Chile

A look at the wine region of Chile

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The modern Chilean wine industry dates from the 1980s, but wine has been made in this long, narrow strip of a country, on South America's southwestern coast, since the Spanish first brought the grapevine there in the 1500s. French and German grape varieties thrive in Chile's mostly dry and temperate climate. These include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, viognier, and gewürztraminer for white wines and cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, pinot noir, and above all carmenère. Though cabernet sauvignon vines are about four times more plentiful than those of this last-named variety, it is carmenère that is considered Chile's signature grape. A minor variety from Bordeaux, where it is now almost non-existent, it was long confused with (or rather interplanted with) merlot in Chile; correctly identified in the latter 20th century, it now produces dark, smooth, fruity wines that seem to go particularly well with the local cuisine. The major Chilean vineyard regions are Aconagua (which includes the Casablanca Valley), Atacama and Coquimbo (known mostly for table grapes and the base wine used for pisco brandy), Central Valley (near Santiago, and the home of the Curicó, Maipo, Maule, and Rapel valleys, whose wines are particularly well distributed internationally), and Southern Chile (which produces mostly bulk wines).

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