Situated between the Andes and Coastal Mountain Ranges, Chile’s central region is crisscrossed by rivers that form fertile valleys. Over the years, their inhabitants have applied a combination of modern technology and local knowledge to get the most out of the area’s topography and climate in order to create a wide range of top-quality wines.
Are the winds coming from the sea or the mountains? How much sun are the hillside vines getting? How much rain is there? Properly navigating these variables allows for the production of some very special wines that reflect the unique characteristics of their place of origin. It’s these unique conditions that have earned Chile renown as one of the top New World wine exporters.
Varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are stand-outs in Chile’s vineyards, and their flavors vary subtly depending on the latitude at which they’re grown. A visit to the country’s wineries and vineyards gives you a chance to experience the aromas, flavors and bodies of exquisite wines in the company of expert guides and/or sommeliers. Marvel at the grandeur of the vineyards, sample wine in underground cellars, and explore the old manor houses.
A TOUR THROUGH VALLE CENTRAL (CENTRAL VALLEY)
There are eleven valleys in Chile, which are located coincidentally in the most important agricultural regions of the country, where touristic attractions are abundant and are equipped with the necessary infrastructure to receive tourists.
From North to South we find Valle de Elqui (Elqui Valley) –Coquimbo Region. It is characterized for its magnetism and mysticism. It is the land of the poet Gabriela Mistral. This area has a semi-arid climate, and it is the perfect scene for the production of wines such as Carmenére.
The journey continues through Valle de Limarí (Limarí Valley), located in the same region. Close to the coast it has a fresh climate, and 60 kilometres away from the sea it has a mild climate, which creates different types of wines, especially different kinds of red wines due to the maturation time to which they can be exposed, mainly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet.
In the middle of the Valparaíso Region -a site declared World Heritage- Valle de Aconcagua (Aconcagua Valley) preserves vineyards that date back to 1870. Its fruit is processed for the extraction of sweet wine using machinery from the same period. This is a relic that attracts visitors even more. One of the varieties that stand out the most is Syrah, which became the emblem of the place.
In the same region, but a few kilometers south, we find Valle de Casablanca (Casablanca Valley), where 90% of the total planted surface corresponds to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot vines. Finally arriving at the Valle San Antonio (San Antonio Valley) region, which is surrounded by the Chilean Coastal Range hills.
Following the trip, in the Metropolitan Region, away from all urbanization, Valle de Maipo (Maipo Valley) is one of the areas with the longest wine tradition in the country. It was in this place where the first vineyards favoured by climate and excellent soil were founded, between the Andes Mountain Range and the Chilean Coastal Range. The finest wines of the country are made here, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon variety of vine, which outstands with its intense colour, and its delicate and fruity aroma.
Then we find Valle Colchagua (Colchagua Valley), which was the first to develop the concept of the Wine Route to increase wine tourism. It is a narrow valley that extends from the foothills of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. Vineyards are located on mountain slopes which have warm microclimates and are bathed in abundant water from the Tinguiririca and the Colchagua Rivers. Thesw conditions provide excellent red varieties of vine, from which Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carmenére and Malbec stand out.
A little further south, we find Valle Curicú (Curicó Valley), where, as in Aconcagua Valley, there are vineyards dating back to the beginning of the 1800s. Currently, it is in second place as regards wine production. It has a planted area of 17 thousand hectares, where mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are produced.
Then we find Valle del Maule (Maule Valley), which is the one with most planted hectares. It extends along the Andes Mountain Range and the Chilean Coastal Range. This place was first sowed during colonial times (17th Century) as other valleys, when Spanish colonizers introduced variety of vine Country, and that is why it has an old cultivation tradition. Vineyards mainly have Carmenére vine plantations, despite the fact that a plague destroyed it for some time.
Finally, Valle de Itata (Itata Valley) is the last one to the south of Chile. It is close to the sea so it allows its vineyards to have a sea view, and be of a low altitude, which is ideal for the production of vines of white wine. Vineyards in valleys produce lots of the plantations of Country wine, Muscat of Alexandria, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The Aconcagua, Casablanca, San Antonio-Leyda, Maipo, Cachapoal, Curicó, Colchagua and Maule Valleys form part of this highly pleasurable circuit. Wine may not be the only reason for your visit, but it does provide a wonderful reason to discover the hotels, horseback routes, bike tours, museums and other attractions that make a visit to these valleys an unforgettable experience.
It is in Colchagua and Casablanca valleys where the Roads of Wine itinerary features the best facilities and services. An example of this is the Colchagua Museum exhibiting more than 5,000 items or The House of Spirits where more than 20 different kinds of spirits are made.
In Chile’s wine route it is possible to find vineyards such as Concha y Toro, Errázuriz, Cousiño Macul, and Undurraga. All of them are located among the different Chilean valleys, where the privileged climate and soil have allowed them to produce excellent export quality wines.
In Colchaga Valley, Santa Cruz has become the Chilean wine-making capital. Chile’s traditional Harvest Festival is held in Colchagua and the Wine Train runs along its vineyards from the city of San Bernardo to the city of Santa Cruz. This 1 ½- hour trip includes tasting a selection of white and red wines with fine cheese made in the area. The trip also features live folklore music, and narrations by a bilingual guide.
WHITE WINE COUNTRY
Just 80 km from Santiago and 41 km from Valparaíso, the Casablanca Valley is yet another “transversal valley” that cuts across Central Chile from the mountains to the sea. It owes its name to Santa Bárbara de Casablanca, wife of the Spanish monarch Fernando VII.
The lack of water here led to the construction of dams and reservoirs, which breathed new life into the region. Today Casablanca is one of Chile’s major winegrowing valleys for white varieties and has a well developed wine tourism industry. If you want to enjoy a glass of fine white wine, just visit one of the dozens of wineries dotted around the Casablanca landscape.