Wine production in Chile has a long history dating back to the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century who brought Vitis vinifera vines with them when they colonized the region. In the mid-19th century, French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Franc were introduced. In the early 1980s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased.
A large number of French people immigrated to Chile during the late 20th century, and they were able to share their tastes and experience with the Chileans, expanding their knowledge of the wine world. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the seventh largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménère.
Seven major producers in Chile control over 55% of Chile’s wine. This small handful of brands includes Concha y Toro, San Pedro, Montes, Emiliana, Veramonte, Lapostolle, and Santa Rita.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely-planted grape variety in Chile. Other red wine varieties include Merlot, Carménère, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignan. White wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon vert, Sémillon, Riesling, Viognier, Torontel, Pedro Ximénez, Gewürztraminer and Muscat of Alexandria.
Vintages to look for:
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2009 and 2011 – 2014
Chardonnay: 2012 – 2014
Sauvignon Blanc: 2012 – 2014
Carménère: 2009 and 2011 – 2014
Syrah: 2009 and 2011 – 2014
Pinot Noir: 2009 and 2011 - 2014
Click on the image to enlarge the map