Chile is a major player in the South American wine industry. It is a narrow strip of land running along the western coast of the continent, and it is home to a diverse variety of terroirs and wine styles.
Even while certain world-class reds are produced in Chile and sell for exorbitant amounts, the country’s viticultural business is more commonly associated with consistent, good-value wines in export markets.
Chile’s sunny and relatively dry climate makes it a great place to experiment with organic, biodynamic, and sustainable winemaking practises. Grapes thrive in the cool evenings and warm days of Chile’s Central Valley, making the country the world’s sixth largest producer of wine. Due to its long and narrow shape, Chile experiences a wide range of climates, from the arid Atacama Desert in the north to a temperate, wet region in the country’s central south that is ideal for growing grains. The cooler climate of the Chilean wine area is one of its defining characteristics, as it yields red wines with softer aromas of baking spices and lighter bodies.
Distance-wise, Chile is a whopping 4300 kilometres (2700 miles) long, stretching between the Pacific and the Andes. Even though Chile is only 160 kilometres (100 miles) broad, most climate diversity in the wine-growing regions occurs from east to west, rather than from north to south, due to the country’s geography, which is particularly conducive to viticulture.
Winds from the Pacific’s Antarctic Humboldt Current cool coastal vineyards like those in the Casablanca and Limari valleys. And the Central Valley of Chile is warm and dry because the Coastal Mountains shield it.
Along the country’s eastern side, in the foothills of the Andes, high altitudes and plentiful meltwater rivers create yet another terroir. Chile’s vineyards have avoided the phylloxera aphid thanks to the country’s geographical positioning, which shields them from both the Pacific Ocean and the daunting barrier of the Andes.
Although Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Bordeaux have traditionally formed the backbone of Chile’s red wine exports, the country has recently chosen a distinctive grape variety: Carmenère, which was also widely planted in Bordeaux in the past.
After being declared extinct in Europe due to phylloxera epidemics in the 1800s, it was later found in Chile in the 1990s. Many Carmenère vines were mistaken for lower-quality variants of Merlot and planted in vineyards alongside the more popular variety.
After being singled out, the selected fruits were left on the vine for an additional week or so to ripen. Later, interest shifted towards Carmenère-centric blends and single-variety bottles. (Note that outside of Chile, this grape is more likely to be spelt Carménère, with two accents.)
There is growing interest in Pinot Noir from Chile’s cooler areas, while the popularity of Syrah is on the rise in several places that produce it in a wide range of styles. Additional Bordeaux cameo actors Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec round out Chile’s red wine grape supporting cast.
Even though the latter has been cultivated in Chile since the nineteenth century, recent attention has been drawn to it due to the popularity of the same variety in Argentina. The southern French region is represented by three grape varieties: syrah, cinsaut, and carignan.
Chardonnay, which can also be grown in many different macroclimates and may produce wines of extremely high quality and thusly high costs, and Sauvignon Blanc are the two most often planted varieties for white wine production. Grapes like Viognier, Riesling, and Semillon are among those farmed in limited quantities.
Since the arrival of Europeans in the middle of the 16th century, Chile has been a major wine producer. Catholic missionaries first imported vines all the way from Spain, Peru, or California to manufacture sacramental wine.
Around this time, the Mission grape, or Pais as it is known in this region, was widely planted and eventually came to form the backbone of domestic country wines. It is particularly prevalent in the southern regions of Maule and Bio Bio, where it is typically farmed by older farmers for use in field blends, but it is increasingly showing up in bottles of higher quality.
Chile’s viticulture didn’t really take off until the 19th century, when the mining boom in the Atacama Desert brought in a lot of cash. A wine industry developed to the south of Santiago, in the Maipo Valley, as the city became more influenced by European fashions.
The architectural and vinicultural styles of the new wineries were inspired by France. During this era, the prestigious wineries Concha y Toro, Cousino Macul, and Santa Rita planted their first vines in their own estate vineyards.
Before the second half of the 20th century, demand for Chilean wine was confined to the country’s domestic market. Before the 1980s, Chilean winemakers used beech wood tanks and barrels. With the advent of new technology, they began using stainless steel tanks and oak barrels.
Famous Chilien Wines
Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto, Chile
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon is a premium red wine made by Concha y Toro, one of Chile’s top wineries. It comes from the Maipo Valley’s Puente Alto vineyard, which is noted for producing high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Don Melchor is a Concha y Toro flagship wine recognised for its rich, full-bodied flavour profile with overtones of black fruit, cassis, and chocolate.
Vina El Principal ‘Andetelmo’, Maipo Valley, Chile
Vina El Principal ‘Andetelmo’ is a Chilean red wine from the Maipo Valley. The Maipo Valley is one of Chile’s most well-known wine regions, producing high-quality red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. ‘Andetelmo’ is a Cabernet Sauvignon and other red grape variety mix made by Vina El Principal, a vineyard in the Maipo Valley. The wine will most likely have full-bodied, rich flavours with hints of dark fruit, leather, and spices.
Errazuriz Kai Carmenere, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Errazuriz Kai Carmenere is a red wine made by Via Errazuriz, a winery in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley. Carmenere is a red grape variety native to the Aconcagua Valley that is noted for producing high-quality red wines. The Kai Carmenere is a premium wine produced by the winery and composed entirely of Carmenere grapes. The wine is well-known for its rich flavour profile, which includes notes of dark fruit, spices, and chocolate. It’s a complex and well-structured wine that goes well with red meats and strong cheeses.
Sena, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Sena is a blended red wine that originates in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, made by the Chadwick family. One of the best places to get a bottle of red wine in all of Chile can be found in the Aconcagua Valley. Aconcagua Valley winery Sena uses a blend of red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, and Syrah to create its delicious Sena. The wine’s black fruit, spice, and subtle wood flavours have earned it a reputation for richness and robust body. It’s a sophisticated wine that works well with savoury fare like grilled meats, roasted chicken, and robust stews.
Vina Almaviva, Puente Alto, Chile
Vina Almaviva is a high-quality red wine made in Chile’s Maipo Valley’s Puente Alto region. Almaviva is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and other red grape varietals; Puente Alto is renowned for its production of high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Two of the most prestigious and successful wineries in the world, Concha y Toro and Château Mouton Rothschild, have joined forces to create this wine. Some of the best red wines in the world come from Chile, and Vina Almaviva is often at the top of that list. It has a reputation for excellence thanks to its rich, complex flavour profile that includes hints of black fruit, spice, and oak. It is a top-tier vintage reserved for special events and gourmet meals.