New World Supremacy

Richard Sutton, managing director for Armit Wines Hong Kong, recounts the story - and overwhelming success - of Seña, arguably Chile's most famous and sought after wine

In 1995, the legendary New World wine pioneer Robert Mondavi teamed up with
Eduardo Chadwick, owner of Chile’s venerable Viña Errázuriz, to create Chile's first
international joint wine venture, a bold and forward-thinking move in those times.
They set a very challenging goal: to reach the full potential of Chile's wine country
and to create a truly world-class wine. These two distinguished and traditional wine
families shared a passion for excellence and innovation.

Chadwick searched for four long years alongside Mondavi before finding the ideal Chilean terroir that spoke to his instincts. Here, they acquired 350 hectares of virgin
hillside. The beautiful Seña hillside property is located on the western side of the Aconcagua Valley, 41kilometres from the Pacific Ocean and 100 km north of Santiago, the country's capital and main international gateway. Seña’s location is a little cooler than the traditional red wine regions, but still warm enough for the grapes to reach an excellent level of ripening. The harvest takes place two weeks later than in the interior of the valley. Seña´s vineyard comprises 42 hectares and its design enhances the conservation and protection of the native ecosystems, in accordance with the certified biodynamic principles under which it is farmed.

In 1997, they released the first vintage of Seña (1995), Chile's first iconic wine, which marked a milestone for making ultra premium wines in the country. Seña, a unique blend, is vinified under the supervision of Francisco Baettig, formerly winemaker at Le Bon Pasteur, one of the renowned Michel Rolland’s Pomerol wineries. Seňa is blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Cabernet Sauvignon provides the structure while the Carmenère provides the Chilean terroir identity.

In 2004, Chadwick arranged a blind comparative tasting in Berlin, in the company of top critic Steven Spurrier, who had organised the historic Judgment of Paris in 1976, where two former winemakers of the Robert Mondavi winery in Napa won first prize, putting the New World firmly on the premium global wine map. The Berlin Tasting of 2004 saw it all come true again – Viňa Seňa 2001 came in second place (to another Chadwick wine), beating all the revered Bordeaux First Growths, including Lafite 2000, Margaux 2000 and 2001, and Latour 2000!

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which had already rated the Seňa 2004 94 points and the 2006 95 points, recognised the quality of the Viňa Seňa 2007 with the highest score ever awarded by the publication to any Chilean Bordeaux blend – 96 points.

In a milestone moment for Seña, as well as for other iconic Chilean wine producers, a blind tasting at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong in 2011 placed Seña at the top of most people’s favourite wines. Forty local wine professionals, including first Asian Master of Wine Jeannie Cho Lee, were taken aback when different vintages of Seña scooped all top five spots, ahead of Lafite 2007, Mouton 1995 and Margaux 2001.

By tasting many different vintages of Seña including its very first vintage, 1995, side by side with their Bordeaux counterparts, these tasting results added a new dimension to the success of Chilean wines. This tasting revealed not only the quality level of Seña but also its ageing ability and its evolution over time. Back then, Chadwick commented: “The blind tasting is an act of faith, much like elaborating a great wine, because you have to trust that the intrinsic quality of the wines will reveal themselves alone, and I am delighted that the Asian key opinion formers
through our tour have consistently recognized the world-class quality of our Seña wines."

The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, in December 2012, proclaimed Seňa as "perhaps Chile’s most famous producer and iconic wine" and described the newly released 2010 vintage as "Outstanding. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins. This is silky smooth in the mouth, harmonious, and the oak is deftly interwoven into the structure. This is a sophisticated Seňa. Drink 2014-2022. 94 points."

Viňa Seňa 2010 is available in Hong Kong for HK$4,200 per case of six bottles from:
Armit Wines (Hong Kong) Ltd
Tel: 3796 7191

Click here to see the published article.