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Feature: Premium Chilean wines court Chinese palate

Xinhua by VALLE DEL MAIPO03/09/2018  

China's increasingly sophisticated wine consumers are attracting the attention of Chile's upmarket wine producers.

Chilean boutique wineries and vineyards producing organic and biodynamic wines, which combine organic methods with astronomical factors to optimize vintages, now see an opportunity to grow their market share in China.

Valle del Maipo, located an hour from the capital Santiago, is the heart of Chile's wine country, home to the largest number of wineries, some founded in the 19th century.

Among them is Odfjell, established in 1994 by Norwegian entrepreneurs drawn to the prospect of creating new organic wines in one of the world's optimum wine-making regions.

"China is one of our principal markets," the brand's marketing manager, Claudia Yaksic, told Xinhua.

"We have been there for some 10 years, constantly growing, with good potential, since China consumes many high-end wines," said Yaksic.

For Odfjell, China is a "super important" market that merits close observation to determine the trends and tastes emerging among its wine connoisseurs.

Odfjell currently sells between 8,000 and 10,000 cases a year to China, and the company hopes to increase those figures.

"China is a world unto itself and there is a lot of room to grow," said Yaksic.

"It has very good acceptance of wines and we are gradually seeing an interest in organic wines," added Yaksic.

Wines of Chile, the country's leading wine promotion association, released a report this week that shows Chilean wine exports grew in value in the first half of the year, with China leading the list of export destinations, purchasing some 124.3 million U.S. dollars' worth.

Odfjell's product line features a range of organic wines, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot, Carmenere, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, as well as "non-traditional" varieties such as Carignan.

The innovative enterprise is South America's first winery to adopt gravity flow winemaking.

According to wine blog "Wine Collective," the technique eliminates pumps and the need for mechanical force, "enabling the wine to gently extract color, flavor and tannin" for a finer end product.

Unlike traditional single-level operations, Odfjell's gravity flow winery sits on a steep incline, allowing the wine to flow naturally from one stage of production to the next.

To make its wines biodynamic, the company plants cow horns filled with manure among the grapevines, to "transmit fertility" to the earth and plants, in keeping with the recommendations of agronomists, said Yaksic.

Along with other measures, it offers a holistic way to fertilize the soil, the company's agricultural expert, Sebastian Bustamante, said.

Odfjell's oenologist Arnaud Hereu said, "it's amazing what is happening in Chile in terms of winemaking, and the most interesting part is the development of small-scale projects."