Sauvignon Blanc in Chile (2)

Historical Context - Before Exports

It was during the 19th century that Chile discovered Sauvignon Blanc. Claudio Gay and Silvestre Ochagavía introduced the French grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Sauvignon Vert (Sauvignonasse) to the country in 1830 and 1854, respectively. Thus began the gradual change from Spanish varieties brought during the conquest and colonial times and the native mixed varieties after 500 years of viticulture in Latin America to French varieties. In addition, more introductions occurred at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, among which several clonations of Sauvignon Blanc stand out.

Throughout the 1940s and 1970s, Chilean wine laws restricted the planting and transplantation of vineyards, keeping the country’s surface area around 107,000 hectares, and production dominated exclusively by domestic sales. These prohibitions were lifted in 1974, in accordance with the liberal economic policy of the military dictatorship (1973-1990), which also laid the foundations for an opening of the country to the outside world.

Between 1982 and 1983, these economic policies led to a significant increase in wine production, a situation that coincided with a significant reduction in domestic wine consumption, causing a drastic fall in the domestic price of grapes and one of the most severe crises affecting the Chilean wine sector (Hernández and Pszczólkowski, 1986).

The Chilean wine industry, at that time confined to the domestic market, lacked the infrastructure and level of investment needed to meet international demand, as did, for example, the fruit industry. As a result, the area of vineyards was reduced to 53,093 hectares in 1994 (SAG, 1996) (Nelson, 2009).

Historical Context - After Exports

In the 1980s, faced with the wine crisis and adapting to the liberalization of legal regulations, as well as economic openness, the wine industry was substantially transformed into significant aspects, including business ownership, as traditional family owners of vineyards disappeared and were replaced by economic organizations or corporations, even with international investment (Hernández and Pszczólkowski, 1986).

The development of the productive infrastructure and the modernization of the wine business resulted in significant investment in productive infrastructure and gave a definitive impetus to the modernization of the industry. In addition, since 1990, Chile has signed trade treaties and agreements with Canada, Mexico, the United States, Mercosur and, one very important one, with the European Union in 2002, agreements that have subsequently been signed with China, Japan and others, strengthening the modern development of the industry.

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The Chilean wine industry’s emphasis on global wine exports has led to an enormous expansion of the market. Nowadays, Chilean wines are exported to more than 100 countries on five continents, with volumes between 75 and 80% of total production. In addition, countless small and medium-sized businesses have sprung up. With volumes of 75 to 80% of total production, Chilean wines are exported to more than 100 countries on five continents (ODEPA, 2013). The industry’s strategic plan aims to reach $3 billion in 2020 (Wines of Chile, 2010), which amounts to $1.88 billion in 2013 (ODEPA, 2013).

As expected, the vineyard area skyrocketed as a result of foreign demand, going from 106,971 hectares in 2001 to 125,946 hectares in 2011. By 2020 this figure reached 137,000 ha (ODEPA), an area that had never existed before in Chile.

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In 2021, wine exports will increase by 921 million liters, reaching 1,037 million dollars, representing an increase of 2.9% in volume and 8.0% in value compared to 2020. In that period, 448.2 million liters of wine with denomination of origin were exported, worth US$ 1,503.9 billion. These figures increase by 0.5% in volume and 7.9% in value. As a result, the average price of the class increases by 7.3%, to 3.36 US$ per liter. In 2021, 353.1 million liters of wine were exported in bulk, worth 308.5 million dollars. These increase by 4.0% in volume and 5.2% in value.

In 2021, sparkling wine exports are expected to increase by 3.1% and decrease by 1.4%, worth 14.5 million dollars, to 3.6 million liters.

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