking to create a new “unmasked” Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir “inspired by the outside lifestyle and the Pacific ocean.”

A keen surfer, Labbé has called the Sauvignon Blanc “Left Wave” and the Pinot Noir “Right Wave”. Explaining the names, he said: “Most of the waves here come from the left; the right is not so common in Chile and Pinot Noir here is just beginning.”

Both wines are unoaked and around 13.5% abv, with Labbé describing them as “a pure expression of what we can get from Leyda.”

Despite his own efforts, Labbé suggested that Chile as a whole was proving reluctant to move towards lighter wine styles. “A lot of people talk about making lighter, fresher wines with less oak but a lot of winemakers like oak and ripe fruit because they grew up with big reds,” he remarked.

With an expected RRP of £9.99, the Wave Series by Carmen will be available in the UK through Hallgraten Druitt and aimed in particular at the independent retail sector.

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