Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Chilean wine industry produced more wine, and of better quality, in 2009 than any previous year, according to a recent report by the Office of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG).

Chilean winemakers reported just over a billion liters of wine produced between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, an increase of 14.5 percent over the previous year.

The 2009 production also saw a sharp rise in wines that were classified as “denominación de origen” (DO). These are wines that – by following strict quality guidelines – allow winemakers to label their wares as coming from a specific region. This year 85.9 percent of all wine produced was classified as DO, up from last year’s 79.6 percent.

Of the DO wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, a dark, red wine, led the pack with 39.1 percent of total production, or almost 335 million liters. Sauvignon blanc, a dry white wine, was next with 14.3 percent, nearly 122.4 million liters. Merlot, Chardonnay, and Carmenere followed with 13.3, 11.2 and 8.7 percent of total production, respectively.

The DO classification system works in a similar vein to the U.S. system of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), wherein a winemaker is limited as to the geographical claims he or she can make on the wine label. Wines that do announce their origin must have satisfied certain conditions to count as DO wines, and are typically of higher quality. Wines that are “without declaration of origin” are lower quality, with “table wines” coming in last.

The 2009 batch of wine overwhelmingly shifted to the higher-quality level, with “sin-DO” and table wine seeing losses of 7.4 and 41.7 percents, respectively, compared to last year.

The improving economy helped fuel the increase in high-quality wine, said Elias Obreque Slier, a professor of enology, the science of winemaking, at the Universidad de Chile.

Non-DO wine and table wine held market shares of 19.2 and 6.3 percents in 2008, compared to 13.4 and 2.96 percents in 2009.

Slier added that he thinks the DO rating system is not strict enough, as it is currently less strict than other major wine-producing countries, and expects the levels of DO wines to continue to rise.

“Chile needs to produce quality wines,” he said. “I think that the businesses have realized that . . . in order to reach other markets and rise above the conception that Chile produces good, but cheap, wine.”


By Daniel Zarchy (

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