Chile is a very long and narrow country on the west coast of South America that, after years of overproduction of cheap and forgettable table wine, has slowly and confidently built a reputation for competitively priced varietal wine of a high standard. Free of Phylloxera (you usually can’t move for that vine- eating louse raising its head in the 19th Century) the long dry summers yield an abundance of exceptionally healthy international varieties as well as some indigenous grapes such as País. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir are among the most popular grapes but Chile is arguably most well known for hosting the spiritual and commerical reawakening of outcast Médoc vine, Carménère, which is perfectly suited to the country’s terroir. Chilean Carménère is similar in appearance and style to Merlot which caused confusion for a while as they tried to isolate the vines and bring out their individual characteristics but a good Chilean Carménère should be a striking mix of red berries, black pepper and spice.
The vast majority of Chile’s wine is grown in flat, fertile well irrigated southern wine regions and although there are some distinct climactic variations between individual regions, the climate is generally Mediterranean with the most notable sites situated in the Aconcagua and Casablanca valleys, Leyda, Maipo, Rapel and Colchagua. Wine styles across the country predominately lean towards a clean and fruity profile although barrel ageing is becoming more common and with more plots of old vines being maintained and the firmer control of yields ans improvement in structure, the potential for longevity and quality has improved.
Image: Flag at Viña von Siebenthal winery, Panquehue, Chile; © Viña von Siebenthal.