Chile Wine Regions
Chile has been making wine ever since the Spanish settlers arrrived and started planting their vines. For years, Chilean wine was though to be of low quality and only suited to domestic consumption, and for most of the 20th century there were barely any wines being produced. The arrival of the 80s brought the recognition of Chilean wines, and Chile rocketed to the top of the wine lists, where it has stayed ever since.
Chilean wines are classified in three categories established in 1995 by the Ministry of Agriculture, which decided the country's viticultural zoning and set standards for its use. Wines are classified into "wines with designation of origin", "wines without designation of origin" and "table wines" produced with table grapes. Depending on its category, labels can have mentions to the area, type of grape used, year of harvest and the expression "Bottled in Origin".
Chilean Wine Regions
Chile is a long, narrow country, geographically and climatically ruled by the Andes mountain range to the east and the warm Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile's vineyards are found along an 800-mile stretch of land. The climate in Chile is very hot and dry in the north, and colder and wetter in the south; the proximity to the Andes creates a huge variation between daytime and nighttime which is vital for the acidity levels of the grapes. The premium Chilean wine regions are dependent on irrigation, and they get the necessary water from the snow melt of the Andes. The developing Chilean wine regions near the Coastal Ranges and in the far south have to deal with different climatic conditions, but they're planted in the valley plains and along mayor rivers to draw from the moisture these areas have.
Chilean wine region - Atacama
The Chilean wine region of Atacama is in the III Administrative Region and has two subareas: Copiapó Valley and Huasco Valley. This area mainly produces Pisco and tables grapes. Being the region most to the north, it has scarce water resources, but there are also benefits: as the first harvested crops of the year, they achieve higher prices in the market. The Atacama vineyards span 8000 hectares and produce 16% of all the table grapes in Chile.
Chilean wine region - Coquimbo
Coquimbo is the heart of the Chilean viticulture. Wines produced in this area have to have a 75% of grapes grown in this region. The Chilean wine region of Coquimbo is in the IV Administrative Region, and has three subareas: Elqui Valley, Limatí Valley and Choapa Valley. The majority of the grapes in the Coquimbo wine region are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Like the Atacama region, Coquimbo is known for it's production of Pisco and table grapes.
Chilean wine region - Aconcagua
The Chilean wine region of Aconcagua is in the V Administrative Region of Chile, and it has three subzones: Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley. Wines produced in the Aconcagua region must have at least a 75% of grapes grown in this area, which are mainly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Casablanca's growing seasons last up to a month longer than other regions, and they typically harvest in April. If you ever study Spanish in Chile during the harvesting season, you could apply for a working holiday and learn more about Chilean wines!
Chilean wine region - Valle Central (Central Valley)
The Chilean wine region of the Central Valley spans from the Chacabuco province to the Cauquenes and Linares provinces, in the VII Administrative Region. This is Chile's most productive and internationally known region, and the proximity to Santiago, the capital, is one of the reasons for this. It's also just across the Argentinian wine region of Mendoza. Wines from this region have to be produced with at least 75% of grapes from the area. Within the Central Valley wine region are four subregions:
- Valle del Maipo: This area is where most of the Chilean cellars are located. Some were founded back in the 19th century and still continue to produce wines. The vineyards in this area are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
- Valle del Rapel: This area is in the in the Colchagua Province, and better known for its Cabernet.
- Valle de Curicó: The climate in this area has a wide variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures. In the warmer areas they produce high quality Cabernet Sauvignon wines from vines over 100 years old. They mostly plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
- Valle del Maule: This area still has large plantings of the local Pais but is gradually being planted with better red wine varieties. It's the largest Chilean wine region, producing a large variety of wines. Some of the oldest plantations belong to the Carménère variety.
Chilean wine region - Southern Chile
The Chilean wine region of Southern Chile is located in the VIII Administrative Region, and it has two subregions: Itata Valley and Bío-Bío Valley. This region of Chile is popular for it's boxed and bulk wine, though the Concha y Toro Winery has experimented with the Gewürztraminer grape of this area. This area, being further to the south, has more rainfall, lower temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight that the northern regions
Find out more in the Wine Directory