Chile


Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere.


So far Chile has remained free of phylloxera louse which means that the country's grapevines do not need to be grafted.  

Over twenty grape varieties are grown in Chile, mainly a mixture of Spanish and French varieties, but many wineries are increasing experimentation in higher numbers. For most of Chile's history, Pais was the most widely planted grape only recently getting passed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red wine varieties include Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignan. White wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc,  Sauvignon vert, Sémillon, Riesling,Viognier, Torontel, Pedro Ximenez, Muscat of Alexandria,  and Gewürztraminer.

The Carmenere Grape
Chile has a unique history with this grape variety. In the early 1990s, Chilean growers, noticing that some of their “merlot” vines looked a little different, had grapes that got ripe a little earlier, and did some DNA testing. They learned they’d unknowingly been growing carmenere all that time, haphazardly mixed with the merlot. It had been imported in the 1860s from France, and, since Chile is thousands of miles from European vineyards, it had escaped the phylloxera epidemic. Then somebody tried a wine of 100 percent carmenere, and they were thrilled to find it deep, dark and rich, with flavors of black plums, licorice and mocha. Like merlot on steroids. Voila. A “new” variety was born. And carmenere is even better in Chile than it was in France because of its sunny days and cool nights of fog from the Pacific Ocean’s chilly Humboldt Current. (Source: The Miami Herald)

Chilean winemakers have been developing a distinct style for their Cabernet Sauvignon, producing an easy drinking wine with soft tannins and flavors of mint, black currant, olives and smoke. The country's Chardonnays are less distinctive, following more the stereotypical New World style. While sparkling wines have been made since 1879, they have not yet established a significant place in Chile's wine portfolio. In recent years, the Pais grape variety has been creatively employed on its own or in blends, to make modern wines that have received favorable reviews.

Chile’s wine regions:
Atacama. Within it are two subregions, the Copiapo Valley and the Huascon Valley, both of which are coterminous with the provinces of the same names. The region is known primarily for its Pisco production.
Coquimbo.  It has three subregions: Elqui Valley, Limari Valley, and Choapa Valley.  All subregions are coterminous with the provinces of the same names. Like the Atacama this region is primarily known for Pisco and table grapes.[5]
Aconcagua. Within the Valaparaiso Region, it includes two subregions, the Valley of Aconcagua and the Valley of Casablanca.   The Aconcagua Valley is coterminous with the province of that name.  Casablanca is one of Chile's cooler wine regions and is often compared to the California wine of Carneros, and grows similar grape varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot noir.  Casablanca's growing seasons last up to a month longer than other regions, typically harvesting in April. The northern region of Aconcagua is Chile's warmest wine region and is primarily planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soil of this region is composed mainly of alluvial deposits left over from ancient river beds.  
Central Valley. Within it are four subregions: the Maipo Valley, the Rapel Valley, the Curicó Valley and the Maule Valley. This is Chile's most productive and internationally known wine region, due in large part to its close proximately to the country's capital Santiago. It is located directly across the Andes' from Argentina’s  most well known wine region Mendoza Province.   The Maipo Valley is the most widely cultivated valley and is known for Cabernet Sauvignon. The Rapel wine region in the Colchagua Province is also known for its Cabernet. Curicó has both red and white wine varieties planted but is most widely known for its Chardonnay. The Maule Valley still has large plantings of the local Pais but is gradually being planted with more prestigious red wine varieties.
Southern Chile.  Two subregions are included: Itata Valley and Bío-Bío Valley. The region is primarily known for its mass produce Pais box and jug wines. (Source: Wikipedia, Food and Wine's Wine Guide 2012)

Enjoy this video about Montes Winery in Chile. The Founder talks about his start in the nascent Chilean wine biz, and the current state of the industry. Nice use of drones for some wide altitude shots. 

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