Chile: Wine History and Wine Regions
By Go2 Winery
Situated in warmer climates, Chile is lucky to have climates that are well suited for bountiful grape harvests. With warm summers, moderate rainfall and cool coastal breezes, Chile is home to an interesting variety of vineyards and wine regions. Chilean wines are known for their quality blends with affordable price tags. Unlike most other countries that often lack on quantity, Chile is fortunate enough for its proximity to the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the soil in Chile is ideal for grape cultivation as well as winemaking techniques that lead to lower costs on land and production. This is the secret behind the high quality and low price of Chilean wine.
Slowly gaining worldwide reputation, Chile is still exploring new methods of winemaking and is not bound by tradition. Despite the practice being over 450 years old in the region, the wine industry in Chile is continually changing to cater to its consumers. Some of the most popular wines emerging from Chile include Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Its signature grape Carmenere is also very popular amongst locals and wine lovers throughout the world.
Chile’s historic affair with wine
450 years ago when Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Chile, they introduced the practice of harvesting grapes and making wine, a practice that continues to this day. Explorers and soldiers from the ‘Old World’ brought wine seeds to new lands and immediately began introducing grapes in all parts of the Americas. In 1540, Chile’s first vineyard was established by Francisco de Aguirre in La Serena. After receive almost immediate success, more plantings were made in the central Santiago region. The first varieties of grapes used for plantation in Chile were known as Pais, a species that is known for its quick growth yet weaker flavor palettes.
Despite seeing fertile lands and favorable climates, wine production in Chilean regions soon became a failure owing to intervention by powerful native groups. The Spaniards were not welcome in this part of the American continent and the vineyards were repeatedly attacked and tampered with. The scene was not dissimilar in Spain where local winemakers resented imports from Chile and did not approve of expansion. This eventually led to the prohibition of Chilean wine in Spain and its colonies in 1744 when it was instated by the King of Spain.
By the early 19th century, Chilean wines improved after the country gained its independence. Soon, immigrants from France and Italy began improving as well as expanding the reach of Chilean vineyards while agricultural and wine schools were established in the region. During the phylloxera epidemic in the 20th century that affected most of the world, Chilean vineyards were kept safe and began gaining more demand in exports from North America and Europe. By the 1930s, the increasing popularity of European wines began to affect overseas demands of Chilean wine while World War II cut important shipping lines to and from Chile, isolating it further.
Soon, overproduction became a problem in Chile that lead to several ups and downs in the industry. By the 1980s, Chile began investing heavily in the modernization of winemaking and chose newer techniques and technologies associated with grape cultivation and winemaking. With the benefits of democracy taking shape in Chile in the 1990s and the addition of technology, the country soon began compensating for its previous losses. During this decade, revenue made from wine exports had increased drastically and vineyards became more profitable in all parts of Chile. Cheap labor as well as low costs of land and production make Chilean wine one of the most popular all over the world. The country continues to lead South America in terms of wine production and quality and is one of the most successful when it comes to cheaper varieties of wine from the New World.
Wine regions in Chile
Chile’s iconic thin and long shape limits its vineyards to a specific region known as the Central Valley. This 300 mile long region spread out between the Coastal Mountain regions located in the middle of Chile to the Andes mountain range. With several rivers and snowcapped mountains located in this region, grape cultivations are easily irrigated with fresh water. Some of the most popular wine regions in Chile include:
- Aconcagua Valley
- Casablanca Valley
- Maipo Valley
- Colchagua Valley
- San Antonio Valley
- Cachapoal Valley
- Curico Valley
- Maule Valley
- Bio Bio Valley
Each wine region in Chile is known for its unique sub-climate and soil composition that is ideal for different varieties of grapes. With fertile lands and adequate exposure to sunshine and water, vineyards in Chile are amongst the most productive in the world.
Helping connect communities and business owners to the wine industry.
Tracy Lee Thomas
All We Do Is Wine
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