Back in March, we spent some time tasting great Chilean wines with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer during our Wines of Chile Virtual Tasting. We left the event more curious and interested in the country's myriad wine-producing regions and thought this would be a good time to get ourselves up to speed on Chile's current position in the wine world.
Chile is a significant player in the U.S. as its fourth-largest importer of bottled table wines. And Chile continues to grow, going into 2011 with a 15% increase in volume sales of bottled table wines in the off-premise sector, whereas volume sales of ALL imported bottled table wines increased by 4% as measured over the course of 52 weeks ended January 8, 2011 (source: Nielsen Company). In 2009, when imported wines in the U.S. were down 1%, Chilean wines grew 16%, one of the only countries to show growth in the U.S. (source: The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report).
In terms of varietals, Chile has a lot to offer:
- Sauvignon Blanc: Has experienced double digit growth annually for the last 5 years and now is Chile's 3rd largest imported varietal.
- Pinot Noir: New varietal in Chile that is starting to get attention as they are cool-climate wines that offer great quality and value.
- Carmenere: Chile's unique varietal and fastest growing red varietal in the US. American consumers love its unique story of the "lost grape of Bordeaux" and love its spicy flavor and soft tannins.