Following years of internal divisions and infighting, the Chilean wine industry has started 2007 with the announcement that its two major winery associations are to merge.

Viñas de Chile was formed in 1950 and originally grouped the large, traditional producers. Chilevid came together in 1993, when smaller producers were looking to develop export markets.

Over the years, a certain animosity developed between the two, and critics pointed to the apparent lack of unity and overall strategic direction that the situation implied for Chile.

However, both associations did recently work together to form the promotional body Wines of Chile, which has proved instrumental in paving the way for the fusion. The new association will be known as Vinos de Chile.

Speaking exclusively to decanter.com, the head of both associations said the merger would lead to a stronger Chilean wine industry but that there was still more work to be done.

‘I strongly believe there is no reason to have two associations – it only weakens our position as an industry in front of the government, our competitors and the media,’ said Chilevid’s René Merino, part-owner of producer Casa Tamaya.

‘Now our next challenge is to get more wineries on board. We will be over 90 wineries, making around 95% of the total sales of the industry. But there are another 200 wineries that I’m sure can benefit from being associated.’

Viñas de Chile president Aníbal Ariztía, who also works for Santa Rita winery, said that he hoped the association would be ‘much more than the sum of the members’.

Members of the Chilean wine industry have also welcomed the news.

’Now we just need the government to step up to the plate [and provide added financial support] so we can raise the presence of Chile globally on a generic level,’ said one industry insider.

Written by Peter Richards