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Published:  23 July, 2008

By David Williams

Leading Chilean wine producer Aurelio Montes has criticised his country's most famous vinous export, Chilean Merlot, saying it has become boring and predicting its imminent decline. Speaking in London last week, Montes told Harpers that the identification, and separation, of Carmenre in what had been thought to be Merlot vineyards in Chile was, ironically, to blame for the situation. The sad thing is that when Chilean Merlot was really Carmenre it was really good,' Montes said. Now Chilean Merlots are really boring. I think that it won't be very long before they are losing ground.' Montes, who is currently working on the final blend of his first-ever Carmenre (as part of his Alpha range), was upbeat about Chile's current UK position, however, calling the recent slowdown of growth in UK sales of Chilean wine a red light' for producers. We need to experiment and look for new ways of attracting consumers to Chilean wines,' he said. According to a recent Nielsen report, Chile's UK market share has dropped slightly (0.2%) in the last year, although actual volume sales have increased in line with the market trend. In stark contrast, sales of Australian wine are up 18% year-on-year, with market share showing an increase of 2.5%. Montes is developing a new vineyard area - Marchigue - 18km from the coast in the Colchagua Valley. The site has been planted with a mixture of grape varieties, including Carmenre, to investigate the potential of the terroir. Additional reporting by Josie Butchart