EF Wines bringing fine wines to Chile
September 29, 2016
It’s a challenge to explore the world of fine wine if you live in Chile. Forget the supermarkets: you can count on one hand the wines that don’t hail from Chile or Argentina. When I signed up for the WSET Diploma late last year, I toured the biggest wine stores in the nation’s capital, Santiago, and found their foreign wine sections very limited. So discovering Edwards Fine Wines was a real breakthrough for me as I will only pass my exams if I get practice in tasting wines from around the world.
EF Wines is a small company that imports fine wines from Europe and sells them via email and social media to wine aficionados here in Chile. So I went to the avant-garde Barrio Italia district of Santiago to talk to the company’s founder, Diego Edwards, and asked him how it all started.
“I used to work for Viña Santa Rita and I travelled a lot with my job. Visiting different countries, I had the chance to try some fantastic wines. I also realized that in other countries, even those that produce wine, it is possible to buy wines from around the world. So I knew that there must be a market for foreign wines in Chile too. But at that time nobody offered them.”
So two and a half years ago, Diego and his father Eduardo set up Edwards Fine Wines. Diego is responsible for buying, marketing and selling the wines, while Eduardo takes care of the administration. Their philosophy is to bring in a portfolio of carefully selected wines, mainly from small producers and their list reads like a who’s who of the major European wine regions.
I asked him if the paperwork involved in importing small amounts of bottled wine from many different suppliers isn’t a headache, but he smiled and said “you’ve just got to be well organized.”
Diego travels each year to different wine regions and selects wines, buying small lots; for instance this year he went to Bordeaux and the Loire in France and Tuscany and Piedmont in Italy.
He buys some wines en primeur, a common practice for European wine merchants but quite a novelty in Chile. It entails taking a gamble by buying a new wine from its French producer before it has finished developing, so you can’t be completely sure how it will turn out. The upside is you buy it at an advantageous price. The wine you have bought remains at the winery until it is ready for release and only then will you know if you have made a good purchase.
Fortunes are made by some en primeur buyers who buy these new wines at good prices and then a few years later are able to sell the bottles at far higher prices. Diego says that he has no intention of doing this: he wants to offer fair prices to his customers so that they keep coming back for more. Hence the Château Guiraud Sauternes that was awarded 97 points by Wine Spectator and 99 by James Suckling was still available at a just about accessible price (53,600 pesos for a full bottle) to my wine tasting group recently.
So who are EF Wines’ clients, I wondered. “Wine lovers, restaurants and sommeliers,” Diego told me. “Perhaps because we are on social media, our clients are mostly younger people, people with a real interest in wine.” French and Italian restaurants are an important part of their clientele too, as they buy wines to complement their cuisine.
He is happy that the company is growing organically and sees the arrival of other wine importers as good for business. “Of course, we are just small and bringing in small lots of wine; the arrival of other companies only raises the profile of foreign wines. There’s plenty of room for all of us.”
Find out more:
- Twitter: @DiegoEdwardsS
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I asked Diego to name some wines he had really enjoyed recently. These were his choices:
- Canto a Lo Divino from Viñateros Bravos in Itata Valley, Chile. This is a Cinsault, 2014 vintage.
- Sassicaia from Tenuta San Guido in the Bolgheri DOC in Tuscany. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc.
- Cabernet Franc from Vulturwines.