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Published:  23 July, 2008

By James Aufenast

Piero Antinori has become the first Italian to invest in Chile, launching a joint venture wine in the country with the winery Haras de Pirque. The move is likely to see Antinori take over part or all of the Maipo property in future. Antinori told Harpers that the project was modelled on Almaviva. We took the concept as a guideline, although some European markets will appreciate the pricing compared to Almaviva.' The wine will sell at $20 ex-cellar, and Antinori hopes it will retail at $50. We want to take Chilean wine to the next step,' Haras de Pirque owner Eduardo Matte said. Chilean wine has to raise the price level. It has become a commodity wine.' Matte's son, also called Eduardo, said the project was a way of using Antinori's distribution networks in some world markets, including the UK, through Berkmann. Currently, Haras de Pirque is distributed by Friarwood in the on-trade, and Oddbins in the off-trade. Matte Jr said that Pirque would use the Antinori name to push the other Pirque wines, which include the entry-level Equs, second-tier Haras Character and the third-level Haras Elegance wines. The partnership will produce just one wine, Albis, from 30ha of vineyards, with a maximum production of 10,000 cases. The wine will be produced by a company called AM, owned 50/50 by both companies. Albis is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Carmenre, and the Haras de Pirque winery, which takes all of its grapes from vineyards around the property in Alto Maipo, is to expand almost fivefold by 2010, according to consultant winemaker Alvaro Espinoza of Geo Wines, who is also involved in the project. We would like to extend our co-operation to other parts of the wines here,' said Antinori. This is under discussion.' Of the 2004 vintage in Chile, Espinoza said it was a special vintage. January and February were very hot, then we had plenty of cool nights and cool days so the ripeness was slow. There was no fall to speak of. Hence we have yet to harvest some Carmenre, and even some Cabernet.'