Chilean wine has been produced since the 16th century when the Spanish brought vines in their mix of agriculture plantings during colonisation. The Chilean wine industry didn’t really see more serious expansion beyond small-scale production until the 19th century when French grape varieties were introduced to the country. Chilean wineries came to international attention during the late 1970's and early 1980's, with a leap of quality, volume and export potential due to the advent of scientific intervention in Chilean wine growing areas.
Chilean wine varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps the most famous white grape of Chilean wineries, and red grapes include the well-known Carmenere, alongside Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Chilean wine brands are well known for their value and quality at lower price points in the market.
Where are Chile Wine Regions?
Chilean wine growing regions are accessible via major airport hubs, including Santiago, which is often seen as the gateway to the major region for Chilean wineries, Central Valley. Central Valley is perhaps the most important location for wine production in Chile.
Chilean wine is produced in a diverse spectrum of climates and styles. Chilean wine brands are found from the very cold south of the country to the hot and dry north. Its wine is influenced by proximity to the Andres mountains, which help to produce cool nights to counter warmer days. This diurnal variation accounts for the high natural acidity possible from Chilean wine varieties.
Unique Characteristics of Chile
Chilean wine styles vary from region to region, with wines produced in the northern country notably richer, more concentrated and powerful than those from the cool south, where Chilean wine is usually more elegant and restrained. Chilean white grape-based wine is often made in stainless steel tanks for maximum fruitiness and freshness, where red grape wines are often generously oaked, or produced with generous flavour intended.
Wines to try from Chile
Chilean wine grape varieties are increasingly numerous, with a mix of mostly Spanish and French varieties prominent. Chilean wine blends and single variety wine is made predominately from Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc, but other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Pinot Noir, Semillon, Riesling and Viognier are also notable.
Chilean wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon is considered, for the most part, the flagship of Chilean wineries. Chilean wine produced from Cabernet Sauvignon is typically smooth and soft, showing rich dark fruit characters with liquorice, mint and black olive fruit notes accompanying. The Chilean wine produced from Cabernet Sauvignon is mostly produced in very ‘New World’, upfront and fruit driven styles.
Of all Chilean white grape based wine most readily recognised are Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc from Chilean wineries are typically tropical fruit-orientated, easy drinking, crisp in acidity and produced in stainless steel to maximise youth and freshness in these accessible and generally good value wines. Chilean wine made from Sauvignon Blanc is seen as a ‘threat’ to the global dominance of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Chilean wine made from Merlot grapes is well regarded. Wineries producing Merlot have focused on plush, velvety-textured wines of soft, plummy fruit character, often with suggestions of chocolate or coffee. These are easy drinking and often very affordable wine styles.
Must See Chile Wineries
Chilean wineries are mostly modern and heavily invested in, looking to produce vibrant, New World wines at affordable price points. Chilean wineries have benefited from long associations with flying winemakers and winemaker consultants, who have helped fine tune the Chilean wine industry over several decades. Notable Chilean wines in Australia include Vista Bodega, The Whitemount and The Summit.
The future of Chile Wine
Chilean wine versus Australian wine is a vexing issue for many drinkers looking for affordable, generously flavoured, fruit-forward white and red wines. Chilean wine produced from noble grape varieties offer an accessible, ready-to-drink experience, often with very high quality and fruitiness to the fore. Chilean wineries are increasingly prevalent in the international market, and a go-to for those looking for bargains, but with flavour on their side. Chilean wine will only strengthen its position as one of the world’s great bargain wine producers.