Concha y Toro

Paola Peñafiel 13/09/2016

Chilean wine: 460 years of history

Wine is part of Chile's culture and history, and its origin traces back to the arrival of the first Spanish settlers. To celebrate our Independence Day , we wish to commemorate the flourishing of this industry, which has become one of the most important economic and commercial activities in the country.

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Wine is part of Chile’s culture and history, and its origin traces back to the arrival of the first Spanish settlers. To celebrate our Independence Day , we wish to commemorate the flourishing of this industry, which has become one of the most important economic and commercial activities in the country.

We ask for “grapevines and wines to evangelize Chile”. This was the request that Pedro de Valdivia sent to King Carlos V of Spain in a letter on September 4, 1545. The conquistadors had arrived in our country a few years previously, and they saw wine as essential to fulfilling their mission of evangelizing the native people. This historical event was the beginning of the wine industry in Chile and also, 460 years later, the date chosen to celebrate National Chilean Wine Day every September 4.

Following the letter, a shipment of wine from Peru and the first grapevines from Europe arrived. Despite the fact that the vines were planted in different parts of Latin America, only when they reached Chile did they find that perfect combination between climate and soil to produce grapes worthy of being made into wine.

Cepa Pais - Maule
País Grapes, Maule Valley

During the early years of the colony, grapevines were planted on the outskirts of Santiago, and wine was produced mainly from the País grape variety. Many important figures in Chilean history were among the first vineyard owners in the country, including Francisco de Aguirre, Juan Jufré, Diego García, Rodrigo de Araya, Bartolomé Flores and Inés de Suárez.

Vineyards subsequently extended throughout Chilean territory from Coquimbo in the north to Concepción in the south. However, the vine cultivation system brought by the Spanish and wine production technology remained unchanged until the middle of the 19th century.

Flourishing of the wine industry

In the 1850s and the following decades, the changes necessary to lay the foundations of the modern Chilean wine industry were generated. This was thanks to entrepreneurs and visionaries such as Don Melchor Concha y Toro, who invested heavily in technology, vine importation and the modernization of production systems.

In the 19th century, wealthy Chilean families traveled to Europe, bringing customs, trends and grapevines back with them, promoting the plantation of noble grape varieties in the central valleys of the country such as Maipo, Rapel and Aconcagua.

On the other hand, Europe suffered a devastating crisis as a result of the phylloxera plague, which destroyed vineyards in several regions and even led to the extinction of iconic grape varieties. This unfortunate situation benefited the Chilean wine industry, as European oenologists emigrated to the New World and contributed to its development.

familia Don Melchor
Don Melchor Concha y Toro and his family

The origin of Viña Concha y Toro exemplifies this period. True to his instincts and vision, Don Melchor was advised by French winemaker Monsieur Labouchere, who was surprised by the quality of Chilean soil. Convinced of Chile’s potential to produce high quality wines, Don Melchor brought the best vine stocks from Bordeaux and embarked on a new adventure, founding Viña Concha y Toro in 1883.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Chilean wine acquired greater presence and its production increased considerably thanks to this new momentum provided by Chilean visionaries, together with the development of transport and commercialization systems.

Global positioning and reach

As the Chilean wine industry developed and grew during the 20th century, so did Viña Concha y Toro, which was a pioneer in many important milestones. In the 1970s, the company strongly entered the export market, and was the first Chilean wine to reach markets across the five continents.

In the 1990s, the industry experienced another crucial landmark; the Carmenere grape variety was rediscovered in the country after being thought to be extinct for more than 100 years. Only in Chile did it develop and achieve its full expression thanks to the climate and soil conditions, becoming, together with Cabernet Sauvignon, an iconic grape variety of the country.

Presencia Global

In the last 30 years, Chilean wines have positioned themselves in the world and reached consumers globally. Concha y Toro has undergone an internationalization process, opening new markets, acquiring proprietary vineyards to guarantee the production of quality wines that are representative of their place of origin, incorporating leading-edge technologies and creating oenological innovations for increasingly demanding consumers.

The history of Concha y Toro is the history of Chilean wine, and of a family company which was able to grow and position itself, transferring passion and knowledge from generation to generation. Today, Chilean wines are renowned on a global level, and are present in more than 147 countries. Viña Concha y Toro has reached these all of these markets, becoming the world’s largest producer and exporter of Chilean wine.