Chilean winemakers and Investors to Conquer the United States’ Wine Market
The United states has always been attractive to Chilean investors due to the fact that investing in North America represents a major leap towards rubbing shoulders with a variety of big economic players from various states, opening doors to new opportunities that are today resulting in wine-production, real-estate business and also, to talented winemakers to join wineries in several estates.
One of the spear-heads of this incursion was Agustin Huneuus. Formerly the co-owner and Vineyard Manager of Concha y Toro, he decided to establish his own ventures in the Napa Valley during the Californian Wine-boom of the 1960s.
He co-founded Huneeus Vintners, a wine-holding which transformed over time into a hotbed of viticultural innovation, placing its founder as the most recognisable Chilean wine-maker in the world, thanks to labels such as Quintessa, Flowers and The Prisoner – the last of which was eventually sold for a small fortune.
In Chile, he founded the Viña Veramonte in the Valle de Casablanca, having bought a percentage of Viña Neyén de Apalta in Colchagua – owned by the Rojas family. However, last year he moved on from Vermonte and left the company with a considerable sum of money that he received from the Spanish wine-making group González Byass. The Spaniards aquired 65% of the Huneeus family’s wine-holdings. The remaining 35% remained in the hands of the Rojas Family, owners of Neyen. This situation created lot of changes like Rodrigo Soto´s future plans to go back to the US, soon.
González Byass handles an extensive portfolio that includes labels such as Tío Pepe and the vintage brandy Lepanto. In light of the fact that it is virtually impossible to produce high quality reds out of Casablanca due to the cold climate, this acquisition means they will now able to extend their power within the Premium wine market, and therefore their ability to enter new markets with white wines from Casablanca and reds from Maipo.
Although less well known, another pivotal Chilean investor that is managing to impact the market is Alex Guarachi, a former footballer who decided to move to the US in order to open a distribution venture initially under the name of TGIC, Global Fine Wine Company. Over the years the company grew to such a degree that they are now known as Guarachi Wine Partners, and are wine producers in their own right, with a vineyard called Guarachi Family Wines.
Guarachi fought for years to increase the standing of wines from both sides of the Andes Mountains, becoming an emblematic importer of labels such as Montes, Santa Ema de Chile, Norton, and the Argentinian Kaikén, amongst others.
A number of symbolic North American winery purchases have been made using Chilean capital, such as that of the Brotherhood Winery by the Casas Patronales company – the first US winery located close to the East Coast, from where they command an operation that they have maintained over time.
After this came the arrival of businessmen Francisco Gillmore and his associate Alejandro Parot, who bought a vineyard on Long Island that has now been operating for over 12 years. Following them, Concha y Toro saw an opportunity with the Californian Fetzer Vineyards whereby they could take advantage of the organic vineyard distribution chain.
Chilean-French Winery Folatre Family Estate has been working the US market for several years, taking the niche of several wineries that left the effort to get into the US. In fact, Commercial Director, Jorge Matthei presented the wines at the Full Circle Beverage Conference 2018, which is a wine and spirits conference held exclusively for 100 retail and restaurant wine buyers, sommeliers, and journalists. The wines Folatre are working are Jackie O and La Llaveria lines that include entry to Icons Cabernet, Carmenere, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
The strength of Folatre Family Estate in the sparkling niche is that former oenological Director of Moët et Chandon George Blanck launched few months the Chilean Sparkling Folatre Gran Brut, with the collaboration of the winemaking team of the winery led by José Luis Martin Bouquillard, General Manager.
Considering Blanck is well respected in Champagne, this adventure to produce his first Sparkling in Chile opens a great challenge to keep looking for the best grapes of the Curico Valley in the South of Chile to surprise the local and international market.
George graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie de Paris-Grignon and studied the specialty of Viticulture and Enology at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie de Montpellier.
Furthermore, well-known Chilean oenologist, Sergio Cuadra has been working for more than four years with Fall Creek Vineyards, a prominent Texan label that has followed in the footsteps of Robret Mondavi in particular as they have been friends for many years.
Another example is the winemaker, Felipe Ramirez who works in Oregon for premium wine producers Chapter 24 Vineyards, He is oenological consultant for J.Bouchon winery in Maule Valley in Chile. For more than two years the Chilean oenologist has surprised the industry with the high quality of his wines, provoking other nearby wineries to start to consider bringing in more national oenologists.
To improve the arrival of Chilean Investments to the US, the agribusiness accelerator AgroWine Lab launched the «Wine Investment Scouting» to guide investors about business opportunities in the US, specially in California and Texas, where the company has a representation in San Marcos, Texas. Also, for US & European investors looking for investing in Chile, the service is available too.
Exclusive article written by Maximiliano Morales, Wine Specialist National Geographic Explorer Expedition Ship & Founder of AndesWines.com