Wines of Chile
While many regions across North and South America are known for producing quality wines, it is interesting to note that wine grapes are not native to the Americas. Vines were initially brought over with the Spanish in the 1500's and although early attempts to establish vineyards in Peru and Mexico failed, success was eventually reached in Chile making the small, South American country the first in the new world to successfully grow wine grapes.
Rich soil, rainy winters and warm, dry summers created the perfect environment in which to produce what many would say, are some of the best wine grapes in the world. Chilean wine began to grow in popularity in North America in the 1980's and today, the country is host to over a dozen internationally recognized vineyards.
Chilean wine territory occupies coastal and inland areas across the country with the primary region spanning from fifty miles north of Santiago, the capital of Chile, to one hundred and fifty miles south of the city. A fertile basin with the Andes Mountains on one side and a lower coastal mountain range on the other, the region is impressive wine country with over 115,000 hectares devoted to wine grapes. From North to South the country's primary wine locales are Aconaqua, Panquehue, Casablanca, Maipo, Rapel, Chimbarongo, Curico, Maule and Bio-Bio.
Whereas Chilean wines were once known for their value, prices are now increasing due to the improvement in wine making techniques and vineyard practices as well as the introduction of foreign money and interest. Wine companies in Spain, United States and France are now establishing themselves in Chile, taking advantage of the resources the country has to offer.
The Miguel Torres winery is owned by the famous Torres family of Spain and Californian companies Kendall-Jackson and Franciscan Estates have established Vina Calina and Veramonte Wineries in the heart of Chiles' wine country. In addition, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, which makes Opus One, along with Mondavi, have joined forces with Conchay Toro to make an ultra premium wine.
The kinds of wines produced in Chile are similar to those found in California with Chile now producing some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc available. In addition, Chiles' wine menu is expanding and the country is now producing Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec as well as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Reds dominate whites with approximately 87,000 hectares devoted to red wine grapes in relation to the approximate 28,000 devoted to white wine grapes, resulting in a percentage difference of 76% to 24%.
Perhaps the most famous of the wines of Chile is the Cabernet Sauvignon and in fact, out of the 87,000 or so hectares devoted to red wine grapes, approximately half is for Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is a big, bold red with an intensive black current flavor that serious red wine drinkers are sure to enjoy. Merlot or Carmenere is also popular. While the Carmenere grape is native to France, over half of its harvest now comes from Chile with many of its wines being mislabeled as Merlot. Chilean Merlot/Carmenere range from fruity, young flavors to more complex, robust wines with an earthy taste. Another respectable Chilean red is the Pinot Noir, known for its sweet, smooth flavor.
While currently renowned for its red, the white wines of Chile continue to gain recognition. The Sauvignon Blanc grape makes for refreshing and zesty whites, the best stemming from the Casablanca Valley while the Chilean Chardonnay is rich with tropical fruit and citrus tastes.