Chilean Wine

Chile.jpg

Before Argentina hit the headlines, it was Chile that was making all the waves in the wine industry in South America.

Chilean wine production began with the introduction of the Pais grape in 1548 and was localised in the centre of the country for hundreds of years until modern technology extended the borders of grape growing to its northern and southern extremes. But it was in the Maipo Valley, surrounding Santiago, that saw Chile’s first wine boom in the 1800s when the French style wineries started appearing on the outskirts of the capital.

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s when the modern boom in Chilean wine began. Around this time, domestic policies were introduced that favoured wineries and international trading. Famous wine producers from all over the world flooded into the country to benefit from the ideal grape growing conditions and the country began to create new and exciting styles of wines.

 

Significant Regions

The structure of Chile’s wine regions is very much like that of Argentina as the country is shaped similarly. The valleys and mountains of inland regions contrast sharply with cooler coastal regions creating a wide range of terrain and terroir suitable for grape growing.

Chile’s wine producing regions occur within an 800 mile zone between the latitudes of 32 and 38 degrees in the centre of the country. The main regions from north to south are: Elqui, Limarí, Choapa, Aconcagua, Casablanca, San Antonio and Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curicó, Maule, Itata, Bío Bío, and Malleco.

 

Climate and terroir

Close proximity to the Andes means a wide diurnal temperature variation between day and night temperatures, ideal for maintaining optimal acidity levels in the grapes. Warm days and cool nights are also good for promoting polyphenol synthesis, which favours more structured wines with intricate fruit flavours. Coastal ranges buffer vineyards from cold breezes coming off the Humboldt Current.

Chilean winegrowers are experts when it comes to understanding the relationship between the vines they grow and the terroir the vines are grown in. The newest vineyards are found at ever higher altitudes pushing the boundaries of the traditional viticultural zones. These newer vineyards consist of ancient agricultural land that has never seen fertiliser or pesticide, yet have their own natural balance of soil and minerals, which are ideal for creating beautifully complex wines.

 

Grapes and Wines

In the mid 1800s, Chile’s first grape, Pais, was banished to the extremes of the country where it is still used to produce rustic wine. It was replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillón and Riesling. It was around this time that many of Chile’s best known wineries were established, including Concha Y Toro, Carmen, Santa Rita and Undurraga in the most famous of all Chilean wine producing regions, the Maipo Valley.

Before the 1980s, varietal selection focussed mainly on Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, the influx of new growers introduced new varieties and vineyard management techniques such as drip irrigation and vertical trellising to improve quality.

It was also around this time that Carménère, a Bordeaux varietal thought lost to Phylloxera, was rediscovered in Chile. For reasons not quite clear to wine growers, Chile has escaped the ravages of Phylloxera experienced in other countries, meaning that most vineyards do not need to graft roots. This keeps costs down – another reason why Chilean wine tends to be very good value.

 

Did You Know?

For a long time, many vines in Chile thought to be Merlot were in fact Carménère.Before Argentina hit the headlines, it was Chile that was making all the waves in the wine industry in South America.

Chilean wine production began with the introduction of the Pais grape in 1548 and was localised in the centre of the country for hundreds of years until modern technology extended the borders of grape growing to its northern and southern extremes. But it was in the Maipo Valley, surrounding Santiago, that saw Chile’s first wine boom in the 1800s when the French style wineries started appearing on the outskirts of the capital.

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s when the modern boom in Chilean wine began. Around this time, domestic policies were introduced that favoured wineries and international trading. Famous wine producers from all over the world flooded into the country to benefit from the ideal grape growing conditions and the country began to create new and exciting styles of wines.

 

Significant Regions

The structure of Chile’s wine regions is very much like that of Argentina as the country is shaped similarly. The valleys and mountains of inland regions contrast sharply with cooler coastal regions creating a wide range of terrain and terroir suitable for grape growing.

Chile’s wine producing regions occur within an 800 mile zone between the latitudes of 32 and 38 degrees in the centre of the country. The main regions from north to south are: Elqui, Limarí, Choapa, Aconcagua, Casablanca, San Antonio and Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curicó, Maule, Itata, Bío Bío, and Malleco.

 

Climate and terroir

Close proximity to the Andes means a wide diurnal temperature variation between day and night temperatures, ideal for maintaining optimal acidity levels in the grapes. Warm days and cool nights are also good for promoting polyphenol synthesis, which favours more structured wines with intricate fruit flavours. Coastal ranges buffer vineyards from cold breezes coming off the Humboldt Current.

Chilean winegrowers are experts when it comes to understanding the relationship between the vines they grow and the terroir the vines are grown in. The newest vineyards are found at ever higher altitudes pushing the boundaries of the traditional viticultural zones. These newer vineyards consist of ancient agricultural land that has never seen fertiliser or pesticide, yet have their own natural balance of soil and minerals, which are ideal for creating beautifully complex wines.

 

Grapes and Wines

In the mid 1800s, Chile’s first grape, Pais, was banished to the extremes of the country where it is still used to produce rustic wine. It was replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillón and Riesling. It was around this time that many of Chile’s best known wineries were established, including Concha Y Toro, Carmen, Santa Rita and Undurraga in the most famous of all Chilean wine producing regions, the Maipo Valley.

Before the 1980s, varietal selection focussed mainly on Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, the influx of new growers introduced new varieties and vineyard management techniques such as drip irrigation and vertical trellising to improve quality.

It was also around this time that Carménère, a Bordeaux varietal thought lost to Phylloxera, was rediscovered in Chile. For reasons not quite clear to wine growers, Chile has escaped the ravages of Phylloxera experienced in other countries, meaning that most vineyards do not need to graft roots. This keeps costs down – another reason why Chilean wine tends to be very good value.

 

FOLLOW US


SHARE THIS POST