A Brief Look at Chile's Most Famous Wine Regions
Instantly recognisable by its long, thin outline, Chile has been one of the New World's biggest up and comers over the past few decades. Its wines are notable not only for their superlative quality but also because they are largely produced by ungrafted vines. Chile's soils, along with the natural barriers of the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountain range, have protected the country's vineyards from the notorious vine-eating louse phylloxera. To that end, Chilean winemakers don't graft their vinifera vines to phylloxera-resistant North American rootstocks. This is wine as it was before the phylloxera epidemic made it necessary for winemakers in every other part of the world to graft vines. Naturally, the results are scintillating.
Chile has numerous wine regions, but there are a few stand out regions every wine lover should get to know.
Within Aconcagua, there are a few subregions whose talented winemakers have helped establish Chile as a major player in the wine world. The first is the Casablanca Valley which has become renowned for its sophisticated, mineral-driven white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. It's a cooler region with plenty of coastal influences coming off the Pacific Ocean. The cool fog which rolls in helps grapes preserve their acidity, yielding wonderfully elegant wines.
The second subregion is Aconcagua Valley. Known for its exceptional red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Syrah. It's a fairly small region but its size hasn't stopped winemakers from reaching great heights. In 2004, a red from the region won first place in an international competition in Berlin, beating out some of the world's most expensive and sought after wines.
Central Valley Region
Like Chile's other winegrowing areas, the Central Valley Region consists of several subregions. In the case of the Central Valley, each of these subregions is an absolute star.
Maipo Valley is a major producer of world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and is easily Chile's most celebrated wine region. It lies not far from Chile's capital, Santiago across a landscape which begins at the coast and ends at the Andean foothills. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Maipo Valley, expressing itself in bold flavours and a refined structure.
Rapel Valley is south of Maipo and contains the two notable subregions of Colchagua and Cachapoal Valleys. Colchagua is closer to the ocean, where sea breezes and fog lend a pronounced elegance to its wines. Cachapoal lies further inland in the Andean foothills, where its vineyards are protected from the maritime influence of the Pacific. Both regions offer prime examples of Chile's top Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère.
The Maule Valley is one of Chile's largest winemaking regions. A recent flurry of replantings has seen the once forgettable region transformed into a hub of stellar winemaking. Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon provide the best wines from Maule, but there are some stunning wines made here from old vine Carignan.
Further south with more cool Antarctic influence, upcoming regions like Bio Bio Valley are starting to turn heads thanks to expressive wines born of its cool climate. Crisp Sauvignon Blanc shows what this variety can do in this cooler Chilean region.
On the whole, Chile is an exciting, relatively new winemaking country. It has enough experience to undeniably be counted amongst the world's best wine producers but still offers exceptional value to wine lovers. A winning combination as far as we're concerned. Do yourself a massive favour and check out Chilean wines and see why so many wine enthusiasts seek them out.