Although Chile has been producing wine since the 16th century, its wines have gained worldwide distribution and fame beginning 1980’s. This well deserved market share is attributable to general Augusto Pinochet’s iron fisted rule to stabilize the economy, the desire of large wineries to invest in new equipment, and in education.
Enlightened government officials, policies, and business-friendly laws helped define regions to bring clarity to wine quality, and honest labelling.
Chile is a long narrow country stretching from the Atacama Desert in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south. On the east the Andes shelter the country and on the west the Pacific Ocean provides cool air currents help grapes maintain a pleasant acidity.
Chilean valleys stretch west to east and benefit from diurnal temperature variations.
The most important valleys are: Casablanca (for whites), Maipo (for whites and reds), Aconcagua (for reds), Colchagua (reds), Curico (whites) and Rapel (whites and reds).
The climate is conducive to grape cultivation being dry during the growing season, and nominally wet in the winter eliminating irrigation to a large extent.
Chile’s viticulture can potentially be converted fully with little effort to organic or biodynamic. Some wineries have already started the process successfully.
Red wines thrive in the sunny valleys of Chile and ripen the fruit fully.
Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, carmenere, shiraz, pinot noir are only some of the internationally better known grapes beside the ubiquitous pais that was brought from Spain by the Conquistadors in the 16th century.
Chile’s vineyards have never been affected by the dreaded phylloxera vastatrix, which ruined most of the European vineyards in the 19th century, partially due to geography and partially due to the wine policies of the government.
Weather patterns change little year over year, and vintages are relatively consistent.
Wineries decided to capitalize on varietal wine to export successfully and it ahs paid off handsomely.
Although large wineries dominate exports, there are many small producers that vint excellent wines that can compete with the best anywhere.
Ontario is one of the more important export markets of Chilean wineries.
The U S A, is the largest market followed by the United Kingdom, Scandinavian countries, some European countries, and for bulk wines China.
Here are some excellent red wine values:
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Santa Carolina
Carmenere Reserva, Vina Tarapaca
Cabernet Sauvignon, Errazuriz
Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas, Cousino-Macul
Cabernet Sauvignon, Vina Carmen
Melot, Clos Apalta
Merlot, Torres Chile
Cabernet Sauvignon, Vina Bosquert
Cabernet Sauvignon, Vina Montes
Purple Angel, Vina Montes
Cabernet Sauvignon Montgras
Escudo Roja, Baron Philippe de Rothschild
Cabernet Sauvignon, Veramonte
Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Rita
Cabernet Sauvignon, Perez Cruz
Manso de Velasco, Miguel Torres
Cabernet Sauvignon, Casa Apalta
Signos de Origen, Emiliana
Equus cabernet Sauvignon, Hara de Pirque