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Berlin Tasting 20th anniversary celebrated with stunning five-decade vertical

by Catherine Walbridge

Viñedos Familia Chadwick has toasted the 20th anniversary of the historic Berlin Tasting, with a star-studded celebration and tasting spanning five decades of award-winning Chilean wines in the city where it first won global recognition from the fine wine world.

Two decades after wines from Viñedos Familia Chadwick were rated ahead of their French and Italian counterparts in a landmark blind tasting dubbed "The Berlin Tasting" (a reference to the famous "Paris Tasting" of 1976), a "Who’s Who" of the European wine world gathered at the Regent Berlin hotel on 19. and 20. February 2024.

Tasting bottles Berlin Tasting Vinedos Familia Chadwick
© Michael Holz

But this time, Eduardo Chadwick and his co-host Caro Maurer MW, were not anxiously awaiting a verdict from the assembled critics and sommeliers on how the Don Maximiano, Seña, Viñedo Chadwick wines rated against Bordeaux First Growths and Super Tuscans.

Instead, Viñedos Familia Chadwick unveiled four verticals of their award-winning Don Maximiano, KAI, Seña, Viñedo Chadwick, dating back to the 1984 vintage and including the 2004 winner, Viñedo Chadwick 2000. Guests were left in no doubt that the pioneering Chilean winery group has found its own way and expression when it comes to making wines of outstanding quality and ageability.

Pioneering Wines

Eduardo Chadwick’s mission has always been to prove not only the worth of his own wines but the great potential of Chile. Therefore, the celebration invited guests to take a larger look at the evolution of this great wine producing nation. Tim Triptree MW, the International Director of Wine & Spirits at Christie's auction house, summed up the development of the fine wine market in recent decades.

Tim Triptree MW sprach über die Entwicklung des Fine-Wine-Marktes

“In my almost 20 years at Christie’s one of the major changes is diversification in the market and representation from regions such as Chile. Now, after the efforts of Eduardo Chadwick and the 2004 Berlin Tasting, Chilean wines are also represented in the fine wine auction market.”

Tim Triptree MW

Renowned author and vine biologist Dr. Jamie Goode presented the soils and terroirs, the vine growing conditions in Chile – and in the process highlighted why organic and biodynamic methods (adopted by the Chadwick teams) are so perfect for this South American country.

Tradition and terroir

It was fitting that the first vertical showcased the 1984, 2011 and 2021 vintages of Errázuriz’s flagship wine Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve. This wine, from just three vineyard blocks planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and other Bordeaux varieties, pays homage to the man who founded the family’s first winery, Don Maximiano Errázuriz. The 19th century pioneer was responsible for transforming the land in the Aconcagua Valley, 100 km north of Santiago, into world-class vineyards, producing his first vintage in 1873. Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve represents the group’s legacy and tradition of creating the best Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine, while showcasing the Aconcagua Valley terroir.

KAI 2017 wine from Vinedos Familia Chadwick being served
© Michael Holz

Five generations later

KAI, crafted from Chile’s signature Carménère grape and named after the indigenous word for plant, was the brainchild five generations later of his equally visionary descendent, Eduardo Chadwick. The ultimate expression of pure Carménère from vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley, captured the attention of the wine world from its second vintage in 2006 when it was chosen by leading US experts as their favourite from top wines from Bordeaux, Tuscany and Napa Valley. Just two vintages of KAI were tasted, the 2013 and 2021.

Iconic wines

The third vertical of the iconic Seña wines was the most expansive, starting with the 1998 vintage, followed by 2008, 2015 and 2021. Seña was a trailblazing venture right from its inception; the result of an extraordinary partnership between Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick. In 1995 they signed the first international joint venture in the history of Chilean wine and three years later, planted key red Bordeaux varieties in a 42-hectare hillside vineyard in Ocea, 40 km from the Pacific Ocean. And, as this vertical amply demonstrated, the pair’s original vision has been realised: every bottle still captures the true voice and essence of the Aconcagua Valley while earning recognition for being one of only a small handful of Chile’s undisputed First Growths.

Eduardo Chadwick

"Robert Mondavi was a great mentor and an inspiring personality. I am very grateful for the many hours we spent together."

Eduardo Chadwick

He and his family are now the sole owners of Seña but Robert Mondavi’s pioneering spirit lives on in their shared dream.

Grande finale

The icing on the cake was the final tasting of Viñedo Chadwick, featuring wines from the vineyard that bears the name of Eduardo Chadwick’s father, Don Alfonso Chadwick, a polo champion who once played on this very ground in the Maipo Valley. Located in the heart of the Puente Alto D.O., the appellation is regarded as the cradle of premium Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile thanks to its proximity to the Andes mountains and benign Mediterranean climate.

These single-vineyard Cabernet wines have exceeded even the wildest expectations, both at the original Berlin Tasting in 2004 when the 2000 vintage took first place, and over the subsequent two decades. The 2014 vintage registered Chile’s first ever 100-point score (James Suckling) – a feat repeated three years later with the 2017 vintage. Naturally, both these illustrious vintages featured in the vertical tasting, followed by the equally highly rated 2021 vintage, Chile’s first 100 pointer by Wine Advocate.

Innovative spirit lives on

Despite their world-beating achievements, this family-owned business that has done so much to carve out an undisputed place for Chile on the world’s premium wine map, is not resting on its laurels. Its innovative spirit was clear to all when a "surprise wine" was served at the end of the celebration, the Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2022. The estate with its prized slate and schist soils in Aconcagua Costa, just 12 km from the Pacific Ocean, has revealed a whole new level of elegance, minerality and complexity in the family’s winemaking style.

Eduardo Chadwick and his daughter Magui
© Michael Holz

Eduardo Chadwick’s four daughters Magui, Mane, Pepa and Ale will be joining the 20th anniversary world tour, with 14 events scheduled around the globe after the Berlin celebration. The eldest, Magui, has made it abundantly clear that this Chilean wine dynasty will continue to be in great hands in the future: “It is now up to us, with our father’s help and guidance, to take our wines to the next levels of quality and to communicate each of our wines’ unique story and origin to every wine lover and collector around the globe.” Don Maximiano Errázuriz would be proud.

About the Berlin Tasting

The original Berlin Tasting was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin on 23 January 2004. Thirty-six of Europe’s most knowledgeable wine critics evaluated 16 wines from France, Italy and Chile during the blind tasting, which was led by the late Steven Spurrier, who organised the landmark "Judgement of Paris" tasting, and leading Swiss critic René Gabriel.

The results of the tasting sent shockwaves through the entire wine world: the first two places went to the Chilean wines, Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Seña 2001. The Seña 2000 tied with Château Margaux 2001 for fourth place, followed by Viñedo Chadwick 2001 in joint sixth place alongside Château Margaux 2000 and Château Latour 2000. As Steven Spurrier explained: "The major point is that Chilean wines were not viewed as great potential wines before – after the Berlin Tasting, they were."

The legendary 2004 Berlin Tasting
© Viñedos Familia Chadwick

This blind tasting format was repeated over the next 10 years (2004 to 2013) in the major capitals of the world, with consistently successful results for fine Chilean wines (which were rated in the top three in 90 % of the tastings).

Over time, the format evolved to take on a new challenge, the Seña Vertical Tasting, in which multiple vintages of Seña were tasted blind around the world, alongside similar vintages of other icon wines in order to demonstrate that the Chilean wines were indisputably as ageworthy as their finest European counterparts.

About Viñedos Familia Chadwick

Viñedos Familia Chadwick is a family-owned holding company with four Chilean wineries: Viñedo Chadwick, Seña, Errázuriz and Arboleda. Viñedos Familia Chadwick aims to be the Chilean winery that leads consumer preferences in the luxury segment, becoming a quality and image benchmark in the wine world, while operating a culture of excellence, and thus creating sustainable value for its stakeholders. Seña and Viñedo Chadwick wines are distributed via La Place de Bordeaux and Las Pizarras will be released on this venerable marketplace in March 2024.

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Catherine Walbridge
Catherine Walbridge
Head of International

Catherine Walbridge joined Wine+Partners in December 2022 as the agency looked to expand its international reach and English-language expertise. The London-born journalist and editor grew up in New Zealand and has worked in international media for more than 20 years. She is a former Reuters correspondent, South China Morning Post Deputy International Editor in Hong Kong and New Zealand radio program editor. Her interest in wine and food became part of her professional life when she moved to Vienna and worked at Falstaff magazine for a year.