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June 29, 2017

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For wine aficionados, it's getting Chile in here

For many years the world saw Chile as a source of cheap and cheerful wines. Eduardo Chadwick, president of Vina Erra'zuriz, has almost single-handedly changed that belief. Earlier this year Peter Richards MW predicted that "in 10 or 20 years' time, when wine aficionados around the world had finally got the message that Chile produces great fine wine, Eduardo will be recognized as the pioneer who changed their perceptions." Chadwick initiated blind tastings of fine Chilean wines around the world and matching them against the world's best, starting with the famous Berlin Tasting in 2004.

Do you remember that event? Like the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976 that showed the quality of Californian wine, the Berlin tasting in 2004 also benchmarked relatively unknown wines against the world's best.

Steven Spurrier, at the time running a fine wine store in Paris, organised the Judgement of Paris. Wines from California were tasted blind against their French equivalents, and the American wines came top. At the time this was a seismic event in the wine world and probably the first time the supremacy of French wine had been challenged. Hollywood made the 2008 movie Bottleshock about the event.

Chadwick invited Spurrier, by then consultant editor at wine Bible Decanter magazine, to host the 2004 Berlin event because of his experience at the Judgement of Paris. At the Berlin tasting against First Growth Bordeaux and the best Italian Bordeaux blends, Chilean wines came first, second and fourth out of the 16 wines judged.

Late last month Chadwick's company marked the tenth anniversary of that 2004 event by publishing a book and organizing a range of dinners. The book is called The Berlin Tasting: Uncorking the potential of Chile's terroir.

Since 2004 Eduardo Chadwick has repeated the Berlin format in most of the world's major wine capitals. The most recent were in mainland China (Xiamen and Shanghai). The process begins with an educational seminar on Chilean terroir in the context of other great terroir, followed by a blind tasting.

In 1995 Chadwick formed a partnership with Robert Mondavi and his family in California with the aim of creating the first Chilean icon wine. Sena was launched in January 1997. The company is converting the Sena Hillside vineyard into a biodynamic estate, and introducing new grape varieties.

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