Winewatch: Chile & Argentina

Chile continues to dominate country of origin sales on the Irish market.

Chilean wines’ taste profile has proved popular with the Irish consumer and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons are seemingly prized by the Irish wine-buying public – and not only the Irish – Cabernet is responsible for 70% of Chile’s wine production and sales globally.

At 2.3 million case sales overall here last year, according to the latest Irish Wine Association report, Chile grew its share of the overall wine market from 25.3% in 2015 to 25.6% in 2016.

In the off-trade, Chilean wine sales increased slightly to 1.23 million cases MAT to March 2017 according to Nielsen Scantrack figures.

And Chilean export statistics indicate that direct volume shipments to Ireland grew 2.5% to 1.65 million cases in the year to the end of July compared with the previous year, worth €36.2 million.

Santa Rita retains the ‘top-selling wine brand overall’ cachet for the third consecutive year, with Nielsen Scantrack data placing the top five wine brands (to March) as:


Santa Rita


Castillero del Diablo

Wolf Blass

Blossom Hill


But there are Chilean clouds on the horizon. 2016 and 2017 turned out short vintages in Chile again. When supply is short, choices have to be made.

Of the top 12 Chilean wine-importing countries, Ireland finds itself the fourth-cheapest in terms of value per case exported.

Just five years ago some 47% of Chilean exports went to the US and UK. Today it’s 21% as Japan and China grow from taking 11% of Chilean wine exports to 22% – and they’re buying these at higher prices.

“Chile is trying to sell higher quality wines to Ireland and the UK” explains Santa Rita’s Terry Pennington, “but we need to get the trade to back us. Good cheap easy-drinking wine is not sustainable for us. Instead, we need to grow more into this premium market.”

With China offering premium prices over Europe, soon Chile has to make a choice as to where it will concentrate its wine sales.



Cono Sur

A dedication to produce top quality wines has always been at the forefront of everything Cono Sur strives for. Since its creation in 1993 Cono Sur has continuously pushed the boundaries of Chilean winemaking to prove that the ‘Southern Cone’ can produce world-class wines on a par with some of the most historic and prestigious labels.

The 20 Barrels range, initially an innovative project, started in 1996 to produce Chile’s first ultra-premium Pinot Noir: it was so successful that it expanded to include a number of other varieties and has established the range with the foremost selection of some of the finest wines Chile has to offer.

The success of 20 Barrels led to the 2003 release of Ocio, Chile’s first iconic Pinot Noir and the zenith of Cono Sur’s ‘Pinot Noir Project’, an initiative started in 1999 in partnership with Burgundian consultant Martin Prieur.

The result is that Ocio is regularly recognised not only as the best Pinot Noir in Chile, but amongst the best in the world.

Finally, the release in recent years of the natural extension of this insatiable drive for quality, Cono Sur’s first icon Cabernet Sauvignon, Silencio. No effort is spared in its production: hand-harvested from select old vines, aged for 26 months in new French Oak followed by two years ageing in the bottle, only nine barrels of the current 2010 vintage are available.

The Irish press repeatedly laud these top-quality wines, with the Irish Examiner’s Leslie Williams noting the “depth and complexity” of the 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc, while the Sunday Business Post’s Tomás Clancy gave it 91 points, exalting its “brilliant, restrained, Burgundy style”.

Cono Sur is exclusively distributed here by Findlater & Co.


Santa Rita

Established in 1880, one of Chile’s oldest and most respected wineries Santa Rita is a member of the Order of Wild Geese, proud of its Irish heritage. According to legend, General Bernado O’Higgins and his 120 patriots sought refuge in Santa Rita’s cellars while fighting for Chile’s independence in the 1814 Battle of Rancagua. Within these same cellars, the award-winning ‘120’ wines are crafted in honour of the heroes who inspired them.

Today, Santa Rita is the most popular wine brand in Ireland with Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon the best-selling white and red wines respectively.

The winery was awarded ‘Winery of the Year 2016’ by Wines of Chile and was recognised as one of the ‘World’s Most Admired Wine Brands’ by Drinks International. This year sees the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the 120 brand.

Whilst the business is steeped in tradition, Santa Rita is a contemporary modern producer continually investing to ensure the best quality wines are produced in the most sustainable way possible.

Its ‘WiSe Project’ in the Maipo Valley is a revolutionary approach to ‘growing wine’, mapping and planting varietal-specific plots working through a code of best practices, parameters and principles – all through a $20 million investment plan.

Its vineyards have all received the ‘Certified Sustainable’ accreditations by Wines of Chile. The Santa Rita Estates group was awarded Ethical Winery of the Year 2015 by The Drinks Business.

Also distributed in Ireland by Gilbeys, Vina Carmen is Chile’s oldest winery. Founded in 1850 by Christian Lanz, the winery was named after Christian’s beloved wife Carmen. A commitment to quality and consistency has always been a top priority for Carmen. Today, the wine is exported to over 50 countries worldwide and with over 150 years of experience it’s one of the most recognised and awarded wines to come out of Chile.






Doña Paula

Doña Paula is one of the rising stars of Chile’s neighbour, Argentina. Born out of a vision to create the highest quality wines with authentic ‘typicity’ from the best wine-producing areas within the world-famous wine-producing region of Mendoza, viticulturalist Martin Kaiser and Chief Winemaker Marcos Fernandez are the driving passion behind this brand.

All Doña Paula wines are made with grapes grown on their own land, managed using sustainable practices. In the foothills of the Andes Mountains in almost desert-like conditions the vineyards produce wines with great depth and elegant aromas – and with a range of tiers there’s a price and style to suit every budget and palate.

Malbec is the main focus within the brand with the Doña Paula Los Cardos and Estate Malbec among the top-selling wines; however innovation is also tops the agenda, with successful plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot amongst others, adding breadth & diversity to the traditional Argentinian offerings.

As part of the Santa Rita Estates group Doña Paula celebrates the heritage of Santa Rita from Chile whilst showing the true expression of Argentine terroir.

The brand is one to look out for in the future.



The Central Valley of Chile is one of the most important wine-producing areas in South America. It’s also one of the largest wine regions, stretching from the Maipo Valley (just south of Santiago) to the southern end of the Maule Valley.

The Edwards family produce Elvaro Chilean wines exclusively for Dalcassian Wines & Spirits. The family’s known for the quality and consistency of their wines, owning vineyards in three of Chile’s most highly-regarded regions – Colchagua, Leyda and Maule – they’ve won three trophies and over 40 gold medals in the last two years alone.

The range available in Ireland includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.




Dalcassian Wines & Spirits recently launched the multi-award winning Petirrojo and La Joya ranges to the Irish market.

Made by the Bisquertt family in the renowned wine-making Colchagua Valley in Central Chile, Osvaldo Bisquertt and his wife Soledad Urrutia founded Viña Bisquerrt in 1977 when they bought a dilapidated old winery in Lihueimo.

In 2000 they planted their first vineyards in the Marchigüe zone of the Colchagua Valley.

Soon afterwards the 2000 La Joya Merlot was named the World’s Best Merlot at the International Wine Challenge in London.

In 2007 Osvaldo Bisquertt and Soledad Urrutia turned over the management of the winery to their children, led by Sebastian Bisquertt who believes his work and passion for their wines is central to showing the Bisquertt character in every corner of the world.

In 2014 Wine Spectator magazine included the 2012 La Joya Syrah on its Top 100 Wines of the World list.


Casa Rafael

Casa Rafael Chilean wines are produced exclusively for Dalcassian Wines & Spirits by the Toro Espinosa brothers who work, nurturing a core of 120 grower partners for over 10 years to build lasting sustainable relationships based on trust and ultimately quality.

Flanked by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, an absence of Summer rain keeps vine diseases at bay and right along the Andes you’ll find cool temperatures, plenty of sunshine and abundant water from melting snow.



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