History of Wine in Chile

The production of Chilean wine has been taking place for centuries. Within the last decade, cheap prices and foreign influence have transformed Chile into one of the largest exporters in the world market.

In the early 90s it was this influence that curbed the European interest from Australian wines to Chilean wine with its unique flavors and affordability. The coastline of Chile extends over 2,000 miles of varying climates and geography. The harshness of the northern and southern environments leaves Chile with a small region in the Central Valley of arid and fertile valleys. The temperatures remain too warm in the center for successful wine growth however, the cool ocean air and height of the Andes shields the region from temperatures that would otherwise be too harsh. The region doesn’t receive much rain but irrigation from snow run off in the Andes provides the soil with water that is in perfect proportion to wine growth.

Chile’s environment and demand in the world market means that Chile produces internationally popular grapes in large proportion. Nearly half the grapes planted in Chile are Cabernets and other popular red varieties like Merlots are popular in the Valley’s sub regions. Chile is hailed for nearly saving the lineage of the red grape Carmenere. During the 19th century the infestation of phylloxera (an insect dangerous to grapes) killed off the European vines and those located in California. Until just recently the grape was considered extinct, but DNA testing in Chile determined many of the Merlot varieties produced were actually Carmenere. The flavor from the wine has a soft body and this red variety is usually blended with correctly identified Merlots. Chile’s cooler coastline regions are producing white varietals like Chardonnay and also Sauvignon Blanc.