Over the past three decades, Chile’s wine industry has undergone many deep-rooted transformations that have enabled a new generation of talented grape growers and winemakers to emerge and produce world-class wines of unique character and personality. Technological advances in the 80s and an export boom in the 90s have helped elevate Chile’s international standing to make it now the eighth largest wine producer and the fifth largest wine exporter in the world.
In 1989, Chile exported 28,000 liters of wine; in 2009 it sent 694,000 liters overseas. Over the past five years Chile has produced an average of 887 million liters (234 million gallons) of wine per year, 70% of which is exported to 150 countries worldwide, with the U.S., the U.K. and Canada being the top three destinations.
The nation’s wine industry is led by Vinos de Chile and its international branch Wines of Chile, which promotes the quality and image Chilean wine both at home and abroad.
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“Chilean wines are of the highest quality, and the challenge today is to get that message across to international markets,” says Juan Somavia, managing director of Wines of Chile. “We work in various areas of education and promotion. For example, every year we organize the Wines of Chile Awards, which is the industry’s main competition, where we bring judges from around the world and give them the opportunity to not only taste over 600 wines from Chile, but also to get to know our vineyards, our country, and our cuisine.”
Wines of Chile has offices in Santiago, London and New York, and runs programs in the USA, Canada, the U.K., northern Europe, Brazil, and Asia (China, Korea, and Japan). It also works closely with ProChile to develop and offer promotional and educational programs in Asia, Latin America and Europe. Its Puro Chile store in New York brings gourmet products from Chile directly to Manhattan, while its associated Puro Wine boutique offers the most diverse range of fine Chilean wines available in the U.S.
Active on Twitter and Facebook, Wines of Chile is making the most of social networks and the Internet to establish direct dialogue with its consumers. “We have developed a highly innovative program of ‘online blogger tastings’ with virtual bloggers across the U.S. and a panel of winemakers who are in Chile. The invited bloggers receive a box of wine to taste, along with technical information on each wine, recipes, olive oils, merquen (a ground mixture of dried, smoked and seasoned Chilean pepper), and then there are activities that give us a very wide range of feedback,” says Mr. Somavia.
More than any other product, bottled wine puts the country’s image into the hands of consumers around the world. In 2009, Chile exported the equivalent of 510 million bottles of wine. Based on conservative estimates suggesting three people see each bottle, the brand “Chile” reaches 1.5 billion people each year, and Wines of Chile wants to use this exposure to develop the country’s image and convey its positive attributes to connoisseurs around the world.