With a blisteringly hot climate and endless beaches, Chile is a destination on many people’s must-travel lists. If you’re a wine fan who wants to experience Chile from home, consider stepping into the fascinating waters of Chile wines.
Due to Chile’s relatively new introduction to wine production, there’s a whole world of possibilities to be explored.
While the most commonly produced grape varieties in Chile were imported from Europe, the country’s unique terroir adds a unique flavor you literally can’t find elsewhere.
We’re going to dive deep into the wines of Chile, their complex history, and which brands you should consider trying on your wine journey.
History of Chile Wines
Before we get into Chile wines, let’s take a brief look at the distinction between Old World and New World wine regions.
Old World refers to countries with a long-standing history of winemaking, including (but not limited to) Italy, France, and Spain.
New World wines may be younger, but they’re no less compelling in their history and production.
Chile technically started growing wine grapes in the 16th century, with their reputation growing much more rapidly during the 19th century thanks to an increase in wine exports.
Chile’s wines are a lesson in the power of word-of-mouth, as this country produced a staggering $4.5 billion worth of wine in 2020.
What makes Chile wine so memorable? It could have something to do with the expertise brought by French and Spanish winegrowers. Likewise, the Chilean climate is well-suited to high yields due to its heat and consistent seasons.
What Red Wine is Chile Known For?
While you can find a slew of red wines grown in Chile, the most commonly planted red wine grapes are Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
You can also find significant amounts of Carmenère and Syrah, particularly in Maipo Valley.
Wine Regions of Chile
The next step on your journey of Chile wines is figuring out which region you want to try. Each region is distinctive for having unique terroir, a term that refers to the soil and climate where the grapes are grown.
Regions also bring with them their own history and approach to the wine-making process.
You don’t get much more prestigious than Maipo Valley. This famed wine region is located near Santiago, its vineyards dating all the way back to the 1500s.
Situated in Northern Chile, this region is well known for producing both commercial wines and brandy.
This spot is popular for tourists who want to visit vineyards up close and get a taste of local cuisines from traditionally-styled restaurants.
Located next to Elqui Valley, this comparatively smaller wine region is starting to grow a reputation as a peak spot for Cabernet Sauvignon production.
It’s impossible to discuss Chile wines without exploring the gorgeous Colchagua Valley. Not only does this region house several famous wineries, but this valley is also home to rare fossils.
If you’re a fan of Syrah, Aconcagua Valley is a brilliant example of this grape’s potential. The rich, rocky soil and high humidity create fat, healthy red wine grapes.
Wineries in Chile
Young is a relative adjective. While Chile is considered a New World wine region, it still has several centuries of history to browse.
We have a list of popular Chilean wineries for you to choose from:
What better place to start with Chilean wineries than with the very first winery? You read that right: Carmen has been around since 1850.
The Carmen wine portfolio is overflowing with awards granted by Wine Spectator, Decanter World Wine Awards, and Wine Enthusiast (just to name a few). Their wine production comes from famous regions such as Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley, as well as smaller sub-regions like Leyda Valley.
While most of their wines are of red grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, they also offer a Sauvignon Blanc.
Following close behind in sheer prestige is Viña Santa Carolina, a Chilean winery established in 1875. These winemakers pride themselves on offering consistently high-quality wines for an affordable price.
Even after experiencing setbacks like earthquakes and rebuilding, Viña Santa Carolina’s portfolio has ceaselessly turned heads for decades.
They were granted the coveted World’s Most Powerful Wine Brand (Top 9) back in 2021 for their red wine portfolio and continue to hit scores of 90 or higher in wine rankings.
If you’re eager to stock up your cabinet with award-winning wine without breaking the bank, put Viña Santa Carolina on your list.
Right in the middle of Casablanca Valley, this stunning tourist location comes with a varied portfolio of red and white wines.
This arts and culture center regularly hosts tours, weddings, and events for visitors who want to experience as much of Chile as possible.
One of the most unique aspects of this destination is its location in a somewhat colder climate than the rest of the country. These temperatures create red wines that skew toward more subtle baking spices notes and lighter bodies.
Estancia El Cuadro’s wine portfolio also comes in limited quantities, so order as soon as you can!
Wine is a sensory experience, from the complex aroma to the nuanced flavor profile. Clos Apalta Winery captures the magic of winemaking from the very moment you visit their site and start exploring their portfolio.
This family-owned winery fell head over heels in love with the breathtaking beauty of Apalta Valley, determined to share its beauty with the world. Their vineyards are protected by organic farming to preserve the soil and keep it viable for generations to come.
Their smaller wine portfolio is a testament to quality over quantity, offering their Clos Apalta and Le Petit Clos.
The Best Wines of Chile
Our best examples are drawn from the most characteristic traits of Chile wine, such as aromatic bouquets and mineralized aftertastes.
Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019
With a solid price and a popular red grape variety, the Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is an ideal starting point.
This full-bodied wine blooms with subtle character, offering characteristic red plum and blackcurrant notes with a high tannin count.
This wine stands strong as both a sipping wine and a pairing with red meat or mushroom-based dishes.
Gravas Rojas Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015
If you’re a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, you won’t want to miss Gravas Roja’s 2015 vintage. With a silky smooth mouthfeel and spiced cherry flavors, you’ll become an instant Chile wine fan.
Consider pairing this wine with a hearty soup, potato-based dish, or chicken platter.
Estancia El Cuadro Syrah Reserva – Edición Limitada
Syrah fans, we’ve got you covered! This wine is explicitly stated to have no filtering to keep its flavor intact, so make sure you don’t skip the decanting process before drinking.
Dark fruit and robust pepper are the dominant flavors of this striking bottle.
Lapostolle Clos Apalta, 2016
With over five years of age to its name, this Carmenère makes a solid statement about the power of Chile wine. It received a staggering 99 points out of 100 from famous wine critic James Suckling.
Expect a bouquet of dried flowers and dominant flavors of coffee, fruit, and spice. If you’re a fan of charcuterie, save your next platter for this impressive bottle.
Santa Carolina Reserva Cabernet, 2017
No need to break the bank. This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Carolina offers extraordinary value for its age and complexity.
Ripe and smooth, this wine will make your next casual dinner something truly special.
Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva
Blending Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, this bold red blend from Vistamar gives you the best of all worlds with each sip. This vintage comes straight from Maipo Valley, a location known for producing high-quality Syrah.
With a flavor profile ranging from mocha to blueberry, expect to save this bottle for a very special occasion. Consider pairing this wine with beef-based burgers, ravioli, or lasagna.
Santiago Station Sauvignon Blanc
Want to step outside red wines for a moment? Santiago Station’s Sauvignon Blanc is a smooth and refreshing example straight out of Chile’s Central Valley.
Expect to enjoy pear, lime, and lemon notes. If you like chicken or fish-based dishes, grab a few bottles and stock up.
Enjoying Your Chile Wine
What other ways can you truly stretch out the potential of your Chile wine? Like all wine, taking good care of your bottle and paying attention to the drink’s chemistry will enhance your experience.
Double Check the Age of Your Vintage
It’s a common misconception that all red wine ages well. The chemicals responsible for preserving and aging wine are high acidity and tannin counts.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Malbec are red wines famed for aging gracefully. Wines with lower acidity and tannins such as Merlot are best consumed at an earlier date. If you want to purchase wine that’s already been aged, seek out a Chile wine with the phrase Gran Reserva.
Gran Reserva wines have a minimum of five years of aging, split between both the oak casks and time spent in the bottle.
If You Want Softer Red Wines, Choose Coastal Regions
Are you sensitive to tart, bitter, or leathery wines? Consider purchasing Chilean red wines from one of their coastal regions such as Casablanca Valley.
Red wines grown in cooler, coastal regions tend to lean toward spiced flavor profiles, light-bodied, and lower alcohol content.
Try Decanting Your Wine Before Drinking
Make sure to tilt your wine upright the night before you drink it. This act will help the majority of the sediment float to the bottom.
When you’re ready to drink, pour your red wine into a decanter and wait for thirty minutes before drinking. If you don’t have a decanter, try a pint glass or a bowl for a similar effect.
Why Should I Try Chile Wines?
The wines of Chile boast a strength of character that isn’t soon forgotten. With so many dedicated winemakers and such an agreeable climate, you’re guaranteed to find a vintage that blows you away.
The oldest vineyards originated in the 16th century, though it would take another few centuries before Chile would reach global acclaim as a region.
Want to learn more about the world’s wine varieties? Check out our pieces on Bordeaux and Malbec wines!
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