Chile Wines

Chile Wines

Chile produces much less wine than Argentina, but has had greater success on the export markets. Known for its fruity and appealing wines, made from a wide range of grape varieties, Chile has the knack of producing wine styles that consumers are very happy to drink.

The foundations of today's Chilean wine industry were laid down in the 1850s. Many South Americans were great travellers and wealthy landowners made the long journey to visit the vineyards of Europe.


They returned with healthy vines from regions like Bordeaux, which explains the presence of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère, a grape variety that was, eventually, to give Chilean winemakers a real point of difference. It wasn't until the 1990s that Carmenère was identified by the French ampelographer Jean Michel Bourisiquot. Up until this time Carmenère had been commonly mistaken for Merlot. Chilean Carmenère has abundant blackberry-like fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavors.

Chile has often been described as a viticultural paradise, with its dry summers and protection from the Pacific Ocean to the west and the mountains of the Andes to the east. Recognized as being phylloxera-free, Chile's vines have scarcely encountered any form of disease. The Atacama Desert to the north provides the final barrier.

Most of Chile's wine regions are found to the south of Santiago, with Aconcagua and Casablanca Valley to the north. Casablanca is particularly suited to growing white grapes, as the climate is strongly influenced by the cold Humboldt current off the Pacific Ocean.

The Central Valley region is a vast area which sits some 600 meters above sea level. There are four rivers which run from the Andes to the ocean, and each lends its name to an appellation. From north to south they are: Maipo Valley, Rapel. Curicó and Maule. Each area enjoys its own microclimate and has well-known sub-zones, such as Colchagua in Rapel, a source of some great Merlot.

International Acclaim

A high proportion of Chile's vineyards are planted with internationally popular classic grape varieties. Merlot helped Chilean wines to gain their reputation for the hallmark rich plummy characteristics that drinkers enjoy so much. Wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon were among the first to attract international acclaim, but by far the most interesting in terms of its history and potential is Carmenère.

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