Chile has long been the home of deep-coloured, fruity and fun wines to drink. It has a seemingly endless supply of water to irrigate its vineyards and a climate that allows for refreshing white wines and full-bodied reds.
Chile has long been seen as a home to cheap red wines that have flooded floor-stacks in supermarkets around the world – though thanks to the determination of the top 10 producers there has been a significant change. Since the early 1990s, Chile has sprung into the 21st century by introducing top-end winemaking facilities, gaining international help from leading winemakers all of which has helped to craft the quality image of Chile. Famous winemakers such as Lafite Rothschild of Bordeaux and Torres of Spain now have a prominent home in Chile’s vineyards.
Main Grapes or styles
Merlot – Chilean Merlot was the wine the 1990s that was coveted with having properties that would lead to longer lives and credited with helping people combat cancer. With or without these claims one thing can be agreed on about Chilean Merlot – it is a very good drop and offers fantastic value. It is the quintessential red wine with soft tannins, velvety texture and flavours of black plums.
Carmenere – is Chile’s little red secret. It was once thought to be Merlot until a traveling French botanist broke it to a Chilean winemaker whilst walking through his vineyard. The similarities with Merlot are many as the best examples of Carmenere can produce medium-full bodied red wines with attractive flavours of red plums, black currants and cherries. Carmenere is found in the top wines of Chile as well as the bottom end.
Sauvignon Blanc – has been planted in Chile for a long time, possibly longer than in Marlborough. Yet plantings have increased dramatically in recent years in order to compete with the popularity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – wines that were taking Chile’s top spots in wine stores and supermarkets worldwide. It has taken on an aromatic profile closely matched to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc too, funnily enough.
Coquimbo – in the north of Chile where it gets particularly warm. It is best suited to reds and makes juicy ripe examples of both Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The region also makes some of the best Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs that have ripe tropical fruit flavours.
Aconcagua – with famous sub-regions like Casablanca and San Antonio. Vineyards are largely found along the coastline which have the advantage of being cooled down by the Pacific Ocean winds and fog that settle in the vineyards. The leading grape varietals are Sauvignon Blanc – best examples can rival those of Marlborough, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay.
Central Valley – this is where the majority of Chile’s wines are produced. It is home to all of the major grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both bulk-end wines and some of Chile’s finest are sourced from this region – the best being found in the sub-regions of Colchagua and Rapel Valleys.
Climate and its effect on the wines made here
Chile has the perfect climate and conditions for winemaking. Grapes can be grown in practically all regions of Chile with sunshine to spare. There is a limitless amount of water to irrigate the vineyards thanks to the snow-melt coming from the Andes mountain range. The cooling winds coming off the Pacific Ocean also help to cool down the vineyards of the coastal regions.