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Chilean fine wine embarks on new phase

It is time to take Chile’s fine wine message beyond critics and the trade to consumers, maintained Errazuriz president Eduardo Chadwick as he launched the 2013 vintage of Seña.

Eduardo Chadwick with Errazuriz chief winemaker Francisco Baettig and UK wine writer Steven Spurrier at a Seña vertical tasting during Vinexpo

After 22 blind tastings worldwide over the last decade, which have seen Errazuriz’s top wines Viñedo Chadwick, Seña and Don Maximiano benchmarked against high-end Bordeaux blends from other regions, Chadwick stressed the success of this exercise but suggested it was now time for a change in focus.

“90% of the time we’ve had one of our wines in the top three positions,” he reported. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to convince critics that Chile makes world class wine.”

Highlighting the “1,400 opinion leaders” who have taken part in this tasting series, Chadwick maintained: “We have now convinced the gatekeepers – the sommeliers, the Masters of Wine, the critics. The next challenge is to get through to consumers, to the wine collectors of this world.”

With this fresh target in mind, Chadwick suggested that it was now time to move on from the company’s benchmarking exercise. However, he added: “We will definitely keep doing vertical tastings to show the uniqueness of our terroir,” suggesting that the Far East would be a particular focus for these efforts.

Introducing the 2013 vintage of Seña at this week’s Vinexpo, Errazuriz’s chief winemaker Francisco Baettig highlighted a series of changes in recent years to improve the wine since its maiden vintage under the guidance of Tim Mondavi back in 1995.

“We have been working on the tannins to give more elegance and focus,” he commented, adding that recent vintages have seen oak maturation increase from 18 months to 22 months, but with a diminished proportion of new barrels. “We’re looking for freshness and intensity of fruit and not to cover that with excessive toast,” summed up Baettig.

While the early expressions of Seña were a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend with Carmenere from select parcels within the Errazuriz vineyards, today the label has its own 42 hectare biodynamic vineyard in Aconcagua, while fellow Bordeaux varieties Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc have contributed additional dimensions to the wine.

Although Carmenere played a smaller role in 2013 due to the coolness of this vintage, Chadwick stressed this variety’s importance to the distinctive Chilean identity of Seña. “Today you will not find it in any other top wines of the world,” he observed.

Against this backdrop of ongoing improvements and raised awareness of the quality offered by Seña, Chadwick tracked the commercial progress of his Chilean fine wine mission. “It is happening,” he declared, noting Seña’s presence among other high-end wines on the Place de Bordeaux. “We are very happy with its reception and how things have progressed. The word is out.”

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