Q&A with Charlie Villard of Villard Fine Wines

Villard Fine Wines was established in 1989 by Thierry Villard as Chile’s first family boutique winery. Over the last three decades, it has consistently been recognized as one of the best wineries of the Casablanca Valley. 


Over the last decade, using the Valley’s exceptional terroir and unique characteristics, the new generation has introduced innovating winemaking techniques to create new super premium wines of structure and elegance. Thierry Villard was born in France but left home at 19 years old to discover the world. After many adventures from Australia to Panama, and even Afghanistan, Thierry ended up in Chile where he started a family. His son Jean-Charles (Charlie) studied Viticulture and oenology in Bordeaux, France, before starting to work in vineyards around the world and finally joining the family business over 10 years ago.


Villard Fine Wines have been awarded countless medals and accolades, and the winery was named one of the top 100 wineries in the world in 2021 by World’s Best Vineyards. Charlie answered Opimian’s questions.


How did you get started in the wine business?

I grew up in the wine business when my father worked for Orlando Wines in Australia. I even remember the smell while visiting the wineries.


What is special about winemaking in Chile?

My mother is from Chile and my parents decided to come back to Chile and start a winery 32 years ago. The special thing about winemaking here is the consistency of the climate. There is also so much to create and reinvent!


How many people work at Villard wines? Which winemaking techniques do you use?

Ten people work at the winery full time, and seasonal workers complete the team during the harvest. The winemaking techniques we use are focused on respecting the grapes and trying to intervene as little as possible. Fermenting temperatures are very important to have very smooth and well controlled fermentations to be able to achieve the best expression of the terroir.


What is one of your favourite varietals to work with and why?

Personally, I think that they are all interesting, as you have to interpret them differently. 


How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect Chilean winemaking in general, and your business in particular?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were so afraid to get infected that we picked the 2020 harvest by ourselves, not allowing anyone to enter the winery. Our life was 100% inside the winery. The country was closed to tourism for more than 18 months, which really affected our business. The worst part for us was that restaurants were closed worldwide, which had a dramatic effect on our sales, as 70% of our business is done with the hospitality industry.


What do you enjoy most about being a winemaker?

Creating products that represent a terroir and are highly appreciated by consumers. It makes me really proud!


Which winemaking traditions, if any, are most important to you?

Respect of the grapes and terroir.


Tell us about your JVC and Grand Vin wines – what was the outlook in creating each, and how are they best enjoyed?

The Grand Vin wines were created many years ago by Thierry. They are elegant wines made for serious gastronomy. The JCV wines ((lots 3188 et 3189) are wines that I have created recently are wines adapted to the current market, for extreme wine lovers or “wine freaks”. These wines are great for wine bars, and are well liked by younger people, whereas the Grand Vin series are food wines that go superbly with fine dining.


What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?

For years I was the wine consultant for the best restaurant wine list in Chile. We would taste a lot of wines from Chile constantly. That experience was incredible, to learn what the industry offers in high-end wines. But to be honest, the most thrilling wine tastings are barrel tastings, to select your components for each wine.


How and when did you start surfing, and how often are you able to surf?

I started surfing when I was around 16 years old, Chile is a great place for surfing with huge waves. I go almost every weekend and when a big swell arrives winemaking has to wait for a day during the week.