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How Seña changed the Chilean wine landscape

Today the concept of a Chilean icon wine is nothing revolutionary. Twenty or so years ago when Seña was conceived, however, the Chilean wine landscape was very different, the estate's co-founder told masterclass guests at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.

How Seña wine changed the Chilean landscape

Chile’s first icon wine was the result of a joint venture between two visionary men, two pioneers in their own field, Eduardo Chadwick, owner and president of Viña Errazuriz in Chile, and the-now-late Robert Mondavi in California.

The name Seña means ‘signal’, signifying the intention to show the world what Chile is capable of producing from its word-class terroir.

‘Buyers at the time were only interested in cheap wine from Chile, and we were keen to help elevate its image,’ said Chadwick, at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.

But it wasn’t enough to make a good wine. Chadwick understood that getting out there and showcasing Seña alongside other great Bordeaux blends of the world was the best way to show that Chile could compete at the top level.

Seña wine

The line up of wines. Credit: Nina Assam / Decanter

On 23 January 2004, 36 respected European wine critics gathered in Berlin for what has become known as the Berlin Tasting, to blind taste 16 wines. What was a huge gamble paid off: Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Seña 2001 came first and second respectively, triumphing over famous clarets including Châteaux Lafite, Margaux and Latour, as well as Italian cult wines Tignanello, Sassicaia, Solaia and Guado al Tasso.

The tasting was recreated in capital cities across the world, with similar results, before Chadwick set out on a new world tour to showcase the wine’s ageing potential. With the reputation of Seña, and Chile’s premium wine sector, now firmly established, Chadwick is optimistic about the future.

‘When Seña was launched there were not many critics praising finesse and elegance,’ he told the masterclass attendees. ‘Robert Parker was the voice of authority and the US was the biggest market. Today there are new markets opening up, and the important Asian market has a European palate. The wine world has grown up.’

About the wine:

A red Bordeaux blend since its first vintage in 1995, the wine was made from vines planted on north-east facing hillsides in Aconcagua, just 40km from the Pacific shores – the location was selected specifically with a wine style in mind that accentuated freshness and finesse. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for 50% of the plantings, but the blend also contains a varying proportion of Carménère among other varieties, to impart a distinctive, Chilean signature.

The wines showcased at the masterclass wines were: Seña 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014.

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