Marchesi Antinori has become the first Italian firm to produce wine in Chile, entering into a joint venture with Haras de Pirque in the Maipo Valley. Both companies admit that the JV could be the start of a far bigger relationship.
 
Currently the two have established an independent company, Antinori-Matte SA, and are producing one single vineyard wine, Albis, the first vintage of which, the 2001, has just been released.

Albis is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Carmenere. The wine is expected to retail for around US$50 a bottle and to be sold entirely on export markets, mostly the US, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

Initial volumes are just 500 cases for the 2001. But although the company expects to produce around 20 times that amount inside the next ten years, some feel that for Antinori the joint venture is more about testing the water in Chile than producing a 10,000 case wine.

"Antinori is not stupid," said Guido Castellano, a business journalist with the Italian weekly magazine Panorama. "He's here to make business."

Renzo Cotarella, Antinori's general manager said: "We are looking to see if there is an area to produce great Sauvignon Blanc," he said. However, any expansion of Antinori's business in Chile is likely to be done through investing in their Chilean partners, rather than through enlarging the 50/50 joint venture.