Two Traditional Wine Regions of Chile
By Gary Baker
tretching 2900 miles from north to south, Chile oﬀers some of the most diverse landscape on earth. Its temperate climate is chilled by daily breezes from the cold Pacific Ocean to the west and the towering Andes Mountains to the east. Because of its physical isolation from the rest of the continent, there are very few vine diseases and pests, enabling a more organic approach to grape growing. The country’s grape growing conditions are ideal, while the cost of labor and vineyard land is reasonable. Today, Chile ranks sixth among wineproducing countries. With grapevines planted by European immigrants in the 1600s, Chile has developed over the centuries into a diverse and well-stocked powerhouse of flavorful reds. Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s most planted grape. But Carmenére, all but forgotten in its Bordeaux homeland, is Chile’s signature grape. Other Bordeaux varieties have also found a home here. These wines score highly in wine magazine ratings. Every year, a handful of stellar releases rank among the world’s best wines and yet remain a good value. The Colchagua and Maipo Valleys are two large and historic grape growing regions in central Chile. The Colchagua Valley lies about 100 miles south of Santia go and benefits f rom an almost ideal Mediterranean climate. The Maipo Valley is on the southern outskirts of Santiago, north of Colchagua, but still oﬀers a mild climate of warm days and cool nights. Large corporate wineries dominate these regions but consistently deliver quality wine. In fact, Chiles’ largest winery, Concha y Toro, is located in the Maipo Valley. However, some of the oldest family-owned wineries still exist. So, if you go, here’s a mix of both for your enjoyment.
Viu Manent T h e Vi u f a m i l y h a s been producing wines for more than 80 years through sustainable viticulture practices and continuously manage the oldest vineyards planted in the Colcha gua Val ley. A white walled, tiled roof fortress is your first impression when you arrive. But seated in the shade under ancient grape vines at an outdoor tasting table, your comfort level increases. It’s here that we sampled a selection of several delightful wines. The 2014 Reserve Merlot, with aromas and flavors of plums and a soft, round finish, was particularly enjoyable. Tour of the vineyard, with guided tastings, are available aboard old horse-drawn carriages or electric bicycles. An arena for horse jumping events lies nearby on its spacious grassy fields. The winery’s onsite restaurant, Rayuela, specializes in grilled meats and fish. The food and wine pairing provides a good opportunity to try more of Viu wine while enjoying a light lunch.
Neyen With a large ranch house style, tiled roof adobe, fronted by a massive garden of beautiful white roses, Neyen provides an inviting setting. Its historic and rustically quaint bodega is one of the oldest in the Colchagua Valley. Juxtaposed to a large concrete, yet m o d e r n w i n e m a k i n g f a c i l i t y, t h e w i n e r y ’s comfortable cellar tasting room is supported by massive wooden beams dating from the 1890s, and walls painted festively with faded grape clusters.