Bordering Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the South Pole, it’s in the central part of the country where folks will find the rich wine region, and overall, there are at least 100 wineries that can be visited. Many Chilean wineries have won at competitions such as the Decanter World Wine Awards. No small feat, in 2011 Chilean wineries earned a record total of 206 gold medals in 10 wine competitions with Viñas Casa Silva and Casas del Bosque topping the list of medalists, accompanied by Sol del Chile. Other standout vineyards in Chile include Emiliana, Luis Felipe Edwards, Terranoble, Casas Patronales, Los Boldos, Carmen, and Viu Manent.
Overall, there are seven red varieties and four white varietals that are best known in Chile. The Carmenere is Chile’s own signature grape and hasn’t been found in European vineyards since the mid-19th century. However, for the past 100 years, the grape has been growing in Chile. Originally found among Merlot vines, it offers a dark purple color with a berry fruit flavor and spice reminiscent of the combination of blackberries and black pepper.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Chile’s most popular grapes in the red family, having also appeared in the country in the mid-19th century. This grape is mostly found in the vineyards of Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal, and Colchagua, preferring a warm, dry climate. For taste, visitors to the area can expect the Merlot to delight with notes of chocolate, tobacco, black tea, licorice, coffee and leather.
Merlot vines can be found in just about any wine valley in Chile and the well-loved “Chilean Merlot” has a bit of a green-peppery note with a fruity flavor.
Sometimes referred to as Shiraz, Syrah has not been a part of the Chilean wine scene for long, despite being one of the more popular choices now. Grown in the area of Colchagua, this red has a big flavor, but if grown in the cooler wine areas of San Antonio or Elqui, the notes become a bit spicier. Either way, this is a grape to try as it takes top honors on many tasting panels.
Malbec, also referred to as Cot, is from southern France and came to Chile in the mid 1800s, doing well with the higher altitudes. For Pinot Noir fans, the Chilean variety grows in the coolor climate like Casablanca, San Antonio and Bío Bío and the small French varietal, Cabernet Franc is also grown in Chile, but most often simply used as a blend.
Of the whites, the Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the cooler areas of Casablanca, San Antonio, Coastal Aconcagua, or Limarí and features citrus fruits, green apple and a grassy aroma with a stony,
For Chardonnay lovers, again the cooler Chilean climates mean this grape does well with moderate acidity or there is the Riesling, which is perfect for spicier cuisines. Finally, the French Rhone Valley grape, Viognier, grows beautifully in the warmer part of Chile.
The Industry of WIne
Looking at Chile’s wine industry, the main production is in the central part of the country, but the wine region actually extends for about 750 miles north to south. The Mediterranean climate means a range of soils and with the Andes Mountain Range and Pacific Ocean climates, the wine region is a protected area with gentle temperatures and cool ocean breezes.
Overall, Chile is the fourth largest exporter of wines in the world according to ProChile, and the Chilean wine industry has also set a goal that by 2020 it will be the number one producer of sustainable and diverse premium wines from the New World, reaching exports of bottled wine of $3 billion.
Along the same lines as the wine, the Pisco industry is making a name for itself in Chile too. There are now over 3,000 producers of pisco grapes with about 90% located in the Coquimbo region.
Chile has a strong culture with a European influence, but also the history of people who have inhabited this part of South America for over 10,000 years. This area was once a part of the territory of the Incan Empire and today there are a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. From the elusive Easter Island or the city of Valparaiso, which are on the UNESCO list, there is Patagonia to the south, Atacama Desert in the north and the majestic Andes Mountains to be discovered, along with the great wine and culinary explosion that makes Chile worth proper consideration when traveling.