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Chile MW trip

Chile MW trip

This report cannot be completed without reference to the political challenges that exist across South America and within Chile in particular. Prior to agreeing to visit the country, a thorough assessment of the situation was carried out on a regular basis by liaising with Wines of Chile, the Foreign Office and the British Embassy in Santiago; all advised that travel was acceptable but that care should be paid when visiting certain areas and that clearly we should avoid all political rallies and gatherings. The trip was amended to avoid potential ‘flashpoint’ areas, and a Security detail was present at all times during the visit – thankfully there were no incidents involving the trip participants, although there was evidence of rioting at various stages during the visit. Against this background all members were given the option to withdraw from the trip should they feel uncomfortable, which several individuals deciding not to attend. Thankfully a party of some 30 MWs headed out to Santiago in the days before the trip start date, and they enjoyed a thoroughly memorable experience.

It has been 10 years since I last visited Chile, and it is clear that the industry has evolved greatly during this period. A decade ago, the Chilean wine industry was blighted with the ‘Volvo’ tag of being a safe if rather uninspiring producer, offering wines of good quality at appropriately keen prices. Although a few people were already extolling the virtues of Chile as a high quality producing region, these were small isolated voice struggling for the oxygen of good publicity, set against a backdrop of high volume production at competitive prices.

I am therefore delighted to report that the industry is now evolving and moving forward at great pace. Small independent groups of producers, such as MOVI and VIGNO, are now being recognised and actively supported by the generic body Wines of Chile, whilst the large wine companies are increasingly active and engaged in many pioneering winemaking activities. Given the size of the country and its incredible diversity, it is heartening to see a true strategy developing that incorporates the need for Sustainability, and an increased focus on quality, whilst encouraging the development of new and exciting terroirs – be that in Huasco in the Atacama or Osorno and Malleco in the far South. There will be always be recognition for the quality potential of Cabernet based wines from regions such as Punto Alta and Apalta, but it is genuinely exciting to see the rediscovery of old vine Cinsualt, Carignan and Pais in regions such as Itata and Maule, where truly unique wines are now being produced; this historical re-awakening appears to closely mirror the early activities of the Swartland revolution in South Africa (a country with which Chile shares many commercial similarities), and hopefully it will be just as successful in making consumers aware of Chile’s potential to produce interesting quality wines.

Each region has clearly embraced the over-arching story of the role of cooling breezes from the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, the impact of early morning fog, and the diverse mix of alluvial and granitic soils within each unique valley, and they can all explain how this impacts upon the style of wine we tasted. Given the size of the country and its incredible diversity needless to say, some regions are more successful than others in transforming themselves from ‘volume’ production to a more quality focussed approach. The drive to discover new and exciting regions is often fraught with difficulties (would you really be happy with an 8% vine failure rate due to soil salinity?), but only by being truly challenging – to the point of foolishness? – will the country fully comprehend what can be achieved. More established cool climate regions, such as Limari, Aconcagua Coast, San Antonio and Marchigua continue to produce outstanding wines, whilst traditional areas such as Maipo Alto continue to showcase Chile’s capacity for production of high quality reds.

Overall, one cannot be anything but impressed with the speed with which cultural change is happening across the industry. Within this there is a spirit of collaboration and innovation that is resulting in the production of some truly outstanding wines that are sure to capture the imagination of new consumers. This can only benefit the country as a whole as Chile strives to reinvent itself as a producer of a diverse range of wines across all price points that can be favourably compared with the best wines available from across the winemaking world.

Adrian Garforth MW

 

Follow this link to read Patrick Schmitt’s article on The Drinks Business website titled ‘MW Chile trip in pictures’

Adelaide seminar

Adelaide seminar

It was a bittersweet seminar in Adelaide for me, in many ways, not least because it was my last seminar as co-coordinator with the lovely Andrea Pritzker MW (who will continue in the role another year with incoming coordinator Dr. Edward Ragg MW and our excellent Australasian organiser Sarah Bradshaw). It was also the final MW educational seminar under the aegis of Olly Chapman – who was fared well at the final dinner. He will be greatly missed. As a six day seminar, we have both stage one and stage two students, spread across four rooms at the National Wine Centre, including a record proportion of stage ones this year – nearly half of the entire student body!

We were fortunate to have, throughout the week, a rotating roster of a diverse group of MWs; David Allen MWDr. Steve Charters MWNeil Hadley MWRichard Hemming MWDr. Brendan Jansen MWEmma Jenkins MWDavid Le Mire MWPeter Marks MWCaro Maurer MWRobert MacCulloch MWAndrea Pritker MWDr. Edward Ragg MWPhilip Reedman MWJane Skilton MW and Fongyee Walker MW. The team of volunteers giving up their time and expertise has always remained a lynchpin of the IMW’s spirit and character – Adelaide 2019 distilled that spirit to a fine point.

Richard, Caro and myself used the Adelaide seminar as a testbed for the now universally adopted new system of providing feedback for the practical sessions, and we also did some work on the theory/essay writing presentations which Victoria Burt MWCaro Maurer MW and Rod Smith MW put together for the stage one students. We were treated to three focus tasting masterclasses; Caro presented wines from the VDP, Fongyee and Edward revealed some new developments in Chinese wine, while Andrea and myself held a masterclass on the new Burgundy laws governing the use of GDs for the regional appellations. Emma Jenkins organised a walk-around tasting of the Air New Zealand Fine Wines of NZ list for the evening when the MWs gave feedback to students on their mock exams. Wine Australia, who had presented a viticultural masterclass with four esteemed Australian viticulturists from across the nation, also put on a lovely dinner of great Australian classic wines in the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, right beside the National Wine Centre.

Another bittersweet moment was the field trip when we took the 55 students to the Adelaide Hills. We started at Shaw & Smith vineyard in the morning before carrying on further to Anderson Hill at Lenswood for the afternoon where Golding Wines, Henschke, Pike & Joyce, Turon Wines and Anderson Hill put on a masterclass to introduce us to the special character of Lenswood wines. This was only a month before the devastating Cudlee Creek bush fire would wipe out a heartbreaking amount of vineyards, buildings and wines which we tasted. This was not the only evidence of climate disaster we experienced – on the Wednesday of the seminar, temperatures in Adelaide soared from 26ºC to 42ºC, causing spontaneous bushfires around South Australia. We awoke on Thursday morning to a city shrouded in thick black smoke and the heavy smell of bushfires. We later discovered that this was due to fires in the city’s many parks as well as the surrounding areas.

I hold by the belief that participating in the educational seminars is one of the most rewarding and authentic experiences in the Institute, and I will greatly miss the opportunity to work with these fantastic people in Adelaide, but I’m most excited to see what Edward and Andrea organise for this year’s seminar.

Stephen Wong MW

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