The rapidity with which wine regions have sprung up in Chile is an unparalleled case in the world. And while Chilean wines used to be easy, cheap and purely from the paradisiacal Central Valley, they are now increasingly refined speakers of the regions from which they come.
The first surprising fact about Chile is in fact its incredible range of latitudes. Since 2011, manufacturers have been able to include terms such as Costa, Entre Cordilleras and Andesto distinguish different vineyards even though they are located in the same geographical area. This is due to the different viticultural conditions, if we can call them that, of the coastal sites, the central plains or the east-facing slopes of the coastal chain.
Climate is very similar to the Mediterraneanwith plenty of sunshine, clear skies and dry air. The only flaw is that it brings in dowry summers without rainand the Incas also complained about this, and to get around the problem they created an extraordinary network of canals that brought water from the Andeswhere the ice melts in this season.
There is also less humidity than in the wine-growing areas of neighbouring countries such as Argentina or in comparison with the more noble Europeans. And also phylloxera is virtually unknown here, perhaps due to the Chilean goegraphic island. One can simply plant cuttings in the ground and wait for them to let their roots grow. A whole different story compared to rootstocks, which, however, have saved European viticulture and beyond.
It is not only the climate that varies in such vast territories, but also the soils and rocks. In the west the soil is described by slate, granite and shale, while in the central plain this is done by clay and shale, Cordillera and Andes are colluvial.
Light, fertile soil in control of water makes viticulture an easy practice, although of course it is poor soils that produce the most memorable wines.
One great indigenous grape, actually two: the Paisknown as Mission in California or Criolla Chica in Argentina, and the Carmenerefrom which the most iconic Chilean wines are now produced. This is however a land of internationalswines made from the world's most famous grapes can be tasted. The hope is that more and more space will be given to local grapes in the future. But in this we do not particularly believe since Chile, due to the above-mentioned characteristics and the low cost of its labour, is attracting winegrowers from all parts of the world, often very famous.
Le The most important areas are basically 4 and you can't help but start with the Northern Chile and its crazy heroic viticulture, with vineyards even at 2500 metres above the Pacific, and in the middle of the Atacama Desert. On the border with Bolivia, in the Andes, Talabre even reaches 3500 metres.
These vineyards are located north of the northernmost areas such as Elqui and Limari.
Proceeding towards the centre of Chile, just north of Santiago we find another very important area, that of Aconcaguawhich takes its name from the highest peak in the Andes, at around 7000 metres. Here we can identify 3 sub-zones, the warm Aconcagua Valley, and the cold Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley.
Further south we finally reach the Valle Centrala stone's throw from Santiago. This in turn is divided between the areas of Curico, with its temperate climate and non-essential irrigation, and those of the three main rivers: Maipo, smaller and warmer, Rapel, rapidly expanding, and Maule, volcanic and enjoying rainy winters and dry summers.
The Valle de Rapel, in turn, conceals two jewels, the Cachapoal Valley and the better known Colchagua Valley.
The last area is the Southern Chile, with the 3 main areas, Itata, Bio Bio and Mallecowhich are not protected by the coastal chain and are moist and cool, ideal for Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir.
The hectares planted with vines are over 200000of which 12,000 for the local drink, Pisco. Chile produces well 13 million hectolitres and boast an export value, which continues to grow, of over one and a half billion euros.