Crash course on Chilean Wine
First things first. I am not a wine connoisseur. Yes, being from the UK, we are a nation that enjoys a drink, so I have an occasional glass or most likely numerous glasses of wine, but I am not an expert. However, this is a crash course on Chilean wine, with the essentials, facts and some recommendations.
Chilean wine. It is a staple in the wine community. Yes, most people think of an Argentinian Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza when you think of South American wine. But Chile produces nearly the same amount of wine as Argentina and is in the top ten of wine producing countries in the world.
Chilean wine will not disappoint. Any trip to Chile, must include a taste of the wine from the famous valleys, such as Colchagua and Maipo. (But don’t confuse the Maipo Valley near Santiago, Chile with the Maipu Valley in Mendoza Argentina, I know the name is very similar!).
The basics about the wine valleys in Chile
The most established and famous wine regions are located in the Central Valley, which is pretty close to the capital. The closest to the city is Maipo Valley, which is mostly known for its renowned Cabernet Sauvignons. Of course, Carmenere and Merlot are also prominent in the beautiful Maipo Valley; a peaceful location surrounded by the Andes mountains, just outside of the bustling city. Check La Bicicleta Verde’s Bike and Wine Tour through the vines of the Maipo Valley!
Slightly further south, you will find the Colchagua Valley (situated a few hours from Santiago), with many luxury vineyards. The valley is known for its picturesque landscapes consisting of the beautiful vineyards growing up the hills with colonial estates. The Colchagua Valley produces similar wines to the Maipo Valley; Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Malbec. So, it is definitely worth a visit, if you are staying a couple of extra days in Santiago and are a wine lover!
Finally, the Casablanca Valley, which is in between Valparaiso and Santiago, so it’s right in between the Pacific and the Andes! If you are travelling to Valparaiso, check out the wines at the Casablanca Valley on your way! The vineyards have gained recognition for their crisp white wines, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as well as their rich reds including Pinot Noir and Syrah.
So, you are probably wondering why is Chile so famous for producing wines? Are the wines worth it? And how is Chile able to make such great wines?
Well, Chile has the perfect conditions for the vines to grow, mainly due to the ideal climate here. El Niño plays a big role, and no I don’t literally mean a child (if you knew what that word meant in Spanish!). El Niño is a weather phenomenon in Chile, Peru and Ecuador, in which the colder air of El Niño cools the warm air, creating perfect balanced conditions, ideal for the vines to grow. There is a lot of information regarding this phenomenon online with a huge amount of difficult meteorological terms, but hopefully I have understood enough to explain a little bit to you! Basically, it means that the weather here in Chile is a big reason for why the wine is so good!
Chile is very famous for its rich red wines, such as the Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are so popular because it is the most planted grape variety in the whole of Chile, but especially in the Maipo Valley, located just on the outskirts of Santiago.
Even though Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s main red wine, don’t forget the country’s unusual grape Carmenere. You may not know the story behind this wine (I didn’t until I arrived in Santiago), but it is considered a ‘lost grape’ in France, as it is now rarely found in the vineyards in Bordeaux. It is produced in a few vineyards globally, but Chile is the largest producer and exporter of this grape variety and it now considered their specialty. Sounds like a must-try, right? Also, don’t forget about the Chilean whites! In many of the Chilean wine regions, especially in the Casablanca valley, crisp white wines are produced. The famous grape varieties; the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are plentiful in the Chilean central valley’s so grab a glass and try them!
As I said before, I am not a wine expert, but after researching and reading a lot of wine magazines, I have hopefully made it easier to understand Chile’s most famous wines. I have tried to describe each wine in my picture below and have also paired it with a traditional Chilean dishes in case you are travelling in Chile and want to try the Chilean food with its famous wine!
So please don’t take my word for it, try the amazing food and wine that Chile has to offer!