Dan's Blog


Friday, October 26, 2018

“CLOSE – BUT NO CIGAR: how does Chile rate as a competitor to Australia in the world wine market?”

This was the headline of a recent Wine Australia marketing bulletin which I found to be rather distasteful. The full report is available at:

It basically says that whilst Chile is only 10% of the size of Australia it produces almost the same amount of wine as we do, ‘except that Australia’s harvests have been more consistent.’

In terms of exports, the bulletin says that in the year to May 2018 we came fourth with Chile fifth – we beat them by $0.11 billion in terms of value and also held a slight advantage in terms of dollars per litre. These figures were based on the 2017 vintage where Chile had those shocking bush fires and generally a lower crop than usual. So it is quite possible that this year they may nudge past us in overall export sales.

The bulletin goes on to compare varietal differences, whereby we have 23% of the world’s Shiraz, whereas Chile only has 3%. It went on to say “Conversely Chile’s top variety is Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for more than one-third of Chiles plantings (no comparison with Australia’s cab plantings) Chile is also identified with the less widely known variety Carménère, having three-quarters of the world’s plantings” and we have around 5%.    

Next, the bulletin says that we sold double the value of wine to China than what Chile did last year “even though it was the top market by value for both countries.” Which indicates to me that they have a better spread of risk than we do, as we would seem to have too many eggs in the one basket. If the current spat between the USA and China escalates it could have a severe effect on our exports. It also stated that we outperformed them in the USA (Trade war with China?) and the U.K. (Brexit??)

Then it went on to say: “Conversely, Chile dominated in Japan with US$189 million in exports compared with US$38 million for Australia.” What it didn’t say was that five to six years ago Chile was the 5th largest imported wine into Japan just ahead of Australia. Since then we have remained in 6th spot BUT Chile has risen to No.1, beating France for the first time this last year. That my friends deserves a cigar in my opinion!

I found the content of the bulletin to be interesting, however, I thought the writing style was slightly condescending and dismissive and that the title was quite offensive. Since when did we need to start bagging our opposition rather than respecting them, being weary of them and trying to out-perform them? Maybe we could take some lessons from what they did in Japan?

It made me think of the sort of disrespectful things the French used to say about Australian wine 20-30 years ago and it suggests a similar arrogance and indifference rather than intensifying our efforts to out-perform them. I hope that we haven’t been afflicted by “les arrogance.”

There is no room for complacency in the global wine market, as the French found out a while ago and it costs a lot of money to regain the ground lost through complacency – if it is at all possible to do so.

So let’s give the Chileans a cigar, pat them on the back whilst working out how to outperform them in every market that we compete against them.


This week I am talking about a McLaren Vale hidden treasure, which I only recently discovered even though I have now lived in Adelaide for 28 years. I am talking about BRINI ESTATE WINES.

I was contacted by Marcello Brini recently after he read my CHENIN BLANC article in WBM, and he said that they made CHENIN BLANC and would I like to drop in and taste it. Sure! Says I and off I trundle to Blewitt Springs Road, McLaren Vale, to go and visit. I drove the whole length of said road without sighting BRINI ESTATE, so I pulled over and rang Marcello who explained that there is no cellar door, not even a sign out the front of the house which serves as the office – Well hidden!

It turned out to be a treasure that was as well hidden, as the wines were excellent and Marcello is a great bloke.

Starting with the CHENIN BLANC, we tried five vintages going back to 2013. They were all smooth, elegant wines which had great flavour, were well rounded and lingered superbly. The 2017 was delightful with aromas of pears, vanilla and peaches, a smooth but zesty palate with hints of pears and a lovely, crisp, refreshing finish – and an absolute bargain at an RRP of only $18 a bottle. As we tasted each year older, the wines became more complex, even more elegant and sophisticated. Here is proof that CHENIN BLANC ages superbly. The 2013 at five-years-old was absolutely divine – so tasty, smooth, rich and balanced. OH YUM! YUM! YUM!

The range of red wines was equally as good with some absolute cracker old vine wines in the range, but I will talk about them another time. Today, it is the turn of the CHENIN BLANC to shine.


PS: They are looking for wine distributors up and down the east coast, so if you know anybody who wants to distribute sensational McLaren Vale wines on the east coast email Marcello directly at: