Chile: Wine Travel
Chile is remarkably easy to explore, and there are few places on earth where your two points of direction are an ocean and a mountain range, both easily reached within the same day. You will find a wonderful variety of terrain to discover from the Pacific Coast to the Andes Mountains. Whether you have an interest in historical sights and colonial architecture, or you prefer stunning natural beauty, Chile has something for you.
Chile is known for the Carménère grape variety, but you will find so much more beyond this traditional varietal. The wine quality really is sky high, and yet a bottle is a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world. Lucky for us most wineries in Chile export 90% of their wines as the nation has yet to acquire a true wine culture. You will need to make appointments at the wineries in advance for touring and tasting.
Flying into Santiago, and using as a home base, you’ll be able to day trip to the Casablanca and Maipo wine regions. Santiago is a city of contrasts; from tall windowed skyscrapers to colonial houses to big Christian churches dating back five centuries. A modern city designed with a large number of beautiful parks filled with artwork and sculptures. The Bellavista area has a lovely atmosphere with plenty of bars and restaurants and a nightlife that spills out into the streets. On hip José Victorino Lastarria Street, there are dozens of restaurants, and Bocanáriz is a well-established wine bar that serves hundreds of Chilean wines. Try a tasting sampler to get you started in your Chilean wine exploration and learn how to tell a Carignan from a Carménère.
The Casablanca Valley is closer to the coast and produces some of Chile's best white wines like Sauvignon Blanc's that are zesty and mineral to crisp Chardonnay's. This area boasts a large number of modern cellars with the highest winemaking technology as well as many boutique wineries. On one spectrum is Casas del Bosque a modern facility where you could enjoy a nice lunch with a pairing of their wines. The other spectrum is Bodegas Re, a boutique family-run winery using clay vessels to ferment their wines and experimenting with some unique blends. If your thinking Rosé, try their Pinotel 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Muscatel; refreshing and not too sweet. For a different red, try their Cabergnan 90% Cabernet, 10% Carignan.
South of Santiago is the Maipo region here you will find some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon being produced. A visit to the Santa Rita winery will allow you to experience the geographic diversity in terroirs from their wide range of vineyards planted around Chile.
To truly experience the heart of Chile's winemaking you should rent a car and travel a few hours south to the Colchagua region. Nestled between two mountain ranges, it is a lovely setting, and the climate is ideal for wine production. You will be amazed by the winery architecture, the history of the area, and of course the beautiful surroundings. A must visit winery is Lapostolle delivering a stunning setting with views of the valley and the Andes. The winery architecture is superb, it fits the design into the hillside and what appears as a modern marvel is functional wine production. Their Clos Apalta estate blend is exceptional and tasting this in their incomparable wine room is a treat to visit.
Vina Montes is another beautiful place nestled at the bottom of the mountains. The building here is really something else, with the concept of Feng Shui running throughout the interior and exterior. At Montes, they don't want the experience to be just about the wine, but about the whole sensory feeling. They first started producing wine in 1988, little over a decade later they were named winemaker of the year and continue to have outstanding vintages.
For a traditional, family run, winery you should experience Casa Silva. The winery is a housed in an old hacienda with distressed dark ceiling beams and chandeliers, and you'll even find an antique car collection on display. The grounds are beautiful and come with a polo field. Should you want to stay in the area, they offer bed and breakfast and have a restaurant for dining. You will be pleasantly surprised with their white wines, and the hospitality cannot be beaten while enjoying their full spectrum of wines.
A visit to VIK, in the Milahue Valley or place of gold, is another unique experience where the setting is absolutely stunning. An incredible project, every detail thought out from the vineyard plantings considering the various soils and microclimates to the wineries sleek yet functional architectural design. They began planting in 2006, and their first vintage was in 2010 making only red blends. You can stay at the resort or enjoy a fabulous lunch in their restaurant.
If you have the time, you should explore the coastal city of Valparaiso. It's developed around a harbor, a lovely curving bay with steep hills around the shore, it's on these hills where you will find some fantastic views. The UNESCO recognized city is home to some beautiful colonial architecture, and you'll also see some of the most fantastic street art. The street art is used as a form of expression, both politically and socially, and it really has come to define the city; it's on every single wall, doodled on every door, and even scrawled on every bus.