Country Article

Chile

Last edited on 11/25/2012 by Eric
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Winemaking was first introduced to Chile by Spanish settlers in the 1500’s, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that much of the world had their first sips of Chilean wine. At this time, Chile began exporting its wine reserves after strict trade barriers were lifted that once prevented wines to be released from Chile. Since then, Chile has experience remarkable growth. In 1984, Chile’s total wine exports amounted to 2%, less than 30 years later they’re currently exporting 70% of their wines, making Chile responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s wine.

Chile is dominated by red wines, accounting for almost three quarters of their total production. The most prominent red wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, followed Merlot and, finally, Carmenere, the “lost grape of Bordeaux.” Chile has also received high praise for the production of wines made from Pinot Noir despite the fact the plantings of this grape are relatively small. Chile’s red wines are often blended into interesting cuvees that stray from the ordinary by incorporating a combination or all of the three main red varieties, as well as Petite Verdot, Syrah, and other grapes.

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the most prominent white grape varieties, but Chile also has a solid reputation for their Semillion, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and dry-styled Pedro Ximenez wines, among others.

Chile remains one of the few wine-producing regions that has not been devastated by phylloxera, the louse that destroyed much of the world’s vineyards in the 1800’s. Because of this, Chile has several vineyards that date back to upwards of 150 years. These old vines, mostly of Carignan and Mourvedre, produce concentrated, intriguing wines that are highly sought after.

Despite the lack of phylloxera, Chile has begun to experiment with various clones and rootstocks that will help better ward off other natural pests, such as nematodes, and naturally occurring problems such as drought. Chile continues to exercise strict regulation laws for importing rootstocks. Each vine imported into Chile must remain in isolation for 7 or more years to ensure all potentially harmful pests have been eliminated.

Historically, Chile has long been recognized as a place with great winemaking potential. Many of Europe’s prestigious winemaking families, such Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild opened wineries on the country’s soil. Other prestigious winemakers from other parts of the world such as Californian Winemaker Robert Mondavi and Catalan Winemaker, Miguel Torres did the same.

Chile’s geographical location and shape play an important role in its winemaking. Despite having nearly 9000 meters between the northernmost and southernmost winemaking areas of the country, larger variation of climate can be found from East to West. To the west, Chile is bordered by the Pacific Ocean which produces a cooling, west-sweeping wind known as the Humboldt Current. To the East, Chile is separated from Argentina by the Andes Mountains. The Andes play an important role – they protect Chile from outside pest, such as phylloxera, that have affected other parts of South America and they also play a role in the climate of the country.

As winemaking has progressed in Chile, there has been an increased focus on both the soil structure and the distinct micro-climate of each area. Extensive studies have been conducted to determine which varieties will best express themselves where. Many of Chile’s vineyards are organic, though a small proportion is certified as such. Many winemakers believe it is important to follow natural winemaking practices in order to achieve a natural-tasting wine. In addition to increased attention to vineyard practices, young, highly-trained Chilean winemakers are also making great strides in the winery. Many have been trained abroad in some of the best wineries and winemaking schools available and this knowledge in conjunction with state-of-the-art winemaking facilities has proved useful.

Here are a few key facts to know about Chile:
Chile has fourteen distinct valleys, they are:
o Elqui Valley
o Limari Valley
o Choapa Valley
o Aconcagua
o Casablanca
o San Antonio
o Maipo Valley
o Rapel Valley
o Cachapoal Valley
o Colchagua Valley
o Curico
o Maule Valley
o Itala Valley
o Bio Bio
o Malleco
Chile’s wine label laws live by the rule of 75% (must be 85% to be distributed in all export markets)
· 75% vintage
· 75% variety
· 75% Denomination of Origin
Wine classifications
· Quality wine: Min 11.5% ABV
· Reserva and/or Reserva Especial: 12%
· Reserva Privada and/or Gran Reserva: 12.5%
· Mandatory time spent in oak



*Maipo Valley*


Southwest of Santiago lies the Maipo Valley, arguably the most famous wine producing region in Chile and it is also one of the largest totaling over 10,000 hectares of area under vine. Though the Maipo Valley is not Chile’s oldest wine region, it is often referred to as the most traditional. Due to the areas proximity to Santiago, many of Chile’s oldest, largest, and most established wineries have found a home in the Maipo Valley including Concho y Toro, Cousino Macul, and Santa Rita.

In the Maipo Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates vine plantings – accounting for more than 50% of the wines produced, Merlot accounts for 10%. Overall, the Maipo Valley is a predominately red wine region and has an 85/15 split of red to white wines.

The Maipo Valley covers a large area of Chile spanning from the east of Santiago to the west of the Pacific Ocean. Within this area there are three sections, Alto Maipo, Central Maipo, and Coastal Maipo. Each offers its own, unique style of wine, highlighting the diversity that can be found within one area.

Alto Maipo: The Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alto Maipo is particularly noteworthy as the region boasts the ideal viticultural setting. The region’s microclimate is continental, partially because of the region’s altitude, reaching heights of 1,300-2,600 feet above sea level, and also because of the amount of sun exposure. The Andes Mountains have a great affect on the vines grown in the Alto Maipo not only because of their elevation, but because before the morning sun can reach the vines it must first rise above the Argentinean side of the mountain range. This area is known for its large, alluvial river stones, which are traditionally known for producing exquisite wines, and make no exception here producing the country’s finest Cabernets. Winds sweeping off the Pacific Ocean add to the cool temperatures of the region, but these factors, in turn, create a bold, elegant style of Cabernet Sauvignon that is highly sought after.

Central Maipo: This region is one of Chile’s oldest winemaking areas, and was the first of the Maipo Valley to be settled. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates vine plantings in Central Maipo, but the region’s Carmenere wines are also emerging and have received high praise in recent years. Central Maipo is the warmest of the three areas and it sees less rainfall than the Alto Maipo and Pacific Maipo, drip irrigation is needed. Vineyards are often planted along the Maipo River, an area that is known for its rocky, alluvial soils that the noble varieties, such as Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, historically enjoy.

Pacific Maipo: The Pacific Maipo is the youngest area of the Maipo Valley, and today there are still few vineyard plantings here. Grapes grown in this region benefit from the coastal influence of the Pacific Ocean and, here, we again find welcomed alluvial soils. Red wines from the Coastal Maipo have a refreshing, natural acidity from the influence of the Pacific Ocean. The vineyards in this area are often planted so that they are nestled between smaller, low-lying hills that rise between the Andes and the coast so that they are protected by the harsh winds from the ocean. Because of the region’s coastal influence, the Pacific Maipo is also the perfect place for experimentation with the country’s white varieties, most notably Sauvignon Blanc. One can expect to see increased exposure of the Pacific Maipo’s red and white varietals in the coming years.


*Casablanca Valley*

Casablanca Valley, Chile’s premier cool-climate coastal region, offers wine lovers an elegant style of wine that’s uniquely indicative of the area. Here, the focus is on varieties that thrive in cooler temperatures including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and a rising production of Syrah.

Casablanca is a relatively new region for wine production, as the first vines were planted just over 30 years ago in 1982 by Pablo Morande, the winemaking veteran from Concha y Toro. As a result, the region is just now coming into its own, eclipsing even the great strides it has already made. Recent soil analysis, experimentation of plantings on higher slopes, and a focus on matching the best varieties to the climate have given Casablanca an image of prestige and innovation that shows through in the wines.

In every sense of the term, Casablanca is a classic cool climate, coastal region – the average temperature in the summer is 25C (77F) which is significantly cooler than other parts of Chile. Adding to the region’s already cool temperatures, mornings in Casablanca are generally foggy from the mists that settled the evening before that don’t burn off until mid morning. The middle of the day can be quite hot, but this doesn’t last long as the cool breeze from the north-sweeping Humboldt Current blows away the heat by late afternoon.

The strong winds help to protect the grapes from the development of botrytis and other forms of mold because they help to dry off the vines from the morning mists. However, strong winds can also negatively affect fruit set and if the valley gets too cool, the vines are put at risk of frost. Fortunately, the valley’s relative distance from the ocean and hilly terroir protect it from the full force of the winds and help to deter any potentially negative impact.

Unlike other areas of Chile, Casablanca Valley has no rivers. This means the valley’s soil has not been affected by water erosion in hundreds of years. As a result, these ancient soils consist of layers of clay, sand, and decomposed granite that are easy for vine’s roots to penetrate.

Due to the absence of an active flowing river in Casablanca, however, vines must be irrigated and water must be pumped from nearby wells to ensure they receive enough to produce adequate fruit. On the positive side, this lack of water acts as a natural controller of yield which helps to concentrate flavor in the wines.

Since the establishment of the area as a winemaking region by Morande, many other prestigious wineries have opened their doors in Casablanca including Santa Rita, Casas del Bosque, Morande, Kingston Family Estates, Veramonte, William Cole, Indomite, Vinomar, Casablanca,and Quintay. Casablanca is also a place from which many wineries outside of the region source fruit, particularly when they are focusing on the addition of a cool climate wine to their portfolio.

When is comes to cool-climate wines from Chile, the Casablanca Valley is top-tier. The region already produces fantastic wines made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and more whose value, like so many other wines of Chile, far exceed their price points. Still, as the valley continues to push the limits, it is evident that Casablanca Valley will continue to raise the bar of quality wine.


*Colchagua & Cachapoal*

Nestled in the center of the Central Valley are two valleys Colchagua and Cachapoal, that, together, make up the Rapel Valley.. While neither currently holds a legal classification, each had made a name for itself as its own entity boasting unique terroir.

The valleys are similar in latitude, but Cachapoal is slightly more northern. The region is known for its red wines that make up 80% of production. The star varieties of the region are Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, but Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Syrah are also produced here. Styles are quite diverse due to the variation of soils and climactic influences of the region bordered by the soaring Andes to the East.

Cachapoal has generally warm summer days and summer nights though the climate grows cooler in vineyards higher in the Andes foothills. Soils in Cachapoal are made up of well draining alluvial soils with additions of clay and gravel which are perfect for growing the Bordeaux varieties.

Within the Cachapoal Valley, there are further designated regions, including Peumo, Rancagua, Reguinoa, and Rengo. The cooler areas in the Alto Cachapoal are known for elegant styles of Cabernet Sauvignon while Peumo is home to some of Chile’s best Carmenere wines.

Focus on Peumo: Peumo is a distinct micro-climate in the Cachapoal Valley located near the Coastal Mountain range of Chile. Here, the cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean and maritime soils create a prized, full-bodied, fruit-forward style of Carmenere that is highly sought after.

The Eastern, more southern region of the Rapel Valley, Colchagua, lies closer to the coastal range and the sea. It is largely recognized as the more traditional wine-growing region of the two and is one of the best-known in Chile. This region offers big red wines, 90% of the region’s plantings, made from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and old vine Malbec. Climates in Colchagua vary, ranging from the Andes foothills to the cooler areas of Marchigue and Lolol which are closer to the Pacific Ocean.

There is a large range of soils here from fertile alluvial soils on the valley floor to sand and decomposed granite on the hillsides; in the west, schist, volcanic sands, and slate can also be found. Some of Chile’s top wineries are located in the Colchagua Valley and take great advantage of the hilly terrain to achieve optimum ripeness. Micro-areas such as Apalta, where Lapostelle’s Clos Apalta and Montes’ Alpha ‘M’ can be found, San Fernando, and Chimbarango offer more significant diurnal differences which help to bring out the character of the wines. Other areas of the region include Nancagua, Santa Cruz, Palmilla, and Peraillo.

Focus on the Central Coast: Colchagua’s coastal area is one of the up-and-coming areas for cool climate varietals. Despite plantings began here less than ten years ago, they are already producing fantastic examples of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The area features soils that are a mix of sand and clay typical of the Coastal Mountains that provide good drainage and are easily permeable so vines can dig deep down.

*San Antonio/Leyda*

San Antonio/Leyda

The area of San Antonio was once primarily a shipping port known for its seafood, not produce, but in recent years, the valley has made itself known as one of Chile’s most expressive cool climate wine regions.

Until 1998, it was believed that there was no available water source for irrigation. However, once a source was discovered in the Leyda sector of San Antonio, there was no looking back. The valley’s first vintage wine, a Pinot Noir, was released in 2001 and the area was officially named a quality wine region just ten years ago in 2002.

San Antonio Valley is further divided into sectors Leyda, Lo Abarca, Rosario, Malvilla, Cartegena, and Lleoleo. Of these Leyda is the best known, largely due to the source of irrigation, and its name has become almost synonymous with San Antonio.

Its proximity to the ocean and thin, rocky soils comprised of decomposed granite and red clay offer perfect growing conditions for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, and more recently Syrah. San Antonio also grows small plantings of Riesling and Gewurztraminer which are not common in the rest of Chile, but show great potential in this area.

San Antonio has the coolest climate of all the coastal regions in Chile and has several plantings within site of the ocean at just 5km inland. This contributes to the region’s signature style of crisp, mineral driven white wines and concentrated red wines both of which boast high levels of acidity and strong aromatic components. Unfortunately, this does not come without risk. Because of San Antonio’s proximity to the ocean, the area is known for high winds, fog, and humidity. As a result, the area is more susceptible to frost and rot than other areas. Conversely, the wind, fog, and mist play an important part in keeping the grapes cool which is important for the development of the defining character found in the wines of San Antonio.

Within the San Antonio valley, there are four main wineries including Matetic, Casa Marin, Amaral, Leyda, and Amayna and two main vineyard sites for Leyda and Amayna wineries. These wineries are largely responsible for the production of some of Chile’s finest cool-climate varietal wines. However, many other wineries source fruit from the region and this is becoming increasingly popular.

Despite the fact the valley’s winemaking culture is still largely in its infancy, the wines of San Antonio Valley have captured the hearts and palates of even the toughest wine critics. Their elegance and finesse for which the region’s top varieties are known are further enhanced by the influence of the unique terroir resulting in an expression that is distinctly Chilean.


Maule Valey

Maule is Chile’s largest winegrowing region, with over 31 thousand hectares under vine, and is also one of country’s oldest and most diverse valleys. As new traditions mix with the old, it is common to see vineyards full of old bush vines that were once Pais, the mission grape of Chile, revamped by more boutique wineries either by grafting new varieties onto the old rootstocks or by replanting new varieties in the vineyards.

Being so large, the region offers distinctive microclimates for both red and white wines, though it is best known for its powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and aromatic and spicy Carmenere wines. Overall, the soils are rich, volcanic soils, though certain areas of the valley have varying soil types. For example the area of Empedrado is dominated by slate soils.

The Maule Valley is dry and sunny and has a low annual rainfall of 28 inches, but the nights can be very cool. As a result, the grapes have a long growing season which allows for optimum ripening. Maule’s climate is not influenced by the Pacific Ocean, but the region relies heavily upon another body of water, the Maule River. It runs north-south throughout the valley from Laguna del Maule near Argentina to the Pacific Ocean; most of the vineyards in Maule are planted along its banks and it also adds to the varying microclimates found throughout the region.

Despite having a long winemaking history, the Maule valley is still very much developing and has seen many innovations in winemaking in just the past few years thanks to new technologies and technologically advanced analysis of the areas soils. This, combined with the resurgence of traditional techniques such as dry-farming and the use of old vine Carignan, have vastly improved the quality of the wines produced in the Maule Valley.

Along with this, Vigno, a specialty group focused on the production of old vine Carignan, developed amongst the vintners to control quality and provide a support system for one another. Despite being just a few couple years old, they have already made international headlines.

Within Maule there are five subzones: Talca, San Clemente, San Javier, Parral, Linares, and Cauquenes, each of which offers something unique. Talca is home to the University of Talca which is famed for its prestigious viticultural department. Cauquenes is the area of Maule bestknown for dry-farmed, bush vines primarily of Carignan resulting in concentrated, flavorful wines.

There are many wineries in Maule, but of particular note are O. Fournier, Gillmore, J. Bouchon, Calina, Via Wine Group, Hugo Casanova, and Carta Vieja.

Despite the face Maule is one of the oldest regions in Chile, it is very is still developing and is just beginning to showcase its full potential. . Traditionally, the region was once known for its production o f bulk wines, but as is evidenced by the past few years, high education levels, and use of innovative techniques, both new and traditional, have allowed Maule to showcase its true potential.

Elqui & Limari Valleys

Reaching far to the north of Chile are the Limari and Elqui Valleys whose climate, despite being so close to the equator, are classified as cool climate growing areas.

Limari Valley, though considered a generally new region, has a winemaking history dating back to the 16th century. What makes this a “new” region, however, is the innovation and technology combined with exploration of new microterroirs that have shown new light on the region’s potential.

The Limari Valley is greatly affected by the morning fog that is caused by the Pacific Ocean which cools in the morning, but clears as the afternoon’s hot sun rises. The region is very dry – less than 4 inches of rain annually – but irrigation has made vine growing possible here. The lack of water, however, encourages the vines to dig deep into the soils and, in turn, there is a pronounced effect of minerality found in the wines. The variation in soils consisting of clay, silt, and chalk allow for expressive cool-climate wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah to flourish here. Limari is further divided into four areas Ovalle, Monte Patria, Punitaqui, and Rio Hurtado.

Stretching further to the north is the Elqui Valley located just south of the Atacama Dessert. Traditionally, the Elqui Valley was best known for the production of Pisco, but in recent years winegrowers have explored outer parts of the region such as along the coast and atop the Andes Mountains which are cooled by the winds from the Pacific Ocean. What they’ve found is that the region is ideal for planting cool-climate grapes such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of growing interest, however, is the region’s dry Pedro Ximinez wines which have been shown great interest by exploratory sommeliers. Within the Elqui Valley there are two sub-regions: Vicuna and Paiguano.

Like the Limari Valley, Eliqui’s rainfall is very low here at just 2.8 inches per year, but the rocky terrain allow vines to dig deep into the clay, silt, and chalk soils. Apart from wine production, Elqui is well-known for its clear skies and it has long-been a destination for astronomers and star gazers alike.

The exploration of new regions in Chile has allowed for the increasing production of cool-climate wines which offer lower alcohol and showcase more of the grape’s and region’s character. Despite both regions remaining relatively small to this day, there has been increasing interest from wineries throughout the country; these Valleys are definitely two to watch.


Aconcagua Valley

To the north of Santiago is the Aconcagua Valley, a small winegrowing area of just 1,098 hectares best-known for its production of red wines. In fact, Aconcagua has earned international prestige as one of Chile’s highest regarded wines. In 2004, Vina Errázuriz’s “Seña”, an iconic Bordeaux-style blend and one of the premier reds of Chile, placed ahead of both Château Lafite and Château Margaux in the Berlin Tasting, a milestone for the Chilean wine industry likened to the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris.

Aconcagua experiences a Mediterranean climate with 8.5 inches of annual rainfall and boast variety of soils dominated by clay and sand in the east and granite and clay in the west. The area is also home to the America’s highest point, Mt. Aconcagua. At 22,828 feet, the snowcapped mountain provides adequate water to the vines below.

The valley also runs along the river that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes and experiences significant diurnal differences (warm days followed by cool nights). Its warmest area is in the center of the valley, though leaning more toward the Eastern side, but at either end natural factors help to regulate temperature. In the east, the temperature is influenced by higher altitudes combined with sweeping winds while to the west the area is kept cool by the cool breezes generated by the coastal Humboldt Current. It is here, in the west, that some winemakers have begun to explore the growth of cool climate whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, but for now Aconcagua remains best-known for its ripe, fruit-forward reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere.

Within the area of Aconcagua, there is one particular growing area, Panquehue, which is home to the famous Vina Errázuriz, which is over a century old, and offers a more moderate climate for grape growing adding to the grape’s ability to retain its natural acidity with a slightly longer growing season.

Aconcagua, though small, is well-recognized as one of Chile’s premier regions for wine-growing with a prominent past helping to set the wines of Chile on the map. As more producers explore the area and the vine growing area expands, Aconcagua is expected to shine for many years to come.


Curico & Itata Valleys


The Itata and Curico Valleys are, in general, two of the lesser-known valleys of the country, but it is within these areas that one will find some of the greatest history and diversity.

Nestled between the Bío Bío and Maule Valleys one will find the Itata Valley, one of the oldest wine growing regions in Chile. Complementing its history, however, it boasts a strong balance of both the old and the new.

The classic varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot dominate across the valley’s alluvial, clay, and sand soils. Interestingly, however, Itata is also home to several hectares of Carignan and Semillon which are making waves in the US especially among exploratory sommeliers. The area is relatively small with just over 630 hectares under vine, but despite its small plantings there is great diversity in the area.

Throughout Itata one will find a healthy amount of ancient bush vines, most of which are dry-farmed and quite small, but alongside these plantings there are also vineyards dominated by newly planted, vertically positioned vines. This combination allows for great potential for exploration.

To the north of Itata, but just 200km South of Santiago, is the Curico Valley, a large, diverse valley with 1,484 hectares under vine. Over 30 different grape varieties can be found here, but most notably are Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

The valley’s modern history begins in the 1970’s when Miguel Torres first explored the area and introduced the first stainless steel tank to Chile. This encouraged a flurry of foreign investment which led to increased plantings and exploration of suitable grape varieties for the area. Curico boasts a Mediterranean climate, though it is shielded from the ocean’s influence by Chile’s coastal range.

Because of this, the conditions on the valley floor and on the Andes Mountains play an important role as the plantings are spread across these areas. Soils are composed of clay, sand, and decomposed granite which, combined with the climate, make it an ideal region for Sauvignon Blanc and powerful red wines.

The Itata and Curico Valleys of Chile are representative of the diversity and terroir-driven exploration that is the hallmark of Chile’s evolving wine industry. Within each valley one will find a different representation of the innovation and openness to new ideas which only adds to the country’s intrigue.

Choapa

The Choapa Valley though small with only 96 hectares under vine is a wine region that’s gaining in notoriety.

This northern area is in the narrowest part of Chile where the Andes meet the coastal range. The valley itself is further divided into two areas: Illapel and Salamanca which are known for their rocky soils with a base of clay, silt, and chalk.

The desert-like climate receives just 4.5 inches of rain per year, but it’s perfect for the region’s vineyards which are dominated by the production of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Choapa River, which flows from the Andes Mountains through the region to the Pacific Ocean, also helps to create a unique microclimate for the area. As a result, the wines are of high-quality with high acidity and low pH.

To date, there are no resident wineries in the area, but there are is an increased focus on the area by several producers. De Martino’s Syrah Legado comes from a 325m vineyard planted near Salamanca, Chile’s fabled center of witchcraft. It’s the only wine produced in Chile with this D.O.

Nevertheless, despite Choapa Valley’s its small size, this unique, northern-located area is making a name for itself with high quality reds worth seeking out.


Malleco & Bio Bio

Over the past twenty years, Chilean wineries and winemakers have been discovering new and interesting terroir and microclimates. Among these areas are the two of the most Southern-reaching areas of Chile, the Malleco and Bío Bío Valleys.

Innovative winemakers are pioneering the discovery of which wine varieties and styles adapt best to the region, In each valley they have been making strides exhibiting just how their individual microclimates can generate wines which uniquely express the terroir.

Today, innovative winemakers are focusing on the exploration of the unique microclimates of each region. Through their research, they have discovered which grapes work best in the region and also how the wines portray stylistic expression.

The larger of the two, and more popular, Bío Bío,(pronounced BEE-o Bee-o), has just 446 hectares under vine . Here Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have recently stolen the spotlight and are the wines to watch from this region.

Their extreme southern position gives them warm days and more daylight than their northern counterparts. Their moderate Mediterranean climate provides them with the ideal combination of with warm days and cold nights Theses southern regions receive more daylight than the northern regions, though once the sun sets the nights are cool. This moderate Mediterranean climate allows for a lengthy ripening season. The Coastal Mountain range blocks Bío Bío from the influence of the ocean, though the region is still known for high rainfall and strong winds. This can make the regions’ growing conditions somewhat challenging for grape growers, but skillful winemakers have embraced this opportunity and shown success.

The climate conditions in Bío Bío are similar to those in northern France. Add to that the soils made up of alluvial matter, clay and sand and it’s a recipe for success. The results are lower-alcohol wines with bright acidity giving way to a more mineral expression in contrast with some of their fruit-forward counterparts from other regions.

To the south of Bío Bío lies the Malleco Valley (pronounced mah-YAY-ko), In fact, Malleco is one of the southernmost wine producing regions in the world nearly bordering Patagonia! It is an area that is still in its adolescence and is still in the process of understanding its potential.. Like Bío Bío, Malleco has a Mediterranean climate and the area has a range of soils including alluvial matter, clay, and sand despite having only 11 hectares under vine. Exceptional wines have been produced from Chardonnay and exploration with Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc has also exhibited promising results.

Although the Malleco and Bío Bío Valleys are still developing, they have shown great promise. Of all the varieties produced in these valleys, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have shown the most promise, primarily due to the cool climate conditions in which these grapes thrive. Looking forward, as the area’s gain more interest from wineries around the country we will discover their true potential.
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