Echeverria Family Wines
Roberto Echeverria, the President of Echeverria
In 1740, the Echeverria family moved from Basque country to Chile, where they became farmers, grape growers and winemakers, until 1923, when they purchased property in the town of Molina in Curico Valley. With vines brought from France, they made field blends from grapes that were harvested and fermented together and sold as bulk wine, at a time when the region was awash with local wine production. In 1978, when the grandfather of Roberto Echeverria, passed away, the family was living in the United States, where Roberto’s father, also named Roberto (and an only child), was studying economics.
Upon returning to Chile, Roberto’s father worked as a banker during the week and as a winemaker on weekends, with the goal of earning money to invest back into the winery. In the 1980’s under a very depressed economy, “Everyone was tearing up vines to plant kiwis,” says Roberto. “Everyone in the region thought he was crazy. No one knew chardonnay, but chardonnay gave him the cash to supply the rest. He sold grapes to the big houses.” And then he decided to focus on quality.
Once his father realized what it would take to make quality wines he kept the old winery, but started to bring in state-of-the-art equipment in 1990. With his father being fluent in English, he was well positioned to travel for business. In 1992, he attended his first wine show in England. “He started with the toughest market, which was much more developed than in America,” says Roberto, “but that was the key to how we started.
“The lucky part,” continues Roberto, “was that he made the wines that the market wanted. We were one of the first family wineries from Chile to sell wines at Harrod’s. He was selling to the top restaurants in London.” Which helped establish trust in other countries, while opening up the market.
When Roberto himself completed his studies in 1995, he’d had some training in winemaking, but wanted to work at other wineries before committing to the family business. But because his father needed to travel so that he could market and sell the wine, after six years of working with his father and consultants, Roberto “jumped into the air”, making 2001 his first solo vintage.
At around this time, when Jorge Perez, our South American Portfolio Director, joined TEW, our relationship with Echeverria was just starting. This was Jorge’s first addition to our book and the second South American winery to join our portfolio. “When I first started to figure out how I wanted to manage and guild the book for South America,” says Jorge, “having met Roberto and his family…I realized I wanted to pick growers who have relationships to appellations.”
Opening themselves to more modern styles, including new varietals, blends and regions, the family started purchasing grapes from other areas, not to express their terroir, but to add complexity to their own wines. “We realized that to succeed and be different,” says Roberto, “we needed to be open.” And now they produce 30 wines.
With 80ha to their family name, Echeverria practices sustainable farming. “We believe that if you’re one company, one family, you can’t focus on one segment of the market (like organic),” says Roberto. “In America, unwooded chardonnay is successful, like in the UK, but in Asia, they like wood.” And so, at Echeverria, they build their portfolio to accommodate different markets.
In the next few years, they plan to narrow and intensify their focus, while keeping committed to the family business. “We’re not corporate,” says Roberto, with a smile. “We’re family and we can provide and protect consistency.”