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Chile fine wine
One of the never-ending questions when considering Chilean wines is yes they are good (some even say that Chile can produce a great wine) and yes they represent great value for money (hurrah) but is Chile capable of creating a fine wine? A full-bodied, high quality, Cabernet Sauvignon that can rival a sexy little Bordeaux or Burgundy but at a fraction of the price?

Chile is the envy of the world when it comes to winemaking. Low labour costs, low land costs but long hours of sunlight and – most importantly – high altitude provide the perfect storm for oenologists. Contrary to well, everything, in the old world (expensive labour, land that reaches well into the tens of millions, unpredictable weather and basically flat terrain), it is unsurprising that many a European has been tempted by Chile’s sultry charms.

This, however, was not always the case. For a long time, Chile’s winemaking was very much a national sport, and under Pinochet’s dictatorship, it stayed that way. Word had previously got out at the end of the 19th Century that Chile could be on the brink of something special. While the rest of the world suffered from the phylloxera virus that blighted much of the old world, Chile’s isolation and topography (mountains on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west) allowed it to carry on producing top-level wines and exporting them to Europe. But political disaster struck and no-one heard anything about Chilean wine (fine or otherwise) for many, many years.

That was until around 1980 when Chile’s “Fab Four” (aka Aurelio Montes, Sr., Douglas Murray Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand) decided they had bigger ideas than what was currently being offered. Intent on restoring the wines of Chile to their former glory, the foursome revitalised the country’s reputation, thankfully ending the chapter of neglect and unimaginative mass-produced wine destined for national drinking.

This came at the same time as enthusiastic government backing. The magic mix of money and savoir-faire was to be the beginning of a new era for the wines of Chile. Statistics show that Chile shipped 185,000 hectolitres of wine abroad in 1988. Just 10 years later, this had risen to an impressive 2.3 million hectolitres (and an industry worth US$500m, or €450m). This naturally increased value per bottle dramatically. At the dawning of the 21st century, Chile was already enjoying its burgeoning global reputation for quality and superb value for money – a reputation that has continued well into 2019.

As exportation took hold, so did international reconnaissance. Spurred by the cool climate of the Maipo, Aconcagua and Colchagua valleys (not to mention the almost never-ending supply of French water from the melting snow of the Andes), increased consultation from Europe from and better winemaking equipment and producers in Chile began to take their wines to new heights. This came notably in the shape of the 2000 Vinedo Chadwick, the wine which “won” Berlin at the now famous blind tasting session, beating heavyweights such as Châteaux Lafite, Margaux and Latour, as well as Italian cult wines Tignanello, Sassicaia, Solaia and Guado al Tasso to first place. To this day the Bordeaux styled red blend remains the most expensive Chilean wine ever (at a very reasonable-for-Europe €237 in early Q3 2019).

Chile’s signature variety is undoubtedly Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for more than a third of all vines planted in the country. Pinot Noir is also fast making an appearance (notably from the Aconcagua and Casablanca Valleys); along with spectacular Sauvignon Blanc white wines.

Chiles hosts five main wine producing regions, detailed here below:
Colchagua Valley
For those of you who like inky, black, fruity wines with a full body that offer a lot of bang for your buck, then the Colchagua valley could just be your dream region. Located halfway between the Andes and Coastal Mountain Range, about 110 miles south of Santiago, the region’s wine is more famous than the region itself. Known for its full-bodied Carménère (by far the star of the show here) Syrah and Malbec, the region champions independent winemakers and is home to some of the country’s leading wineries.
Maipo Valley
Maipo is home to two of the most famous Chilean fine wine; the Cabernet-based wines Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor and Santa Rita’s Casa Real. These wines should be high on your tasting list (not to mention your investment list), along with the ubiquitous Vinedo Chadwick of course. With massive Andean peaks soaring up 2,600ft. above sea level, many of Maipo’s vineyards are planted at altitude. Alluvial flows, constant sunshine coupled with cool evenings create the ideal breeding ground for sumptuous black cherry red wines.
Limari Valley
Perhaps the most exciting of Chile’s new wine regions. Limari is located in the north of the country, 400 kilometres from Santiago and just 20 kilometres inland from the Pacific coast. Its proximity to both the Atacama Desert and the Andes makes for very interesting, mineral-rich terroir (although lack of rainfall in summer can be a problem). Both Chardonnay and Syrah fare well here, although Cabernets is king in Limari. The valley is planted to 720-hectares Cabernet Sauvignon, 190-hectares Merlot, 124-hectares Carmenere, 112-hectares, 112-hectares Syrah and134-hectares Chardonnay.
Aconcagua Valley
Long thought to be too hot for wine production, Aconcagua is now one of Chile’s leading regions. This is largely thanks to Don Maximiano Errazuriz, a visionary wine pioneer planted the first vine cuttings here, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah all finding homes in the distinctive microclimate. Aconcagua is also home to the majestic, bold and elegant Sena, the award-winning joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Vina Errazuriz that came second in the Berlin blind tastings of 2004, beating many French Premiers Crus.
Casablanca Valley
A region to watch. Still relatively new to the Chile fine wine scene, this area 100 kilometres northwest of Santiago was only planted in the early 1980s. Thanks to massive investment from the Chilean government and the newfound interest in the region, Pablo Morandé is also known as ‘El Pionero’ (‘The Pioneer’) decided to plant Chile’s first cool-climate vineyards. Best known for its cool, crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, the region is capturing the attention of wine experts from around the world.