A mammoth wine-growing region just 100 miles (160 km) south of Santiago, over 1,700 vineyards have set up shop in the Colchagua Valley thanks to its warm, breezy and dry growing conditions. Much like vineyards in the similar climate of Napa Valley in California, it’s the warm weather reds that do best here – most notably Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The best vineyard to visit is Montes while the 2010 Clos Apalta is definitely worth a try.
Vina Montes, I-350, Santa Cruz, VI Región, Chile +56 72 260 5195
Just a short drive from Colchagua is the much smaller Cachapoal Valley. Similar in climate, it also focuses on reds which constitute 90% of the grapes grown in the region. Because it is closer to the Andes and therefore has more temperature variation and lower soil quality, Cachapoal tends to produce better premium wines, particularly its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Some great vineyards to visit are Valle Secreto and Torreon de Paredes, but those with the cash to splash should check-in to the incredible Viña Vik hotel and vineyard and try their sublime 2011 Bordeaux Blend.
One of Chile’s most famous regions, wine has been produced in Maipo since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. French Bordeaux varieties were imported more recently in the 19th century which proved to be the perfect match for the temperate climate. These days, Maipo is almost entirely dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon with the locally produced Don Melchor by Concha y Toro considered among the best in the country. Check out the Concha y Toro vineyard which is just a short drive from Santiago and doable as a half-day tour.
West of Santiago towards the Pacific Ocean lies the Casablanca Valley, the cream of the crop of the modern Chilean wine-growing regions. Established as recently as the 1980s, the valley’s salty air, cool breeze and heavy fog make it ideal for growing coastal whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Cool climate reds such as Pinot Noir and Syrah also do well a little higher up in the valley. The best vineyard to visit is Veramonte while a great local drop to try is the Matetic 2013 Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc.
Veramonte, km 66, Ruta 68, Casablanca, Región de Valparaíso, Chile +56 32 232 9999
Chile’s largest wine-growing region in terms of hectares, Maule Valley also hosts the most southern major vineyards. Because Maule is so huge, it has numerous different micro climates that produce all kinds of grapes, both red and white. Its warm climate with minimal ocean or Andean influence is perfect for growing basic entry level vino, a fact that sees it produce much of the country’s cheap table wine. Although Maule is more about quantity than quality, the Calina Chardonnay Reserva (2008) is definitely worth a try. Viña Calina is the best vineyard to visit in the region.
Heading north of Santiago now, Aconcagua is named after the America’s largest mountain which can be seen towering menacingly in the distance. The region typically has hot summers and mild winters, with the lower, warmer areas receiving very little rainfall and producing fine reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The best vineyard to check out is the Errazuriz Winery.
A relatively small region northwest of Santiago and not far from the Pacific Ocean, Limari Valley has a hot and dry climate which benefits from strong ocean breezes and cool morning fog. As is typical in such as climate, it’s whites such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that do best, although the Syrah isn’t bad either. A number of big name wineries have bought land in the region, the best of which to visit is San Pedro.
The Elqui Valley is famous for being the country’s premier pisco growing region, a beloved distilled grape spirit which is the cause of never-ending squabbles between Chile and Peru. As the most northern of Chile’s wine growing regions, the climate here sees hot sunny days and cold nights with very little rainfall year round. Carménère and Syrah grow best in the rocky permeable soil and the most interesting vineyard to visit is Cavas del Valle, although touring a pisco factory is an interesting alternative.