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Chile has rightly earned a reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines over the past few decades, especially of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.
Chile is the world's 9th largest wine-producing nation, and the second largest wine-producing nation in South America. This is quite an achievement, given that wine production across Chile was restricted until the latter part of the 20th Century.
In this article, we'll look at the history of wine production in Chile, the most famous wine production regions, and the types of wine that Chile is most famous for.
The history of Chilean wine dates all the way back to the middle of the 16th century, when Spanish missionaries brought across the first vitis vinifera vines.
However, during this period of Spanish rule there were production restrictions placed on Chile's vineyards so they didn't interfere with the profitability of the Spanish wine industry.
It was only in the mid-nineteenth century when other European grape varieties were brought to Chile that the groundwork for Chilean wine production as we know it today was established.
Traditional Spanish wines were slowly replaced by varieties such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The Chilean wine industry expanded until the Alcohol Law of 1938 placed restrictions on the output of Chile's vineyards, and prevented the planting of any new vineyards. This was the case until 1974 when the Alcohol Law was repealed and the Chilean wine industry was once again free to expand.
The 1980s and 1990s saw significant international investment in winemaking across Chile, which led to tremendous growth, and saw Chile cement its current position as one of the Top 10 wine producing countries in the world.
Chile is blessed with a landscape that is perfect for wine production. There are five main geographical wine regions in Chile, which are home to 15 unique sub regions.
The Central Valley is the largest of Chile's wine regions and has a variety of unique landscapes and microclimates which makes it suitable for the production of many different wine grape varieties.
It is home to one of Chile's most recognised wine producing regions, the Maipo Valley. The climate and altitude of the Maipo Valley makes it ideal for winemaking, and the region is celebrated as producing some of Chile's best Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Central Valley is also where the esteemed Rapel Valley is located, which is estimated to produce over a quarter of all Chilean wine. Most wine production in the Rapel Valley is from red grape varieties, with the region specialising in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah .
The Curico Valley and Maule Valley are also located within Chile's Central Valley region. These areas are not as internationally recognised for quality as other valleys within the region, but are known for consistently and reliably producing wine of many different grape varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
The Aconcagua region contains the famous Casablanca Valley, which has a cool climate and is where a lot of Chilean white wine is produced. The Casablanca Valley saw a lot of investment in the 1980s and is known for wines of the white grape variety such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
The San Antonio Valley is also found within Aconcagua, and is a relatively small region that produces high quality Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
Southern Chile is home to three wine-producing valleys, the Itata Valley, the Bío Bío Valley and the Malleco Valley. The climate of Southern Region of Chile is ideal for the growing of grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Itata Valley is also recognised for producing great Muscat wine.
This wine region contains the Copiapo and Huasco valleys, and is mainly recognised for producing Pisco, which is a Chilean grape brandy. Some European grapes are grown here also, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Similar to the Atacama region in terms of climate, Coquimbo is also mainly known for producing Pisco. However, across the three subregions of Elqui, Limari and Choapa there are also international varietals grown, such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Over twenty different grape varieties are planted across Chile.
It's estimated that over three quarters of vines planted in Chile are for red grape varieties, and Chilean wine producers are well recognised internationally for producing distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most exported wine varietal from Chile.
Other popular red wine varieties from Chile include Merlot, Carménère, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Malbec.
Chile is less recognised for white wines, but Chilean grape growers have seen success with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes, especially from the famous Casablanca Valley.
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the most exported Chilean wines from white grape varieties.
Our dedicated page of Chilean Wine showcases a great range of wine for you to get stuck in to. Why don't you head over and take a look?
If you're looking to pick up a bottle of wine that exemplifies all there is to know and love about Chilean wines, check out one of our favourites:
A favourite from Chile's Central Valley, Los Pastos Merlot is soft and fruity with a hint of cinnamon spice. This wine is superb alongside poultry, red meats and cheese.
Originating from the Casablanca Valley, this Chardonnay is a balanced, fresh and fruity wine with refreshing citrus aromas. It's ideal for pairing with fish and shellfish.
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère grapes for this complex wine come from the Maule Valley in Chile's famous Central Valley. This wine is ideal to pair with red meats or mature cheeses.
Find out more about other wine producing countries: