Chile is the third-largest wine-producing country in America, after the United States and Argentina. Chile makes astounding wine, but they know how to market it too; they have positioned themselves as a great source for good-valued wine and have conquered the hearts of wine enthusiasts in all corners of the earth.
Chile is a narrow country, just 160 kilometers (100 miles) wide, nestled between the Pacific Coast and Andes Mountain Range. Covering immense latitudes through its 4300 kilometers (2700 miles), the country is home to the world’s driest deserts and the most fertile valleys.
In a way, Chile is isolated, but it has made its geographic location its main strength, and you can taste that determination in every glass of Chilean wine. Here’s what you wanted to know.
History of Chile’s Wine
Grapevines arrived in Chile during the mid-1550s with the Spanish conquerors and Catholic missionaries. Actually, one of the country’s ancestral varietals, Misión, takes its name from these European explorers.
Chile gained its independence from Spain in 1818, and influenced by the foreign wine markets, mostly the French, the country laid the foundations for their wine industry.
The first French grapevines arrived in Chile. Among them came the famous Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chile’s flagship varietal — Carmenere, which was thought extinct after the devastation caused by the phylloxera vine pest.
The 20th century didn’t start well for Chile. A military dictatorship at the hands of Augusto Pinochet and a subsequent civil war stopped the wine industry from evolving. Still, it came back with full force in the 1980s, where varietal wines of excellent quality and even better prices became the norm.
The strategy? The export market.
Now no one can deny Chile’s importance in the wine world. And outstanding iconic wines crown the country’s catalog — wine labels as respected as the most famous in France.
Chile’s Grave Varieties
Chile’s signature grape varietal is the red Carmenere, a sturdy grape of the Cabernet family that shines for its ripe red fruit aromas and vegetal undertones. Carmenere might be the country’s darling, but the best wine is made with Cabernet Sauvignon around the city of Santiago and in the Andes foothills.
Recent undertaking along the Pacific coast gave new life to Chile’s wine repertoire. Fragrant and zesty Sauvignon Blanc of world-class quality and silken smooth Pinot Noir to compete with the very best in the world joined the country’s bold red wines with contrast.
Today you’ll find wine of all styles made with a myriad of varietals at all price ranges. One just better than the next. Generations-old historic estates are now joined by young, enthusiastic wine makers to complete the big picture. Taste your way through the South American country, and you’ll soon find yourself charmed by its magnificence.
Chilean Wines To Try
Showing how noble Carmenère can really be, this dark, bold wine from Viña Echeverría rewards your senses with aromas reminiscent of black cherries, bell peppers and tobacco leaves. Then comes a round and balanced palate of refined tannins and lovely piercing acidity.
If Carmenère is Chile’s flagship red grape, Sauvignon Blanc is definitely the white one. This thirst-quenching, pale straw wine is vibrant and lively with pleasing aromas of citrus fruit and herbaceousness across a mineral, tangy palate. Ideal for seafood and fresh cheese.
Meaty with chewy tannins but a hard-to-describe finesse, this robust Syrah is a great value. With European charm but New World energy, Viña Perez Cruz’s masterpiece shows Chilean winemakers really can do it all. The very essence of Chile’s wine country, you’ll find in this spicy and rustic red glass after glass of pleasure.
South America’s Wine Lover’s Darling
Chile is still an excellent source for inexpensive varietal wines that are nothing less than pleasing, but the wine is getting better every year. Try an iconic label from the finest wineries, and you’ll see Chile is not joking around; quality here is the standard.
With such a prestigious terroir, it’s hard not to grow beautifully ripe grapes. And with talent like the one you find in Chile; great wine is the least you can expect.
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