With Fall approaching the red wine drinkers start to get all excited! Cooler weather often equates to a nice big glass of red wine. So in our constant quest to help you find value, we traveled again. This time to Chile. The coastal country is making some great wines at amazing prices.
And here are five more things you need to know about Chilean wine and why you should be drinking more.
1. First, Some History.
Chilean wine production dates back more than 400 years. Spanish colonists realized the land was perfect for planting grapes and brought over the first vines.
The first grape they planted was the País, which basically is a table grape, and would be the Chile’s primary wine grape for the next 300 years. But then the Chileans got smart and brought home French vines to grow their favorite Bordeaux varieties.
But their wine industry hit a bunch of viticultural bumps along the way. They have thankfully worked through them and over the last 10 years that Chilean vines are back and better than ever.
2. Location, Location, Location.
Part of the reason the wines are so great is because of Chile’s location. The country is thin strip of land along the western coast of South America. The vineyards are surrounded and protected by the Andes mountains to the east, which is the longest continental mountain range in the world, and extends over the entire length of Chile.
The Pacific Ocean is to the left and the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world (yes, that is a thing), is to the north.
That diversity produces wines with unique flavor and quality.
3. Organic and Cheaper.
The best part is all that geography protects the vineyards from harmful bugs (the really bad ones are called Phylloxera) and disease. With that, the Chileans, for the most part, don’t have to use traditional pesticides and are mainly organic. And because Mother Nature does most of the work, labor costs are low and that translates into cheaper wine prices for us.
About 75% of wine-producing vineyards in Chile grow red grapes. The main varieties are: Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted and grows beautifully, their signature red grape is actually the Carmenère. It’s fruity, spicy and low in tannins.
(Back here at home, we are producing some great Vermouths. Read this from The Proof.)
4. Explore Their Pinot Noirs and Syrahs
There is a new era of Chilean viticulture happening. “Some of the most exciting Pinot Noir my team and I have tasted (outside of France) is from Chile,” says McMurray, who is hosting “The Great Wines of the Andes” with James Suckling, an event with over 100 Argentinian and Chilean wines if you happen to be in NYC Wednesday, September 28.
In addition, the coastal area of Casablanca (west of Santiago) has a cool, yet dry climate and diverse soils which is perfect for producing Syrah.
So walk down the Chile aisle the next time you’re at your favorite wine shop. You’ll probably spend around $20 and we bet you’ll find a new favorite.
3 Chilean Wines To Try
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Maipo Valley, Chile, $20
Aromas of ripe cherries and herbs, medium-bodied, balanced. 5% Cabernet Franc.
Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $17
Dried strawberries and raspberries. Full bodied. Let it air for a bit first.
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $10
Lemon, lime and peach aromas, medium bodied, crisp finish. Screw cap.