Baron Philippe de Rothschild first set foot in Chile over 20 years ago, pursuing a host of goals, from managing long-term risk to banking on the future, while passing on its knowledge as well as learning from the local culture. Today, as the company born in Pauillac, France, has become one of the country’s leading wine producers, its development is still rooted in the same principles and values of innovation, stewardship and loyalty to its tradition.
Chile’s longstanding history with wine started in the 16th century, when the Spanish ruled the country. At the time, winemaking was mostly about producing altar wine for the religious orders that had come with the conquerors. Viticulture truly took off in the 19th century, after the country’s independence. French grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay were then imported. Owing to its location between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, its climate and its rainfall, Chile is perfectly suited for producing quality wines(1). Today, Chilean vines cover 138,000 hectares (ha), mainly in the country’s central valley, that stretches up 400 kilometers north and down 800 km south of Santiago. As a comparison, wine growing areas span 225,000 ha in neighbouring Argentina, 419,000 in the US, 792,000 in France, 830,000 in China and 1,021,000 in Spain, the world’s largest wine producer and exporter.(2)
Since the 1980s, Chile’s wine growing potential has attracted some of the major international wine makers. Following a first venture in 1996 with Almaviva, Baron Philippe de Rothschild started its local branch and created its exclusive Chilean brand – Escudo Rojo – in 1999. Escudo Rojo is translated literally from the German Rote Schild – the Red Shield – and is Baron Philippe de Rothschild Maipo Chile’s flagship brand. Since 2008, the entity has been headed by Emmanuel Riffaud. ”Our initial investment in 1996 was visionary, just like what Baron Philippe de Rothschild did in 1979 in California for the Opus One project in cooperation with the Mondavi family” says Riffaud. “In Chile, we created Almaviva, a ‘Cru Classé’ type of high quality wine, via a joint-venture with the Larrain and Guilisasti families, owners of Concha y Toro, one of Chile’s major winemakers. Following the success of this first venture, we decided to launch our subsidiary here in 1999.”