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Home News > March 2020 > A look into Chile’s future with Rafael Urrejola from Viña Undurraga

From Maule blends and Maipo Cabernets to Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards saw growing evidence of Chile’s established regions honing a definite style and new regions hitting their stride.

We wanted to know more. And since probably no-one knows more about Chile’s new terroir than the Terroir Hunter himself, Undurraga’s winemaker, Rafael Urrejola, we thought we’d ask him which regions somms needed to look out for in the years ahead.

Has Chile’s concept of terroir changed in the last ten years?
Definitely. In the past people thought their terroir could work for any grape, any clone, any product. I think nowadays it's much more specific - and not only the winemakers, but viticulturalists are very involved in that too.

What form is this shift taking?
People are going away from the Central Valley comfort area. That will always work for our basic wines, but when it comes to more characterful, interesting wines, we need to move to cooler climates. People are planting in the mountains, the north and the coast. The coast is already very planted.

Is it planting virgin land or regrafting?
A lot of people are grafting País vines with other varieties that can make better wine and also are more commercial. I really like País, but it's a hard story to sell.

Which areas look best/most exciting?
For me, the dry-farmed area of Maule. Cauquenes is a very stable and consistent area to grow very good wines, and not only reds. We have a very successful Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne blend from there. It has a lot of sense of place, which I like.

What about other parts of the south?
Personally I really like the atmosphere of Itata, it's amazing. But for me it's a bit restricted in terms of varieties. But the creativity of the people making wine there is giving Chile a world of wine that's very interesting.

Do you have wines in Itata?
We make a couple of wines there, but we've concentrated more on Cauquenes. I don't want to get involved in a place just because it's fashionable. Every area must grow with the players they had from the beginning.

Which out of ‘mountains’, ‘south’ or ‘coast’ is attracting the most attention?
The coast is already quite developed, so nowadays maybe more into the Andes and more to the south – though It's hard to find high altitude vineyards anywhere except Elqui.

And the south also solves the ‘water’ problem, too?
Water is a very important issue now, and [in the south] you get more rain. It's getting warmer unfortunately, so you can also ripen more interesting varieties in the [cooler] south.

Such as?
Short cycle varieties. But Chardonnay is showing really well. I’m not sure about Pinot Noir though that could be a chance too. But the local varieties: Muscat, Cinsault and Semillon should play a role too - creativity with 'old new grapes' making interesting and attractive wines.

And new varieties, too?
A lot of winemakers and viticultors are doing personal projects and there you have that freedom and creativity. A lot of those Spanish, Italian and Greek varieties will come to Chile because they are open to that.

Will Chile's wine centre have shifted in 20 years time?
I have a lot of respect for Maipo Cabs, also Casablanca, Limari, Leyda. They'll still be important. But [the centre] is definitely moving. You'll see a lot more wines from the south.