If the idea of spending a few days sipping on a myriad of great wines, hopping from one vineyard to the next in a permanent state of enjoyment sounds appealing, then this is the place for you!
Chile has remained slightly under the wine-lovers radar for long. Nonetheless, its splendid valleys boasting endless vine-covered hills and world-class wineries have begun to create a buzz amongst travellers in seek of a good glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or any other of the many strains produced here.
The Central Valley region of Chile includes a diverse array of valleys; all with superb and unique wine climates and rich soils. The closeness to the Pacific Ocean brings cool breezes and the Coastal Mountain Range shelters the area, while the base of the Andes provides some higher altitudes, creating a great diversity of terroirs. This is still sort of an untapped paradise for wine tourism, with a booming economy and vibrant culture that make it an outstanding destination. While there are many great options to visit within the region, let us tell you a bit more about our favorite ones.
The Maipo Valley
Only about an hour drive south from Santiago, the capital, this valley produces some of the most renowned wines. Some even call it the “South American Bordeaux”. It is nestled between the Coastal Mountain Range, isolating it from the Pacific breeze, and the Andes, that rise dramatically and separate the valley from the Argentine wine region of Mendoza. It is one of the oldest wine producing areas with a great sense of heritage and some of the biggest producers in Latin America (such as Concha y Toro), but also has some young innovative boutique wineries (such as Aquitania).
The most popular wine style in the Maipo Valley is its rich and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon, although they also produce Carmenère, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, among others. These can be tasted accompanied by some high-quality local food products, like chocolate, pates, breads and others.
Tours to the Maipo Valley are offered year-round. But, if you want the ultimate experience, you might want to aim for April, when the grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon are harvested. And, just in case you feel some sort of guilt for doing nothing but drink during your trip –which you really should not feel- there are hiking and rafting opportunities. And make sure not to miss the natural hot springs to unwind after all that hard work tasting wines!
The Colchagua Wine Trail
A bit further south, around a 3-hour drive away from Santiago, the Colchagua Valley is a flourishing viticulture destination, with one of the best organized wine routes: the Ruta del Vino de Colchagua. A bunch of boutique wineries welcome you by reservation only, although sometimes are also open for walk-ins. Some of the most famed winemakers have their vineyards here, experimenting with the varied terrain, from the foothills of the mountain range, to the coastal areas. Colchagua is most famous for its Carmenère and juicy red wines in general, also including Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This area is well known for its great hospitality and culture. Local owners complement wine tastings with local food and tours of their historical family-run wineries. And for those in seek of some more action, biking has recently emerged as a great way of exploring the Colchagua Valley, taking in some truly breathtaking landscapes between wine tastings.
Like at Maipo, the Colchagua Valley can be visited during any time of the year. Nonetheless, weather is better from October to May, plus you might get to catch some harvesting.
The Casablanca Valley
Much closer to the Pacific, the cooler climate and the great temperature variations make Casablanca splendid for some sorts of white wine, such as fruity crisp Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, as well as some reds like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. This region is very well organized and not only offers great wines, but also an array of local restaurants. Most wineries work on a reservation-only basis.
Casablanca is a younger wine region, but its very convenient location, half way between Santiago and the picturesque coastal town of Valparaiso, turn it into a great alternative for those travelers with only an extra day to spare. While you are there, you should definitely seize the chance and visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, both beautiful towns that should not be missed. If you go in summer (December-March), don’t forget to take your swimsuit, as you might feel a sudden urge to hit one of the many beautiful beaches along the way.
Tip: If you want to take home a bottle or two, look for the D.O. label (designation of origin) for unique high-quality wines.
Check out this tour to get you started on your Chilean wine adventure!