Student Trip to Chile

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Richard Bampfield MW

When Santa Rita Estates joined Viña Errazuriz in 2016 as a Supporter of the Institute of Masters of Wine, it made sense for the two companies to explore the possibility of organising a visit to Chile for MW students. The first study visit duly took place in November 2016 and I had the privilege of leading the group.

The group comprised 14 students from 10 different countries, different parts of the wine business and at various stages of the MW Study Programme. It was felt important that the make-up of the group reflected the international composition of the Institute and also the varied skills of both existing and potential MWs. None of the group had visited Chile before, apart from Marco de Martino, an MW student whose family are, of course, one of Chile’s foremost wine producers.

The trip lasted a week and Viña Errazuriz looked after the group for the first half of the trip, during which we were based in Santiago. We visited Arboleda (Aconcagua Costa), Don Maximiano Estate and Seña (Aconcagua), and Viñedo Chadwick (Maipo). The focus was on the vineyards because Errazuriz have gone to so much effort to identify the areas best suited to the styles of wines they are after. The tastings naturally led to discussion about the winemaking and the evolution of wine styles. The highlight for many was a long and fascinating tasting with Francisco Baettig, Errazuriz Chief Winemaker, who was wonderfully open about the company’s direction. The tasting featured the Las Pizarras Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two wines of great finesse that epitomise the more refined style that characterises the modern Errazuriz range. Special thanks are due to Maria Luisa Errazuriz who coordinated the whole visit on behalf of the company and who was very generous both with her time and that of all the other members of the Errazuriz team that we met.

For the second half of the week, we were in the hands of Santa Rita Estates. Visits were made to their extensive vineyards in Leyda, their vast and most recent vineyard in Pumanque and, of course, Alto-Jahuel in Maipo, home to Casa Real, where we were fortunate enough to spend a night. Santa Rita’s investment in vineyards (over 200 ha in Leyda, 600 ha in Pumanque, 400 ha in Alto-Jahuel, to name just those we visited) makes a massive statement about Chile’s confidence in its wine industry’s future. Talk here was as much about the business and economics of wine as it was about viticulture and winemaking; indeed it was generally agreed that on a future visit, the business side should be given a larger slice of the programme. The visit also included a night by the Pacific in beautiful Pichilemu, an opportunity to appreciate why the ocean (freezing!) creates such cooling breezes. Thanks again to Maria Cecilia Pino for arranging the visit and accompanying us for the Santa Rita leg; and to Andres Lavados (CEO), Andres Ilabaca (Technical Director) and so many others who joined us at different stages.

The visit ended with a presentation kindly organised by Wines of Chile and presented by one of Chile’s top sommeliers on the state of the Chilean wine market, followed by a tasting of wines from regions not visited on the trip.

There were two notable aspects of the trip. Firstly, the astonishing generosity of our hosts, with time, wine, people and expense - it exceeded all expectations and reflected the high regard in which the IMW is held. Secondly, the calibre and professionalism of the students. There is no doubt they left a strong and positive impression with our hosts and are already a credit to the Institute.

It is hoped that this student trip to Chile will become an annual event.

Richard Bampfield MW


MW students who attended the trip:
Allison Bonnett
Julien Boulard
Sarka Duskova
Alessandra Fedi
Julie Frankland
Jessica Green
Marco de Martino
Fernando Mora Torrijo
Moritz Nikolaus Lueke
Tom Parker
Adam Porter
Clare Tooley
Guido Walter
Lee Winston