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Chile breaks ground with signing of four new DOs

Chile has gained four new Denominations of Origin, marking a major step in the country’s efforts to better communicate its multitude of microclimates beyond its politically fixed geographical boundaries.

La Ronciere’s 200ha vineyard in Licantén DO in Colchagua Valley

The new DOs were made official following their publication on Friday 25 May in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Chile.

The addition of three of these DOs was particularly significant given that they are not part of a municipality, as defined by Chile’s political boundaries. Up until now, any DO had to be located within a political municipality in order to become a DO.

In a practical loosening of requirements, now a prospective DO must be at the least close to a locality of the same name and/or a vineyard of international acclaim.

For example Quebrada Sca, a microclimate within the Limarí Valley, and which is known for its production of Chardonnay, was not permitted to become a DO, as it is not itself a specific place.

The three new DOs made under the new precedent include Lo Abarca, in the San Antonio Valley, and Apalta and Los Lingues, which are both in the Colchagua Valley.

Its signifies the Chilean authority’s recognition of individual, smaller regions, known by producers for their unique climactic characteristics, but previously ineligible for DO status, and is a major coup for Chilean winemakers seeking to communicate the unique conditions of certain subregions and the quality of their wines. It opens the possibility of further microclimates in Chile, irrespective of their political municipality, being considered for DO status.

A fourth area, Licantén, was also made a DO, in line with previous guidelines, as it was already recognised as a district of the Curicó Valley.

Producers will now be able to include these DOs on their labels, along with its respective Andes, Costa or Entre Cordilleras status, indicating its proximity to and influence of either the coast or the Andes mountains. Los Lingues may use Andes and Apalta may use Entre Cordilleras, while Lo Abarca and Licantén will be able to use Costa.

One winery looking to establish its prominence in the Licantén DO is La Ronciere (“magic stone”), which planted its 200 hectare Idahue vineyard 25km from the coast in 2012 and is uniquely dedicated entirely to red varieties, with parcels broken down by their specific soil composition, which includes plots of llicorella (schist), clay and gravel.

Founded by three brothers; José Antonio Orueta, Andres Orueta and Alejandro Orueta, La Ronciere’s first vintage came in 2016, and includes a Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, as well as a Carmenere under the Quiron brand, under the banner of “red fresh wines or slow maturation by the sea”.

“The weather has changed in the past 10 years and it will change again,” explained Alejandro Orueta, director or La Ronciere speaking to the drinks business last week, taking a long-term view on La Ronciere’s future.

“It is a known fact that global warming conditions have moved everywhere and areas that used to be warm and offer the ideal conditions are getting warmer and warmer, so we are looking at areas that are still possible to ripen grapes, but which are cooler,” adding: “We want to go step by step and we want to make the Licantén name bigger and to grow slowly.

“Twenty years ago when we started with the export business we were just Cachapoal and and Colchagua. Now we are communicating the differences, because Licantén is a microclimate. It’s a huge responsibility to have a DO where you are the only ones there. We are going step by step and there’s no rush. We don’t have to sell more bottles. Licantén is not about big volumes. It’s about small volume and high quality.”

(L-R) José Antonio Orueta, Andres Orueta and Alejandro Orueta, founders of La Ronciere.

Another winery set to benefit from the newly installed Apalta DO is Clos Apalta, owned by the family that first founded (and then sold) Grand Marnier, and which still owns Chilean winery Lapostolle and Kappa pisco.

It’s a big deal for us because we have our own climate and are different than the rest of the valley,” said Carolina Bilbao, regional director for Chile at Clos Apalta. “We are located in a horseshoe, we have less sun and are cooler than the rest of the [Colchagua] valley, yet we can assure the maturity of the grapes. We are a microclimate. In the morning you will see the mists coming down the mountains cooling everything and we have the sun over the valley from 12-4, but after that we don’t have the sun, so we have slower ripening and intense, concentrated berries.

It is important to start talking about the diversity of Chile. We keep talking about Colchagua, which are excellent wines, but you are not making the difference between coastal Colchagua and Apalta. We can now speak with more definition and be more specific.”

Federico Mekis, international legal advisor for Wines of Chile, said the ruling would help to “pave the way to get rid of the rigidity of the political division of the State, and recognises the specificity of the localities.”

The DO announcement listed in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Chile.

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