Michael Schachner makes it a point to know Chile well – the sommelier and contributing editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine says his 15 visits to the Andean nation have enhanced his understanding of all the elements involved in the final product.
On his most recent trip, Schachner conducted a seminar and wine tasting at Casino Monticello south of Santiago, with more than 100 Chilean wine industry representatives in attendance. The June 5 event received special support from Innova-CORFO, which promotes innovation and economic progress in Chile.
Schachner’s presentation focused on the complexities of the U.S. wine market, highlighting both the opportunities and challenges for Chile’s exporters.
Chilean wine in the world’s biggest market
Schachner explained that while Chilean wine continues to enjoy a positive image in the U.S. market, competition remains fierce, especially from the strong domestic industry in the United States.
The United States is the leading consumer of wine worldwide, but domestic sales account for 77 percent of consumption. Furthermore, U.S. consumers generally prefer white and sparkling wines, while Chile’s wine exports are predominantly red varieties. Chile’s wine exports have also faced a headwind in recent years as a result of an unfavorably strong exchange rate versus the U.S. dollar.
Schachner believes that although some of these factors will continue to present a challenge to Chile’s wine exporters, the Andean nation is still in a solid position to succeed in the U.S. market by delivering high-quality products at affordable prices.
To demonstrate this concept first-hand, Schachner conducted a tasting just outside Santiago, selecting 12 labels that have sold particularly well in the United States in recent months.
Wine tasting with a leading sommelier
Schachner chose wines from each of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each category included three wines – one from Chile, and two foreign labels.
The first Chilean wine, Casas del Bosque 2011 Gran Reserva, was praised by Schachner as being “one of the few 90-point Sauvignon Blancs from South America,” with a “pungent” bouquet and “nice ocean influences” as a result of the beneficial influence of the proximity of the Casablanca Valley to the Pacific.
Next, he declared Concha y Toro’s 2010 Marqués de Casa Concha to be a “well-balanced” Chardonnay, with clarity and well-integrated oak.
With the Veramonte 2010 Ritual, Schachner enthused that it is “one of the best Pinot Noirs in Chile,” complimenting the vintners for “a very nice job.”
According to Schachner, the last Chilean wine to be sampled, Santa Carolina 2009 Reserva de Familia, was excellent, and clearly superior to a competitor wine from the United States in the Cabernet Sauvignon tasting, possessing a “more aromatic character than the Chateau Ste. Michelle (2009).”