Thanks to its relative isolation (running for over 4000 kms from top to bottom, Chile is sheltered by the Atacama desert to the north, Antarctica to the south, the Andes to the east and the pacific to the west. Chile’s vineyards are amongst the most untroubled anywhere in the world. Phylloxera is unknown so there is no need worry about grafting the vines onto disease resistant rootstock, common practice in almost every other wine growing country.
Chilean grape varieties
Most of the wine growing action takes place in Chile’s Central Valley, a fertile area which is divided into the sub regions of Maipo, Rapel, Curico and Maule. Most of the easy, warm hearted, inexpensive reds that are so popular in the UK are produced here and these are the names that are most likely to be seen on the label. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chile’s very own, much vaunted, Carmenère, can be found here. Some of the best white wines, notably Sauvignon and Chardonnay, come from the coastal Casablanca Valley, just inland from Valparaiso, which is freshened by the cool winds stirred up by the Humboldt Current. Chile has a vibrant, innovative forward looking wine industry which is continually looking to increase quality; new vineyards in hitherto undeveloped valleys are being established all the time and the outlook for Chilean wine is very promising.
Carmenère: a red variety that originated in France, Carmenère is now widely grown in Chile, where it was once mistaken for Merlot. It is only in recent times that it was properly identified. It is also cultivated in California. Produces wines with the warmth and charm of Merlot, but more than a hint of the spicy tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chilean wine regions
A subdivision of Rapel, which in turn is a subdivision of Central Valley, Colchagua Valley follows the course of the Tinguiririca River as it drops down from the Andes and makes its way to the Pacific. Fast gaining a reputation as one of Chiles best red wine areas, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Carmenère all grown here. The fine Apalta region lies within Colchagua.
Chile’s most important and productive wine growing area which runs north to south starting just above Santiago. Much of the country’s easy drinking Merlot, which has done so much to endear Chilean wines to so many, is produced here. The valley is broken up into the subdivisions of Maipo, the closest to Santiago and the most widely planted, largely with Cabernet Sauvignon; Rapel, known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere; Curico, for Chardonnay; and the most southerly, Maule (which has the highest rainfall) where the humble Pais is still cultivated although other varieties are gaining ground. All these are further subdivided by valleys each with different micro climates many of which are driving Chile’s quest for quality.
Relatively new wine producing valley in Chile, just inland from Valparaiso. Previously thought unsuitable for growing grapes due to its relatively cool climate, it has proved highly successful since planting first began in the early 1980’s. Especially good for growing Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and also Chardonnay. Cold mists and late frosts can be a problem but the rewards are proving worth the risk and the shortage of water has been overcome by drilling bore holes. Casablanca Valley is playing a key role in the movement to make better quality wines in Chile.
A major region in Chile’s Central Valley which is growing in importance. It lies south of Santiago, below Maipo, and includes the sub-regions of Cachapoal and Colchagua which has Apalta within its confines. Rich warm and generous Merlot, Cabernet, Carmenère, and Syrah are grown here with much success.
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