The Chilean wine cultivating history dates back from the 16th century. Like in Argentina, it was the Spanish conquistadors that brought the vines and planted the seed in many peoples minds. Passion meant that by the 20th century French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced.
Being such a narrow country, Chile’s climate is dominated by the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. They both help with grape growing, the Pacific offers moisture while the close proximity of the Andes mean for a big difference in temperature between day and night. The drop in temperature during the night maintains the grapes acidity level.
Vintage Variation is not that exploited. The weather is consistent from year to year, again this is all due to the isolation that the Andes produce. The Atacama Desert to the north and the Antarctica to the south create a unique stable balance.
The geographical positioning and isolation of Chile also means that the phylloxera disease, which proved to be a big problem for the rest of the world, has not affected these grapes. This means that farmers don’t have to buy inorganic materials. Also, many vineyards do not have to graft their rootstock. These two elements contribute to the downsize in prices.
Wineries have sprung all over the country like mushrooms after a rain, the number growing from 12 in 1995 to 70 in 2005. The industry expanded to the point that Chile is the 5th biggest wine exporter in the world, its like the Chileans where waiting for the Spanish, having heard rumors of the wines. The wine producing regions are as follows:
It is the northernmost region. The desert climate means that very little table wine is produced. The dry heat make the grapes to loose a lot of their juice and so the resulting wines are sweet and strong.
Actually, there is only a thin strip along the coast where vine growing is possible. This region is more knwon for the Pisico, a brandy-like spirit which has been produced since the Spanish colonization.
Like the Atacama, this region is more known for the Pisico, but it also produces table wines made from grape blends containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
It mostly produces red wines which tend to be a little more stronger due to the dry heat, this is also the case with white wines.
The winegrowing areas of this region follow the rivers that flows through it, its water being used to irrigate the vines. A subregion worth mentioning is Casablanca which has been compared to California wines.
The opinion that Aconcagua is not a particularly good region for wine making has been debunked recently, modern Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot proving the opposite.
Covering the O’Higgins and Maule regions this is the most productive wine region in Chile, Some of it’s international reputation is owed to the proximity to the capital Santiago.
The Maipo Valley, like the Rapel wine region, is mostly known for the Cabernet Sauvignon it produces. The characteristics include high salinity and low potassium level which affect grapevines. The Maule region also suffers from low potassium and nitrogen levels.
The conditions in this area are a bit more challenging. Higher rainfall, strong winds and broader extremes mean that farmers need a bonus of patience and nerve. Nonetheless cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have been grown successfully.
This region is also the place where jug wines come to life. Pais is also a wine which is mass produced. Some even experimented with the German varietal Gewürztraminer.
All in all Chilean wines have ranked very high in international competitions and there seem to be no signs that quality will fade anytime soon.