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Friday 6 November 2009

Patricia Covarrubia

The ambitious project that seeks to change the Chilean wine map

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Back in September, a group of people from the wine industry (vineyard owners, winemakers, academics, advisers, among others) which is lead by the Wines of Chile, are meeting weekly to work on a new map of Chilean wine. The goal is to introduce new appellation of origins (read the Spanish report here).

At the moment, Chile has one wine geographical indication, namely those that are in the ‘Valley’ and protected under Decree 464.
They are now looking to extend it to ‘Coast’, ‘Central’ and ‘Mountains’. In 1995 a wine map was published. It runs from north to south of the valleys. They believe that this is obsolete; it is considered that there is an increase geographic diversity due to the climate changes that occur from the foot of the Andes (Mountains) to the Pacific Ocean (Coast). For example, they consider that vines near the coast (colder weather) produce white wines of much higher quality.

It appears that they are doing their homework. Two months later - November, they have already bought a database with the climate of Chile in the last 20 years and have already used isothermal boundary lines to draw the map. All members registered with the Wines of Chile are sending GPS coordinates of their fields, their altitude and a self-rating within the three proposed categories.

The effort appears to be paid off. The director of Agricultural and Farming Services (SAG in Spanish) declared this week, that he would like to collaborate. This body is the one that starts the process for the Decree 464 to be amended (then it needs to be signed by the Ministry of Agriculture and later on, sent to the President for approval). So, to have the director in their side is a good start.

The big question is, what is the motive – are they pure Geographical reasons or monetary ones? I believe both. On one hand, it is important that the legislation recognises the wine industry. By this way vintners communicate to consumers that a vineyard is located in a specific area. On the other hand, as in any business, there is a commercial interest behind. Once consumers know more about the product they will be willing to pay more – the premium.

If everything goes as planned, next year we will be raising our glasses to ‘Aconcagua Costa’ or ‘Cachapoal Cordillera’.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia