Chilean wine industry ‘too brand driven’

Chile’s wine industry is too brand driven according to one of the country’s leading boutique winemakers.

Speaking to the drinks business during a trip to London this week, Derek Mossman-Knapp of the Maule-based Garage Wine Co, said:

“I think Chile was wrong in aping the Old World châteaux model and leading with big brands, it would have been wiser to build the structure of the industry around origin rather than brands.

“This brand focus means it is now hard for producers to charge what the wines are worth as they are associated with supermarkets and entry-level prices.”

The Garage Wine Co specialises in old vine Carignan

The Garage Wine Co specialises in old vine Carignan

Mossman-Knapp also voiced a frustration with wine writers continually talking about Chile’s “diversity” and “potential”.

“Chile is viewed as the land of never-ending potential, but there are places that are established that we need to talk about. How long has the boom been going on for?

“To keep talking about diversity all the time sounds like indecision. We’ve established ourselves as a winemaking country now,” he told db.

The Canadian-born producer believes the way forward for Chile is a terroir-driven approach and increased regulation.

“There’s a lot of space for the Chilean wine industry to grow – new winemakers are coming up all the time with interesting ideas.

“In order to progress, we need real DOCs and more regulation so that we can sell our wines for over £20 a bottle.

“We need to pay our growers properly so they produce good quality grapes rather than building brand pyramids,” he said.

“US$20-40 is the sweet spot where Chilean wine should be rocking the house but a lot of the ‘icon’ wines in Chile go way past that price point,” he added.

Mossman-Knapp makes four different Carignans for different markets.

“The slightly funkier one goes to the UK – Brits would find the one we ship to the US too square,” he said, adding, “Chilean Carignan is trending with hipsters at the moment – they aren’t interested in Carmenere”.

The Garage Wine Co began as a hobby in 2005 as a collaboration between Mossman-Knapp, his wife Pilar Miranda and their friend, Dr. Alvaro Peña.

The winery specailises in dry farmed old vine Carignan from Maule, but also makes small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo Alto and Cabernet Franc.

3 Responses to “Chilean wine industry ‘too brand driven’”

  1. Felipe Lagos says:

    Hi followers from DB!

    I totally disagree with the statements of this invertiew to Mossmann-Knapp. The idea that brands were the wrong focus and that DOC by itself is the solution, seems to me like a poor idea of branding and it´s global execution.

    Brands normally represent something more universal or at least something more globally understandable to all consumer, while DOC requires some degree of knowledge. If Chile wanted to reach consumers and deliver a message, they did it. Branding is not static as DOC, it´s dinamic, brands can evolve and adapt over time.

    The fact that, through the usage of brands, Chile got known in the world is a proof of their effectiveness. This has nothing to do with the critics that we can establish regarding the price positioning of those brands over the years.

    One could say that the branding and pricing, as well as the type of sales channels used, where not established under a long-term intergrated vision. But at that stage of industrail development was it possible to integrate a whole industry under one key asset (as the suggested DOC)? It seems to me that brands where the best and most advisable solution.

    There are lots of worldknown marketing cases that support the usage of skeaming prices and high-end positioning, regardless technical aspects sucha as the DOC.

    Nothing against the DOC, but brands are here to stay and to globally support and share the high quality of chilean wine.
    Their current challenge is to deliver not only messages, but to warrant quality under the character of the terroir.

  2. Robert McArdle says:

    I disagree with the focus of the article, confusing brands with positioning.

  3. Wombles says:

    Haha, had a good laugh, “too brand driven”… awesome! That’s like saying “don’t work hard on the most dificult part of selling products”! And a garage winemaker in a New World country asking for more regulation… hilarious!

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