Chile is one of the New World most important wine-producing countries located on the western coast of South America. The history of Chile as a wine country goes back to the far 1550 when the Spanish Conquistador Don Francisco de Aguirre de Meneses planted grapes in today's Maule Valley. And three centuries later were brought the Bordeaux grape varieties from which the country has adopted as a national grape the Carménère.
During that period and until present the Chilean wine industry is having a vivid history and huge development towards quality and has become a world-class competitor. Chile is the world’s narrowest country and the climate in the different wine regions, varies dramatically, but all benefit from plentiful sunshine and dry conditions, which easily combat diseases. As well, Chile is the only one land that has never suffered from the devastating phylloxera in its vineyards due to the geography and the topography it has. The majority of the vineyards are located at the western foot of the Andes in high-lying river valleys at 600 to 1,000 meters above sea level.
The country can be divided into 5 main growing areas in which are situated the 18 regions as the most famous are - Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, San Antonio Valley, Maipo Valley, Cachapoal Valley, Colchagua Valley, Bío-Bío Valley, Rapel Valley and Maule Valley. The most popular grape varieties for white and red wines are Carménère (as already mentioned is considered the red wine star), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Riesling, Malbec and Sémillon.
Chile has quite an unsophisticated wine classification which defines the areas where grapes are grown and if a wine comes from one of these areas, it can be stated on the label and the wine receives a Denominación de Origen
, but it is more a designation of origin than a proof of quality. There are 12 white and 13 red varieties that may be listed on the label if the wine is made from at least 75% of the same variety and this 75% also applies to the vintage. The rest of the grapes is allowed to be grapes or wines from outside the country. If made for export, the minimum content goes to 85%. Vintage wines, if made for export must have at least 85% of grape from that vintage and for the region to appear on the label, the wine must contain at least 85% of grapes grown in that region.
The designations Reserva, Gran Reserva, Reserva Especial, Reserva Privada, Gran Vino, Selección and Superior, which are used on the label, can be applied in any way and are not controlled by any laws. The land is home of not more than 130 wineries some of which are huge and play a key role in the export on a worldwide level.
For more information on Chilean wines visit the Wines of Chile