The desire of the Chilean government to give more help to the country's smaller wine producers has forced Chile's two wine associations to merge, industry sources have told just-drinks.

The Asociación de Viñas de Chile and Chilevid will formally join forces in March to form a new body, Vinos de Chile, or Wines of Chile.

Historically, the two associations have represented different sectors of the Chilean wine industry. Viñas de Chile had predominantly acted for the country's larger wine producers, while Chilevid largely represented more boutique wineries.

One industry source told just-drinks today (4 January) that the associations decided to work together after it became clear 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," the source said.

"Smaller vineyards use a greater percentage of labour and also have more potential to grow. If the Government wants to increase the amount of wine we export, it has to help smaller wineries. Sales from bigger wine producers do not change as much."

The source added that the associations would better represent the Chilean wine industry with a single voice. "To develop a strong image of Chile, you have to have all of the industry in one organisation," the source said.

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.

Letelier declined to comment on the reasons behind the merger. "(The associations) are the owners of Wines of Chile. It would not be fair of me to comment."

Letelier said Wines of Chile would this year focus on boosting the presence of the country's wines in select price segments in its key export markets. He said: "In the UK, we will be looking at above GBP5 (US$9.71); in the US above US$10."

Wines of Chile also plans to open an office in Denmark, Letelier added.

Viñas de Chile president Aníbal Ariztía and his counterpart at Chilevid, René Merino, were unavailable for comment as just-drinks went to press.