Chile wine trends: 6. Embracing the med

While Chile is best known for its Bordeaux blends, it’s Mediterranean grapes that are becoming an increasing focus for the country’s winemakers.

Harvesting grapes Chile

Central Chile enjoys a Mediterranean climate with rainfall concentrated in the winter and a long dry growing season. Picture source: Concha y Toro

Varieties such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, as well as Carignan, and to a lesser extent Tempranillo, and white grapes, like Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, are being employed in a greater number of blends.

De Martino’s winemaker Marcelo Retamal tells the drinks business that he’s about to visit Spain, Sardinia and Corsica to explore the wines from these places because, “Chile has a huge potential for Mediterranean varieties.”

Chile’s emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux grapes, stems from an attempt to emulate the great wines of France, but not because these grapes have a natural affinity with Chile’s soils and climates, believes Retamal.

“Chile has concentrated a lot on Cabernet, but why? Because some people planted it many years ago… but we have many hectares of dry-farmed Carignan with huge potential, and it’s the same with Cinsault, and I believe we have great potential with Syrah and Grenache.”

Similarly, Ventisquero’s chief winemaker, Felipe Tosso says the two overriding trends taking place in Chile presently are the development of coastal vineyards, and working more with warm-climate Mediterranean grapes such as Grenache and Carignan, as well as Mourvèdre – which he is selling using their Spanish names: Garnacha and Cariñena, as well as Mataró.

“I think Chile has a very big potential for producing Mediterranean style wines… We are proud of our Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chile produces very good Cabernet, but the younger generation [of winemakers] have a more open mind, and the new consumers like the Mediterranean style of wine,” he says.

Caliterra’s chief winemaker, Rodrigo Zamorano concurs, “We are seeing more Mediterranean varieties such as Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, and also some Tempranillo, as well as whites like Roussanne, because our climate and soil is more similar to the Rhône, than Bordeaux.”

Continuing, he observes, “Chile is growing and developing as an industry, and making more discoveries….. in the past all the brands had a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, and all the regions had the same varieties, but now each producer and place in specialising in different things.”

As for examples of this trend, some of the more high-profile products and producers include Errázuriz, who make a Rhone-inspired red blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre and a white with Roussane, Marsanne and Viogner; Morandé, which has just launched a Grenache called Mediterráneo del Maule; Caliterra, which has the Edicion Limitada M – standing for Mediterranean ­– containing Syrah and Viognier; Ventisquero, who make a “Grey” GCM; Montes which produce a Beyond Frontiers Outer Limits Apalta Vineyard CGM; and Undurraga, which is adding a GCM from Cauquenes to its Terroir Hunter series.

Furthermore, Emiliana is reducing the proportion of Cabernet in its Coyam flagship blend to increase the amount of Tempranillo and Garnacha, alongside the Syrah and Carmenere, according to winemaker Noelia Orts, who also tells db that the producer is launching a Novas Gran Reserva with Garnacha and Syrah from the 2012 vintage.

Previous Chilean wine trend topics can be seen below.

Click here to read Chile wine trend 7. Rediscovering País

Click here to read Chile wine trend 8. Sauvignon moves up

Click here to read Chile wine trend 9: Malbec revival

Click here to read Chile wine trend 10: Quirkiness takes root

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