Chilean Libation: Discover the Wines of Chile

Recently Chile has been making a splash in the world of wine. Incorporating many of the oldest winemaking techniques in the Americas, Chile boasts a land and climate ideally suited for vineyards and their fine wines have received international acclaim. The following article offers information about regional Chilean wines and the history of winemaking in Chile.

It was for the purposes of mass that the first grapevines were planted in Chile around 1550 by Spanish missionaries. From thence, developed the país grape which is a black grape that is related to both the Californian mission grape and the criolla grape of Argentina. The vast majority of Chile’s domestic table wine is from the país grape. However, the nineteenth century witnessed an era of great ambition for Chilean aristocrats who wanted to put their vineyards on the international winemaking map; they imported a wide array of French vineyard cuttings—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cot and pinot noir to name a few. These varieties comprise Chile’s fine wines today.

For decades Chilean winemakers enjoyed prosperity with the success of their wines. In the early part of the last century, many unemployed French winemakers emigrated to Chile to incorporate their skills into the new world paradise of wines. The techniques and skills they brought with them produced some of the most acclaimed wineries in the country—many still in existence today. However the countries political instability saw a decline for Chilean wine industry in the latter part of the century.

Chile’s wine revival occurred in the 1980s when substantial investment poured into the wineries in the form of new machinery and state-of-the-art winemaking techniques. By the end of the nineties, Chile had become the third largest exporter of wine to the United States behind France and Italy. Prized for economical varieties that are spectacular accompaniments for various cuisine, Chile’s winemakers are not determined to break into the elite territory of the world’s best labels—and their extraordinary red and white wines may just see them succeed.

The Chilean wine industry owes its success to the fertile land of its Central Valley—an area of about 250 miles that lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. These barriers leave it physically isolated, but this isolation in turn promotes nearly perfect conditions for grapevines—a steady dry climate—without the pests and diseases that plague many other wine-growing climates. For this reason, vineyards need far less chemicals to protect their crops making Chilean wine some of the most organic available. Although much of the Chilean wines are blended from grapes from various regions, individual regions are vying for attention in their own right.

Whether its local table wine derived from the domestic país grape of the Bordeaux-inspired imports of the finest Chilean wine, Chile offers a wide array of wines to suit any palette. Most Chilean wines are light and fruity and are not suitable for aging, the prestigious cabernet sauvignons ought to be aged for six to seven years to truly enjoy their subtle character. And although the majority of wine produced in the country is red, Chilean white wines are showing steady growth in prestige on the international market.

Visiting Chile’s wineries—those open to tourism—means entering a sort of paradise seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world. But you can bring Chile into your home by bringing home a great Chilean vintage.

For culinary tours to South America please click the link below:

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