Chilean wine has a long history for a New World wineregion, as it was the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as 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 oakbarrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased.
Chile is one of South America’s most important wine-producing countries. Occupying a thin strip down the western coast of the continent, it is home to a wide range of terroirs, and an equally wide range of wine styles.
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The Central Valley region dominates the wine scene in Chile, accounting for over 80 percent of production. Made up of several sub-regions, including the Maipo Valley, Colchagua and the Casablanca Valley the region stretches for 400 kilometres from north to south and is home to some of the country’s biggest producers. Its large size and variable topography present a broad range of climatic conditions, soils and styles. Vineyards are planted on coastal plains, in the foothills of the Andes and at rocky altitudes of up to 750 metres. As a result a diverse variety of grapes are planted across the region.
Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay all have homes here, as does Carmenere, Chile’s flagship grape. Experimental and innovative producers are always seeking to develop new, cooler sites amongst the coastal areas and river valleys, resulting in plantings of Riesling and Viognier.