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Mac Margolis

China's Thirst for Wine Has Chile Raising a Glass

It's a lesson for other Latin American countries dreaming of moving up the value chain.
Heading east.

Heading east.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Between a sharp economic downturn and corruption scandals, Chileans haven't had a lot to celebrate lately. So when Chilean authorities announced that China had become the country's biggest buyer of fine wines, it was welcome news indeed.

The national department of agriculture recently reported that Chile sold $163 million in bottled fine wine to China last year, overtaking its sales to the United Kingdom and the United States. Now, that may not sound like a whopping sum; it's only a fraction of the estimated $258 billion in global wine sales. But it means a lot to Chile, one of the so-called New World winemaking countries, which is aggressively trying to carve out its place in world markets. It's also a lesson for other Latin American nations still stuck on a Chinese-driven commodities treadmill.