Food & Drink » Anthony Gismondi on Wine

Your tip sheet to Chilean Wine 2.0

A case for the super-premium



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True, you may find some carmenère, but like South African pinotage these curiosities do not a country establish.

Chile's strength is its fabulously natural and isolated wine regions, uncontaminated by most of what goes on in North America. Naturally made wines — all of them — should be the focus for the next decade.

My notes from numerous trips would suggest syrah, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc will likely be the stars of the next decade along with the likes of carignan and riesling along with more innovative and creative red blends. But there is more.

Varietal wine may be coming to the end of its useful life and this, more than anything, could provide the springboard Chile needs to recreate its international image. Temperature, altitude, longitude and even latitude are all part of a new story that should be told.

If you are still unconvinced, think Burgundy. Yes, pinot noir and chardonnay cover the vineyards, but the story is always about its people and its places.

Puligny, Chassagne, Meursault, Corton, Faiveley, Leflaive, Latour DRC. The French are the masters of terroir-based wines, most likely because they learned decades ago that no one can copy your terroir. That's why varietal Chilean sauvignon blanc doesn't scare the folks in Sancerre.

On the other hand, in 10 years' time, coastal Leyda sauvignon blanc could be a completely different story.

No one knows better what the wines of Chile have to offer than the Chileans themselves. It's time Chile decided what is best for its future. Shaking the "cheap" image is not going be just about raising prices.

There has to be an attitude change — the industry's youngest and brightest will need to step up and pursue the next 20 years with the same passion Aurelio Montes, Eduardo Chadwick, Agustin Huneeus, Alvaro Espinoza and Ignacio Recabarren have done in the last two decades.

One such promising group is The Movement of Independent Vintners. MOVI calls itself an association of small, quality-oriented Chilean wineries who have come together to share a common goal to make wine personally, on a human scale, and to promote a passion for the endeavours of growing grapes and crafting fine wine. But will it be the next big thing?

Can you be a serious wine producing region if you don't produce so-called first growth, a grand cru-like wine, or, in the case of Chile, a super-premium blend?

Frankly, I seldom measure a wine region by its greatest wines but rather by its most simple. Using that scale, Chile moves well up my world wine chart of quality producers.

Nevertheless, the super-premium issue won't simply fade away and that means Chile needs to capture the world's attention with high quality (expensive) wine or be left behind on the discount shelf.