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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Peter Richards

High-profile Chilean winemaker Ignacio Recabarren has made an impassioned plea for Chile to adopt an honest and clear approach to varietal labelling, as Carmenre continues to be sold as Merlot and Sauvignonasse as Sauvignon Blanc. It's like going to a bar and asking for an orange juice,' explains Recabarren. You expect to get a drink with all the definition and character of orange juice. We simply can't go on selling Carmenre as Merlot and Sauvignonasse as Sauvignon Blanc.' Recabarren, who describes his focus on genetic material as an obsession', oversees production of the Trio, Terrunyo and Amelia lines at Concha y Toro. He says, At Concha y Toro we're working on sorting out this state of affairs. In the early 1990s Chile didn't have a good enough feel for the vineyards; now the spotlight is on terroir, and this is precisely where we need to develop. There's lots of new high-tech wineries around, but it's those focusing on terroir, clones and rootstocks that are getting ahead.' Opponents of varietal clarity cite commercial risks and the fact that, in the words of one Chilean winemaker, the world expects Chilean Merlot to be Carmenre'. Latest official statistics state that there are 5,407ha of Carmenre in Chile and 12,887ha of Merlot. Leading Chilean viticulturists, however, estimate that Carmenre accounts for over 60% of the total.