Chile Wine Country Uncorked

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Chile has long been a wine producing country since the first European settlers arrived in the mid-16th century. The original vines were brought by Catholic missionaries – of course, they needed wine for sacramental purposes – via Peru, California and directly from Spain.

For centuries, Chilean wine was limited to a domestic market due to its poor quality, but in the 1980s, the country’s winemakers began pursuing export markets. They have succeeded in gaining worldwide recognition by producing not only consistent, good-value wines, but also some world-class reds. Whereas Chilean winemakers had traditionally used tanks and barrels made of beech wood, in the 1980s stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels were introduced, marking the start of a technology-driven era.

The landscapes of Chile are highly varied, leading some commentators to describe the country as a “winegrower’s paradise”. It occupies a strip of land 2700 miles (4300km) long and 100 miles (160km) wide on the west coast of South America, running north-south between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains.

The topography is very favorable to viticulture: the Pacific, with its Antarctic Humboldt Current, brings cooling breezes to coastal vineyards; the Chilean Coastal Range also alters weather patterns for many wine-growing areas, creating rain shadows and providing shelter from oceanic winds – as is evident in the Maipo and Cachapoal regions – while in the east, the Andean peaks provide meltwater rivers to the valleys below.

The more-established wine regions lie in the center of the country, but growers are experimenting with new landscapes, pushing further north and south. More than 600 miles (1000km) separate the developing regions of Elqui in the north and Malleco in the south.

Chile’s signature red variety is Carmenere, once widely grown in Bordeaux. It was thought to be extinct following the European phylloxera outbreaks of the 19th century but was rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the forbidding barrier of the Andes on the other, Chile’s vineyards have remained protected from phylloxera, allowing Carmenere to flourish.

Chile’s reputation, however, rests on the strong performance of its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based wines, and Chardonnay, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc also thrive. Aromatics such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer are up-and-coming varieties, particularly in the cooler southern regions.

Contact the Gateway to South America team to learn about the best investment opportunities in the region. The company is a benchmark for foreign investors wishing to invest in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, providing expert advice on property acquisition and investment tours.

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