Concha y Toro is a mighty company with properties around the world, whose name is a byword for quality. But however influential the company grows, it stays firmly in family hands.
Concha y Toro is such a huge international company that it comes as a surprise to many that it is still family controlled. The saga began in 1883 when a politician and businessman called Don Melchor Concha y Toro imported both French cuttings from Bordeaux to plant at Pirque in the Maipo Valley, and an expert French oenologist whose task it was to grow them and turn their grapes into high quality wine. This was a revolutionary step at a time when most Chilean wine was produced from undistinguished local Pais grapes and drunk locally within a year or so of the harvest. Following the death of Don Melchor in 1892, his son, Juan Enrique Concha Subercaseaux, took over and continued to build up the company and its reputation. In 1933 it sent its first shipment of wine to Europe – to Rotterdam in Holland.
Twenty-four years later, another dynamic family arrived at Concha y Toro in the shape of Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle, who is credited with driving a programme of innovation and expansion whose impact is still felt today. Among the steps he took was the purchase of the top quality Puente Alto vineyard, and the creation of a new brand called Casillero del Diablo, which exploited an old legend about the cellar being protected by the devil. This became Chile’s first premium wine brand, with sales of more than 4 million cases today.
The 1980s were a time for further improvement in winemaking, including the introduction of French oak barrels for the ageing of top wines. One of these was Don Melchor from Puente Alto, which was first produced in 1987 with the aspiration to be Chile’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon As had happened nearly a century earlier, French expertise was brought in to help achieve the levels of finesse and complexity the winemaking team were looking for.
In 1993, Concha y Toro decided that it was time to create a new brand for some of its more innovative wines, and Cono Sur was born. Three years later, the company crossed the Andes to launch an Argentine brand called Trivento, which has grown to become Argentina’s second biggest exporter. While making inroads into the popular segments of overseas markets, however, the company retained the ambition to produce truly world-class wines alongside Don Melchor. In 1997, Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle signed a joint venture with the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild to create Viña Almaviva, as Chile’s first Primer Orden – the equivalent of a Bordeaux Premier Grand Cru Classé.
The efforts of these years paid off handsomely, with a long list of awards and official recognitions. In 1999, Wine Spectator named Concha y Toro the most important producer in Chile and Argentina; in 2005, that same publication named the 2001 Don Melchor as fourth in its Top 100 wines and in 2006 and 2007 the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate respectively gave Concha y Toro reds the highest marks either had ever awarded to a Chilean wine. The second of these ratings was especially welcomed by the company because it was for the Carmín de Peumo 2003, Concha y Toro’s flagship Carménère, which came from one of the oldest vineyards of the company located in Peumo, Cachapoal Valley.
As Concha y Toro entered the second decade of the 21st century, its own wines found new markets across the globe. These wines included Terrunyo, the Marques de Casa Concha and Gravas del Maipo and the award-winning Amelia Chardonnay; and a range of associated brands including Viña Maipo, Canepa, Viña Palo Alto, Trivento and Fetzer, the Californian winery in acquired in 2011. An understanding of the importance of distribution has always been treated with the same seriousness as the company’s focus on quality. So, after building its presence in the crucial market of the UK, efforts have been made to become a leading exporter to Scandinavia and Brazil and various parts of Asia, including Korea and mainland China. It was Concha y Toro’s understanding of the Asian market that led the company to sign a ground-breaking sponsorship agreement with Manchester United, bringing together the ‘Red Devil’ soccer team with the fiery devil that is the internationally familiar Casillero del Diablo image.
Today, the Guilisasti family still holds the reins at Concha y Toro, with Eduardo Guilisasti Gana – winner of the 2011 Meininger’s International Wine Entrepreneur of the Year award – following in the footsteps of his father, Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle. Rafael Guilisasti Gana, Eduardo’s brother, is vice chairman and Isabel Guilisasti Gana has the role of marketing manager for specific origin wines. But there is a clear link to the past, as Mariano Fontecilla de Santiago Concha, a descendent of the original Don Melchor and former Chilean ambassador to Norway, Spain, Italy and the Vatican, still serves on the companyboard.
Viña Concha y Toro
Avda. Nueva Tajamar 481,
Torre Norte, Piso 15,
Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
Tel.: (+562) 224765000