Chile may seem like a newcomer to the world of wine, but its viticultural roots reach as far back in time as the arrival of the first Spanish conquerors. Chile’s unusual geography is certainly one of its many unique characteristics. Its northern limit is the Atacama Desert, whereas in the south it ends at the Patagonian glaciers. To the east is the great Andes Mountain Range, and to the west the Pacific Ocean. Each of these barriers allows for healthy agricultural processes, almost organic by nature. Chile’s long and narrow territory presents a great diversity of landscapes. These crossing ranges hold riverbeds that run in the same direction, which have formed, throughout millions of years, alluvial terraces that are especially valuable for growing vines. This mosaic of climates and terroirs explains the success of Chilean wines around the world. Here is a short primer on which grapes grown in Chile:
Characteristics of Chile’s Primary Red Wine Varieties
- Carmenere: Rich in berry fruits and spice, with smooth, well-rounded tannins, making this a very pleasing and easy to drink. Enjoy it with red meats, or take advantage of its natural fruity spiciness and serve it up with Indian or a Mexican.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon ranges in style from simple, fruity, friendly wines that are great for informal occasions such as picnics and casual cocktail hours.
- Merlot: Soft, fruity red that is extremely easy to drink, food friendly, and versatile.
- Syrah: Big, lush, and juicy. In cooler climates, they are sublimely spicy and complex.
- Malbec: Juicy fruit on the palate, its tannins are usually gentle and sweet. It has great body and a lush texture and is the ideal wine to go with grilled or stewed meats.
- Pinot Noir: Cool climate areas turn out exciting bottlings that range from simply charming to hauntingly seductive.
Characteristics of Chile’s Primary White Wine Varieties
- Sauvignon Blanc: Aromatic citrus fruits, green apple, crisp pear, with a refreshing green-grassy aroma and stony mineral edge, this is a wine to be sipped nicely chilled all summer long or paired with shrimp, white fish, salads, or blue cheese.
- Chardonnay: Smooth and well-rounded with moderate acidity and reminiscent of tropical fruits by nature, oak aging and even barrel fermenting adds complexity. Perfect for full-bodied fish and white meats.
- Riesling: Fuller body and more alcohol than its European forbears, it keeps its fresh and fruity-spicy character that makes it so appealing for a number of spicy cuisines.
- Viognier: Rich and aromatic with pronounced notes of apricot and peach, floral notes of orange blossom and honey. These medium- to full-bodied wines pair well with dishes that have some richness, such as lobster, crab, smoked fish, sea bass, chicken, duck, and pork.
Find a grape variety that you’re fond of and try a Chilean version. Please visit our knowledgeable staff in the wine department to chat about recommendations, we’d be happy to guide you through the shelves.