The Chilean wine industry has officially launched a new umbrella wine association.

Vinos de Chile AG, which represents 95 wineries and 95% of the country's exported wine output, said today (24 July) that it asked 67 winery representatives to take part in a secret leadership vote. Casa Tamaya winery's general manager, René Merino, was voted president and San Pedro Winery's Javier Bitar has been elected vice-president.

According to the Andes Wines Communications report, Chile exports over 60% of the total wine produced in the country and is hoping to improve its perfomance from wine areas like Leyda, Elqui, Colchagua, Maule, Bio Bio and Limari.

The Chilean wine industry was previously represented by two separate associations, Viñas de Chile and Chilevid. The Vinos de Chile organisation will create "an international wine platform for business", the group said.

In January, just-drinks reported that Viñas de Chile and Chilevid were looking to join forces after it became clear that Chilevid was having more success lobbying the Chilean government on behalf of its members.

"The Government was more interested in developing and helping the smaller vineyards in Chile. Viñas de Chile was losing power in its relations with the Chilean government," an industry source told just-drinks at the time.

In 2002, the two associations formed Wines of Chile, a body to promote the country's wines overseas. The organisation now has offices in Chile, the US and the UK.

Wines of Chile general manager Ricardo Letelier said the merger of the two associations would have little initial impact on the day-to-day running of his organisation. However, he said that Wines of Chile could at some point in the future cease to exist as its own legal entity and become the marketing arm of the umbrella body.