Chile recently brought its traveling wine show — an opportunity for sommeliers, restaurateurs and those in the wine industry to learn more about and taste Chilean wines — to Miami.
With $287 million of wine exports to the United States and $1.8 billion in wine exports to the world, Chile has established itself as one of the leading wine providers in the New World. Its goal is to export $3 billion worth of wine by 2020 and become the top wine producer in the Americas.
Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, Santiago Margozzini — a wine expert and winemaker — and 15 Chilean wineries took part in the late June event at the Conrad Hotel.
It was all in a day’s work for Fernanda Mondaca, deputy director of the Trade Commission of Chile (ProChile) office in Miami. From her Miami base, it’s her job to promote Chilean exports in Florida and 11 other western and southern states.
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Chilean exports to South Florida are growing. Last year the Miami Customs District imported a record $1.54 billion worth of Chilean products — a nearly 24 percent increase — with fish fillets, corn, fresh fruit, gold and wine the most important purchases from Chile.
Food is one of Chile’s strong suits. It’s the world’s largest exporter of blueberries, fresh grapes, dried apples, plums, prunes, trout and Pacific salmon, and the second-largest supplier of avocados, frozen raspberries, walnuts and Atlantic salmon, according to ProChile.
The Miami district, which includes airports and seaports from Palm Beach County to Key West, is the top U.S. gateway for trade with Chile.
We recently asked Mondaca what it is like to promote Chilean products in the United States.
Q. Miami is the only U.S. city where your traveling wine tour stopped. Why Miami?
A. The answer is very clear. Chile was the Miami Customs District’s seventh most important trading partner with more than $5 billion in trade last year. And it is an important buyer of wine imports from Chile.
Chile has a very close trade relationship with Miami, and Chilean companies are interested in doing business with Miami and Florida, especially the wineries. You also have the most important wine distributors, and from here, you can hit all the East Coast.
One of the goals of Chilean wine companies is to get a position as a premium wine.
Q. Where else is this wine tour going?
A. The wineries are going to Guadalajara, Mexico next. Miami and Guadalajara are the two North American destinations.
In March, we went to Europe — Moscow, Warsaw and Amsterdam. In Asia, we had Seoul and Tokyo. In Latin America, we will be going to Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia.
We do this annually. It’s one of the main tools we have to help the Chilean wine industry. Our wine is one of our most important ambassadors in the international market. Every year we work to find different destinations for the wine tour.
Q. Is there a particular message you’re trying to get across about Chilean wine during this tour?
A. The main message is the industry’s goal of becoming the No. 1 producer of sensible and premium wines for the New World. We have to train the consumer about the wines, their competitiveness, their characteristics. First, they have to know we have premium wine.
Q. What makes Chilean wine special?
A. What makes our wine premium is our geography and our very special weather. We have a combination of natural barriers [Chile is sheltered by the Andes Mountains to the east and by the Pacific Ocean to the west.] and a Mediterranean climate.
Chile also has some of the largest organic wineries in the world.
Q. Why would someone choose Chilean wine over French wine, or Spanish wine or even California wine? What are you doing to differentiate Chilean wine from other premium wines? Which countries do you consider Chile’s main competition?
A. The cost of premium Chilean wine is not as high as what you will find with the French or Spanish wines. The organic conditions under which our grapes are grown are very important.
Our main competitors are Argentina, Spain and Italy.
Q. Do you have a favorite Chilean wine?
A. Ahh, yes. My favorite wine is carmenère [a red]. I believe it’s our oldest wine — and it’s made from our signature grapes. We’re known for it around the world. [Other leading wines for Chile are cabernet sauvignon, syrah, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.]
Q. Tell me a little about ProChile.
A. We have five trade promotion offices in the United States in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Miami.
The United States is definitely the most important market for us in terms of agricultural products. But China is our No. 1 market because of our exports of copper and copper products.
Q. Can you give me an idea of what a typical day is like at the Miami office of ProChile?
A. We have two ways we work in our daily jobs. First, we help products that have made important advance in the the market.. That would be seafood and wine. These are our ambassadors.
We’re always trying to find new tools to help them. For the wines, it’s very important to try to find new restaurants for them. We try to do activities that will help the business relationship; we contact important importers and distributors to give them information on how they can work with Chilean wineries.
The other thing we do is discovering new Chilean products that can have an important presence here in Miami. We’re working on the IT sector and innovations.
Our main goal is always to be closer to customers and consumers to try to understand what they are looking for and then give that information to Chilean producers.
Q. What are some of these new products that you’re trying to bring to the U.S. market?
A. The services sector is most important — definitely. In Chile we have a lot of IT services. As Miami is trying to be the next Latin American Silicon Valley, we’re working very closely with IT service companies from Chile that want to be here.
Q. Any other new products?
A. We’re working on gourmet products with value added — for example, jams, dried fruit, spices, tea, and, of course, ready-to-eat Chilean sea bass with different spices. But our problem is that our companies don’t produce enough of these products to export. We need to increase quantities. We’re working to find distributors who want the amounts that we do have available.
This Q&A was edited for brevity and clarity