Chile must push its appellations, says Marcelo Papa

Chile must focus on promoting its wine regions, according to Concha y Toro technical director Marcelo Papa, who is launching a new label to push Puente Alto.

The new ‘black label’ from Marques de Casa Concha carries both the source region and Marcelo Papa’s signature, but there is no mention of Cabernet Sauvignon, the dominant grape variety in the blend, on the front of the bottle

“If Chile doesn’t work on the appellations then in the future we are in trouble,” said Papa, during a tasting and discussion with the drinks business last week in Santiago.

Pointing out that the country needs to premiumise its wine offering in the face of rising costs, he said that it was vital Chile starts to sell its products by region, rather than grape variety.

By way of example, he said that a Cabernet Sauvignon made using grapes from the Alto Maipo (Upper Maipo) needs to state its source region clearly on the front label in place of the variety.

“We need to remove the grape and push the region,” he said, adding, “So people will ask for a glass of Maipo in the same way that they ask for a glass of Barolo.”

As a result, he showed db a new wine for the Marques de Casa Concha brand that promotes ‘Puente Alto’, an area within the Alto Maipo that’s the source of many of Chile’s best Cabernet Sauvignons.

“We are launching Marques de Casa Concha ‘Puente Alto’ that has no mention of the grapes, because the idea is to push Puente Alto,” he said, explaining that the wine carries the varietal mix on the back label.

“We are going more the Bordeaux way,” he added, referring to the French region’s focus on Cabernet blends sold according to appellation.

The new Chilean wine comes under the Etiqueta Negra (Black Label) tier and hails from the 2016 vintage. It contains 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, and will retail (in the UK) for between £16 and £17.

When asked about the relatively high proportion of Cabernet Franc in the blend, Papa told db, “Normally I would use around 5-10%, but because I am making only 2,000 cases [of the new wine], I’ve got more freedom, and I really like the Cabernet Franc from Puente Alto.”

Notably, the addition to the Marques de Casa Concha range promotes the small area of Puente Alto, and not the larger region of Alto Maipo, which incorporates a number of high quality appellations, such as Pirque, Buin and of course Puente Alto.

This, said Papa, was because there was no official agreement on the boundary of Alto Maipo – which he said should in fact be referred to as Maipo Andes – and so he has decided to “push the tiny appellations rather than the bigger one,” noting that Concha y Toro wines using grapes from Pirque would carry the name of this area on their labels.

“20 years ago there was an idea to create Alto Maipo [as an official appellation] but we never agreed it,” he recorded.

“Alto Maipo should change to Maipo Andes, but it’s not being used,” he added.

Three of Chile’s top Cabernet blends hail from Puente Alto – Almaviva, Don Melchor and Viñedo Chadwick. Although Almaviva and Don Melchor carry the appellation on the front of their bottles, Viñedo Chadwick doesn’t.

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