Chile's $170 Per Bottle Winemaker Chadwick Seeks Growth in China

(Bloomberg) -- Winemaker Eduardo Chadwick is seeking out sales in Asia, after spending more than three decades rebuilding his family’s Vina Errazuriz company in Chile and establishing its $170 top label as an industry benchmark.

Errazuriz has set up its own company in Shanghai to target Chinese buyers and collectors, complementing work with merchants in Bordeaux, who handle the winemaker’s global exports through established distribution networks.

Chile's $170 Per Bottle Winemaker Chadwick Seeks Growth in China

“There’s a tremendous challenge ahead of us to educate the Asian market,” Chadwick said during an interview in London this month, when he received the Man of the Year award from Decanter magazine. “That’s where we’re going to dedicate a lot of effort.”

As Bordeaux and Burgundy have become more expensive over the past decade, a growing proportion of China’s wine-drinking population in the major cities has started to seek out alternative quality wines from areas such as northern Italy, Australia, Latin America and California, creating an opening for Chilean exporters.

“I am very optimistic of the potential of the Chinese” market in general, Chadwick said. Noting the growing presence of Chilean labels in key Asian markets such as Japan and China, he said that “they have a great interest in fine wine.”

Chadwick has been building up the reputation of his vineyards since 1983, when his father asked him to restore the fortunes of the company, which was founded in 1870 by Don Maximiano Errazuriz. The business had suffered through more than a decade of political instability as the country lurched from the Marxist government of Salvador Allende to the military rule of General Augusto Pinochet.

“In 1983 it was difficult,” he said. “1990 was the crucial year when we regained democracy.”

The vineyards were planted with cabernet sauvignon and carmenere grapes, and the influence of the Bordeaux wine-making tradition was strong. Chadwick himself studied in Bordeaux, and has built the company around the belief that Chile is capable of producing wines that can compete with top international estates, rather than just the lower-priced labels with which it is more generally associated.

In the early 1990s California’s pioneering winemaker Robert Mondavi came to Chile, met Chadwick and was impressed with the potential of his land. A joint venture followed, starting with the 1995 vintage, developing the Sena label of high-end Bordeaux-style wines. Wider recognition came with a blind tasting in Berlin in 2004 organized by Chadwick and wine critic and author Steven Spurrier, pitting Sena successfully against top international wines.

Sena is made in limited quantities from vines in the Aconcagua Valley, north of Santiago and close to the Pacific Ocean, and is a Bordeaux-style blend drawn depending on vintage from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec and carmenere grapes. While the first four varieties are typical of Bordeaux, the carmenere adds a more Chilean twist.

The wine, whose 2015 vintage is listed at 120 pounds ($171) a bottle at Berry Bros. & Rudd in London, is distributed in the U.K. through Hatch Mansfield and internationally through Bordeaux merchants.

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