What do we drink in Chile?

Chile is known for producing wines of exceptional value with its 4,300 km of coastline along the frigid Pacific Ocean. The topography is very favorable for viticulture, and although Chile is only 100 miles wide, most of the climatic variations in the wine regions are from east to west, rather than north to south. The Pacific Ocean , with its Antarctic Humboldt Current, brings cooling breezes to coastal vineyards, while the shelter provided by the coastal mountain range makes Chile's central valley relatively hot and dry. Along the eastern edge of the country, in the foothills of the Andes, the high altitudes and abundance of meltwater rivers create an even different terroir. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the impassable barrier of the Andes on the other, Chilean vineyards have remained protected from phylloxera , the devastating aphid that has destroyed part of the world's vineyards.

 

 

Let's go discover together the 7 main grape varieties of Chile , their taste and the regions in which you can find high quality wines.

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most common grape variety in Chile. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon generally produces a lighter-colored, less tannic wine, with juicy flavors of black cherry , plum, blackcurrant , smoked pepper , and (on some more premium examples) mint and graphite.
The majority of quality wines come from the Central Valley (Valle Central). This vast valley actually encompasses a number of sub-regions, including the regions of Maipo , Colchagua and the Maule Valley. The Maipo Valley is well known to Cabernet Sauvignon lovers in the country for their original style, characterized by intense aromas of blackberry and cocoa powder. For a more elegant Cabernet, Bordeaux style, the sub-region of Colchagua and Cachapoal offer wines with black fruits and minerality characterized by notes of graphite (pencil lead).

 

Chardonnay

 

Chilean Chardonnay offers tropical fruit flavors found more in warm climate Chardonnay, but Chile's Pacific coast and cool ocean breezes give the wine an extra boost of acidity that provides incredible balance. Expect mineral notes, aromas of candied lemon, pineapple, cooked peach and honey, as well as a smooth and spicy finish.



The large regions of Maipo and Aconcagua produce superb quality Chardonnays. But its favorite place is in the Aconcagua valley, and more precisely in its sub-appellations, including the Casablanca valley and the San Antonio valley , which are among the coolest climates in the region. More recently, the grape variety has enjoyed some success in the north, in the Limarí valley and in the south, in the Malleco valley which produces elegant Chardonnays with fresh and mineral notes reminiscent of our Chablis...

 

Sauvignon Blanc

 

Chile is exactly the place to look for a super quality mineral Sauvignon Blanc. The wines exude aromas of lime , white peach , passion fruit and grapefruit , supported by a beautiful vegetal and "stony" finish.

These Sauvignon Blancs generally echo a more ripe style that we know from white Bordeaux. Most of Chile's best Sauvignon Blancs grow alongside Chardonnay in Aconcagua, notably in the Casablanca , San Antonio valleys. You'll also find some very fine examples in the Colchagua Valley and, believe it or not, in the far north, in the Elqui Valley, where vineyards line small, steep valleys protected from the sun.

 

Syrah


Syrah is an important grape variety in Chile and is just beginning to gain recognition in the wine world. These wines have a significantly more elegant style (cool climate) and consistently offer spicy, fleshy notes as well as red and black fruits like cherry and blackberry as well as hints of violet . Tannins tend to be more powerful than normal, which is part of the reason these wines have the potential to age very well.

They are found in the Central Valley, the Rapel Valley region (which includes the Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys) which feature some of the best examples of syrah in Chile. Additionally, Syrah also grows alongside Chardonnay and produces several rich, meaty examples in the Casablanca and San Antonio valleys . You can also find them, for excellent value for money, in the far northern wine-growing regions, notably in Elqui , Limarí and in the Choapa Valley (Coquimbo Zone).


Pinot Noir



If you love Pinot Noir, then you probably already know about its great wines that come from Chile. Chilean Pinot Noir offers flavors of black cherry , plum , red spice , raspberry , and floral aromas with a smooth, juicy finish. Chilean Pinot Noir is often round and velvety, with few tannins. It is often said that where Chardonnay grows, there are also great Pinot Noirs, and Chile is no exception.

The best areas are generally located towards the coast in the Aconcagua region, particularly in the Casablanca Valley of San Antonio (where the climate is cooler). However, there are interesting discoveries to be made in the Limarí Valley in the North or Bío-Bio and the Malleco Valley in the South, which offer delicate and more floral Pinots. For a Pinot fanatic, these up-and-coming regions are certainly worth a try.

 

Blended red wines



Grapes from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Petit Verdot, Malbec and sometimes Syrah are blended to create Chile's version of the classic Bordeaux blend. These blends produce some of Chile's best wines and the wide diversity of possible blends offers a rich and powerful profile of flavors of red plum , blackberry , blueberry or dried raspberry , with savory accents of licorice and pepper, as well as 'a mineral and smoky finish.

The entire central valley offers sublime qualities for these red wines and more particularly in the Maipo valley which has proven to be a superb location for blended wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The Carménère



Carménère was initially thought to be Merlot when it was transplanted to Chile from Bordeaux. Fortunately, this small mistake is probably what saved the Carménère from extinction. Carménère has a profile similar to that of a creamy, juicy, and delicious Merlot with aromas of plum , raspberry and black cherry coated by soft tannins. What differentiates it from Merlot are more savory flavors of black pepper , roasted pepper, and cocoa powder. This grape variety can be found in both a light wine profile and a rich and powerful wine, it all depends on what the winemaker wants to achieve. These wines pair wonderfully with dishes rich in flavor and today embody Chile's most precious grape. Chile's Central Valley produces the majority of Chilean Carménère and the many high-quality wines come from the Cachapoal Valley and Colchagua .

The last word...


Aside from the popular grape varieties, there are two promising Chilean grape varieties that wine lovers and explorers will definitely want to know about:

Le País : Often used to produce large volume table wines, this grape variety comes from the oldest vines of the central valley of Chile, a grape variety from the Spanish islands which produces wines full of pep, very clear and fruity.

Carignan : In the central valley of Chile, a group of wine growers launched a project called VIGNO to protect and defend the amazing old vines of Carignan. These vines produce a fruity Carignan with notes of raspberry and grilled plum with a touch of minerality close to graphite.


That's it for this little overview of what you can taste in Chile. I don't know about you but it made me thirsty!

 

So, see you soon!

 

And in the meantime enjoy ;)

 

 

 

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