At just 33 years old, Andrea Calderón’s youthful energy is palpable. One of the rising stars in Chile’s winemaking scene, the winemaker would tell me she would drive eight hours from where she lives from south of Chilean capital Santiago to Elqui Valley, the northernmost vineyard of 1865 Wines. And that’s just to reach the vineyards.
“I drive a lot,” she says with a grin. Indeed, winemaking in Chile takes a lot of mileage, and it’s especially true when attending to vineyards that are spread out in a country that stretches some 4000 kilometers long.
In her case, at 1865, the standout jewel of Chilean wine giant VSPT, she looks after vineyards from Elqui Valley in the north all the way to one of the southernmost winemaking regions in Chile – Malleco Valley.
“We look for the best origin for each variety. So that means that we’re looking all over Chile, and now even in Argentina. We search for the best place, the best terroir to grow each variety,” she explains.
Having joined the winery in 2018, she has risen to now take charge of 1865 Wines’ three wine ranges, namely Selected Vineyards, Selected Blend and Selected Collection.
“So currently we have eight varieties in the Selected Vineyards range,” says Andrea, as she swirls her glass while presenting its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon to me in Hong Kong during our interview.
From Pinot Noir in the northernmost Elqui Valley to coastal Leyda Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc and Colchagual’s Camenere, the range as she explains aims to showcase exceptional wine quality of varieties from vineyards located in the most recognized origins. Branded as an accessible premium wine range, the wine retails around RMB 300 apiece.
One step higher would be Selected Collection. This range strives to craft collection wines, driven by an exploratory spirit and innovating with varieties and extreme origins, as well as reviving traditions and processes. The collection includes a distinctive old vine Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted from vines aged at least 70 years, and a desert valley Syrah, which is aptly named because of its proximity to the world’s most arid desert Atacama.
The winery is also planning to launch an icon wine next year, Andrea teases, a Bordeaux inspired red that is poised to rank among Chile’s most coveted reds.
Setting her glass down and leaning in slightly, Andrea’s tone took a more reflective turn as she began to speak about the 2023 vintage, one of the most tempestuous vintages in Chile’s history. “The vintage was a very different one,” she paused. With a decade’s worth of winemaking experiences under her blet, she continues, “We thought it was going to be a late vintage because it started very, very slow, and then a heat wave came right after.”
The white varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc showed much promise in 2023, with good yields and vibrancy, she says, thanks to the cool and coastal climates.
For reds with most grown in Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua, away from fire-ravaged southern Chile, they fared well, she added. In a warmer year like 2023, the challenge is to control maturity of the grapes, she explains. Once it reached the ideal balance between maturity and acidity, picking was swift. “We had a very short window of picking. A lot grapes came in,” she recalls.
Today 1865 wines are exported to more than 80 countries and one of its key growth drivers has been South Korea. The popularity of the wine culminated when it was being voted the most popular Chilean wine in the country. “It’s a very big brand in Korea,” Andrea elated. Around 100,000 cases are sold in the market annually.
While already present in countries like Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, and China, the brand’s Asian footprint is set to expand further, especially with the opening of its new company in China.
“With the establishment of office in China, we are going to lead the commercial strategy and invest on brand building in the market,” says Sharon Yeh, Marketing Director of VSPT China.