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Mixed response to new Chile GIs

Chile’s producers have cast doubt on aspects of the country’s new geographical indicators, which divide its vineyards from east to west.

The move, finalised in May, is designed to recognise a fact commonly agreed among winemakers that the country’s climate is powerfully influenced by a region’s proximity to the Pacific ocean or the Andes, rather than just its latitude.

The three new designations available for producers to include on their label are the self-explanatory “Costa” (coast) and “Andes” tags, along with the less satisfactory “Entre Cordilleras”, which covers the central area sandwiched between the Andes and Chile’s smaller coastal mountain range.

Broadly in favour is Aurelio Montes, head winemaker and president of Montes, who remarked: “It makes a lot of sense, but what doesn’t is the name of the middle part, which accounts for about 80% of vineyards. Entre cordilleras doesn’t mean anything.”

For Eduardo Chadwick, president of Errazuriz, the development is a helpful step for the company’s effort to explain its various projects in different parts of the Aconcagua valley. He explained: “For us it is very relevant as it will allow us to differentiate the mid-valley where we ripen our top red Cabernet wines like Seña and our coastal plantings – cool climate, windy areas, which offer a new dimension to the valley’s potential.”

The timing fits nicely with Errazuriz’s recent purchase of Chilwe, a property located 12 kilometres from the coast, where five years ago the company planted mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, along with a little Chardonnay and Syrah.

However, Chadwick expressed doubt about the usefulness of this east-west designation for other valleys, saying: “I don’t see any meaning for Maipo costa.”

Also sceptical is Victor Szecowka, commercial director of TerraMater. Although accepting that “it’s useful for the trade maybe,” in general he observed: “My view is that it’s not going to help – it’s complicated enough to talk about Maipo so to explain Maipo entre cordilleras is too much for most consumers.”

On top of this, Szecowka cast further doubt, pointing out: “We don’t have the regulation of somewhere like Bordeaux so with something like Maipo entre cordilleras you still don’t know what sort of wine you’re going to get.”

In his view, the priority should have been to focus on tackling the wider issue of communicating Chile’s national identity, as he argues: “People don’t know Chile so let’s get that message through first.”

For a full report on developments in Chile, look our for the drinks business September issue.

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