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Introduction to Chile

Chile's incredible geography includes deserts in the north and glaciers in the south. In between these two extremes is an almost perfect climate for wine growing: long ripening seasons, unlimited water supply (from the Andes mountains) but low rainfall, winds from the sea. Chile has also never been affected by Phylloxera. In fact, the main problem that Chile suffers from is over-vigorous vines (too many grapes produces low quality grapes).

The modern era of wine in Chile dates only from the mid-1800s, when gold and mineral mining created new wealth. New vineyards were planted to mirror those in Bordeaux (with the main grapes planted being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc). Since General Pinochet's fall in 1989, the country's wine industry has gone from strength to strength. Also, as Camilla Bordewich (Majestic Wine Buyer) says, "Chilean wineries are at the forefront of the move towards sustainable winemaking", including reducing the reliance on chemicals, investing in eco-packaging, and harnessing natural resources whereven possible.

Chile is famous for the Carmenere grape, which produces elegant, velvety red wines. It is very similar to Merlot - so much so, that many Carmenere vines were mistaken for Merlot until recently.

The 3 main regions are:

Aconcagua Region

The main area within this region is Casablanca Valley. This is considered to make the best Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. The vines are kept cool by breezes from the nearby sea, which allows the grapes to develop slowly, producing refreshing wines.

Central Valley Region

The climate of this region is similar to Bordeaux, so it's a perfect site for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Like Bordeaux, there is water nearby (here it is the Pacific Ocean as opposed to Bordeaux's Antlantic) which moderates the temperature.

The most important areas within the Central Valley are:

  • Maipo Valley
  • Rapel Valley
  • Curico

 

Southern Valley Region

This is the newest wine region in Chile and is fast becoming popular. It is here you find areas like Bio-Bio and Itata. These areas are popular for cooler climate grapes such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer.