A Taste of Chile's Signature Superstar Grape -- Carménère -- with the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia

By Hayley Hanafee, for GPA, and the CACCGP -- On Wednesday May 30, the Executive Director Ricardo Maldonado of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia (CACCGP) welcomed guests for a delightful evening of appetizers, mixing and mingling, and a taste of fine Chilean Carménère wine. The business networking event, made possible with the support of ProChile and Wines of Chile, was hosted by The Print Center, a renovated historic carriage house that has been showcasing contemporary, fine-art photography and printmaking since 1915.

Dedicated to fostering commercial and trade relations between the Republic of Chile and the Greater Philadelphia region, the Chamber brings together a variety of businesses and individuals with similar pursuits. The lovely reception is one of the many membership benefits of the CACCGP by providing assistance and information for entrepreneurs and investors of both nations to establish successful partnerships.

The event also served as the backdrop for the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce's announcement of this year’s award winners for the Friend of Chile Banquet Luncheon this coming November 15, 2012. Robert Palaima, CACCGP President, announced this year’s award winners while emphasizing the Chamber’s commitment to strengthening businesses throughout the Delaware Valley Region:

We have selected the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), and in particular its Wine Committee and Staff, as the recipient of the Pablo Neruda Award for 2012. Through its well-recognized Bacchanal Wine Auction, the Committee has not only benefitted aspiring student artists at PAFA, but has promoted cross cultural understanding and strengthened international ties through a shared affinity for wine and the wine making arts, and in particular has elevated the recognition of quality Chilean wines in the Delaware Valley region. David Schiro, the president of Jac. Vandenberg, Incorporated, a company which helped pioneer the importation of fruit from Chile, will receive the Friend of Chile Award.

The featured guest of the night, however, was Chile’s signature grape -- Carménère. Originally from Bordeaux, this red berry has flourished on the Chilean vines and evolved to be the nation’s most acclaimed varietal. The Carmenère grape was one of the six noble grapes of Bordeaux, France and was the only ‘great grape’ thought lost to humanity after the phylloxera blight that wiped out much of France’s grape vineyards during the 1860’s to 1880’s. Many of the ‘great grapes’ were recovered via plants that had been shipped to California. But for over 100 years, it was thought the Carmenère grape was lost forever.

The evening’s Carmenère wines were supplied by SOI Wines and their Chairman, Norman Schwartz picks up the story, “In 1994 a viticulturist trying to figure out why the merlot wine of Chile was so unique, identified and discovered the secret ingredients were not merlot grapes, but actually genuine Carmenère grapes and Chile now makes this signature world class wine available once again.”

The event was sponsored by several premium independent wineries, further demonstrating Chile as a crucial player in the international marketplace. Global Philadelphia’s very own Board Chair, John Smith, was the lucky recipient of the raffle of two bottles of TAMAYA Vineyard wines.

Annually, 85 million cases of Chilean produce travel through the three ports of the Delaware River. That number represents 65% of Chile's exports, all coming through the Delaware Valley region. Highlighting strong Chilean business initatives at one of the oldest groups in the country dedicated to fine-art print making and photography, the Print Center, “builds another important bridge between the commerce community and the Arts," said Print Center Executive Director Liz Spungen.

“Such alliances insure a better future for everyone,” said Ricardo Maldonado, the Executive Director of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce. “The success of this evening shows us when the Arts and Business get together – our entire society is the really big winner."

With that winning combination in mind, the Chilean American Chamber announced that their Annual Friends of Chile Awards luncheon will be held at the Union League on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at noon. For sponsorship and information call: (215) 790 - 3769.

For more pictures from the event, visit the CACCGP Flickr page here.