Chilean Wine: A Profile of Chilean Wine History, Varietals, Producers & More


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Aconcagua is named for the mountain of the same name, which soars to 22,828 feet and whose snow pack provides water for the vineyards.  Casablanca, known for its cool-climate wines, is one of the newer wine sub-regions in Chile; the area was not planted until the wine industry revival of the 1980s.  San Antonio and its four zones also produce cool-climate wines.

  • Aconcagua
  • Casablanca
  • San Antonio (Zones: Leyda, Lo Abarca, Rosario and Malvilla)

Central Valley

Chile's most famous wine region is the heart of the country's wine industry.  Maipo's cabernet sauvignons are well-regarded.  Rapel's two zones, Cachapoal and Colchagua, are known for their cabernet sauvignons, carmenères and other red varietals and blends.  Curicó, one of the areas affected by the February 2010 earthquake, is known for white wines as well as reds.  Maule, Chile's oldest wine area as well as its largest sub-zone, is revitalizing itself with plantings of traditional and newer varietals.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.
  • Maipo (Divided into Alto Maipo, Central Maipo and Pacific Maipo)
  • Rapel (Zones: Cachapoal and Colchagua)
  • Curicó
  • Maule

Southern Regions

Chile's southernmost wine region also took damage during the February 2010 earthquake.  In Itata, many growers plant moscatel de alejandría.  The same holds true for Bío Bío, although here innovative growers have brought nontraditional wine grape varieties, such as gewürtztraminer and pinot noir, to their vineyards.  Malleco is still a small sub-region, in terms of acres planted, but local producers' chardonnays and pinot noirs are attracting favorable attention.

  • Itata
  • Bío Bío
  • Malleco

Chilean Wine Grape Varieties

Chile is best known for its cabernet sauvignons, merlots and sauvignon blancs.  Only about 25 percent of Chilean vineyards are planted in white wine grapes.  Sauvignon blanc predominates, followed by chardonnay, sémillon, moscatel de alejandría and riesling.  You will also find vineyards planted in chenin blanc and gewürtztraminer.

The remaining 75 percent of Chilean vineyards are planted in red wine grapes, mainly cabernet sauvignon, país (mission) and merlot.  Carmenère, Chile's rising star, is gaining in popularity.  Some growers are planting syrah, pinot noir and cabernet franc.

Growers in Chile have been spared the ravages of phylloxera; Chile has managed to keep the louse out of its vineyards by aggressively regulating the movement of plant materials across its borders.  Scientists have done research on Chilean grapes, using DNA analysis to determine which varieties have been planted there.  In the early 1990s, French scientists identified a Chilean grape previously thought to be merlot as carmenère, a variety that was thought to be extinct.  Carmenère vines were brought to Chile and planted before phylloxera obliterated the variety from French vineyards.