Chile is a viticultural paradise and one of the few countries in the world to be spared from the grape aphid phylloxera – a small green sap eating insect that feeds on grape roots and in the mid 1800’s decimated the vineyards of Europe. Chile is a narrow strip of a country 2695 miles long, yet no wider than 110 miles on average. Its land mass, narrow as it is, lies between the Andes Mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The best Chilean grape varieties are mainly pre phylloxera imported French rootstocks, and include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, and Carménère – a grape variety that traces its roots to France. It was brought to Chile and later became extinct in France because of phylloxera, but found its new home in Chile, masquerading as Merlot. In 1994 after DNA research, it was indeed identified as Carménère, and is now regarded as Chile’s signature grape.
Chile has made significant strides in the past several years in the establishment of a wine trail. The visitor to Chile can go to many wineries and tour beautiful facilities, be educated about wine, taste it and have a spectacular meal in winery restaurants. Many Chilean wineries now offer these amenities. One of the most important changes in the Chilean wine scene in recent years has resulted from the search for new areas for planting grapes outside of the central valley, and recognition of the many east-west valleys, proliferating Chilean landscape. Micro climates and micro soils in these valleys attract a new breed of Chilean winemaker, dedicated to matching these valleys and grapes and raising the quality profile of Chilean wines. Be on the lookout of Pinot Noirs and Viogniers from these areas!