With 3,000 miles of coastline to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Antarctic to the south, Chile’s long, narrow geography has created a natural barrier that has resulted in one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world.
Free from most pests, including Phylloxera — which has ravaged vines throughout the world — most wine producers have no need to spray any pesticides, making it quite easy to farm organically.
A significant amount of production is located within the central valley, which stretches from the Maipo Valley, the closest wine region to Santiago, south 155 miles to the Maule Valley.
The most popular wines are those made from cabernet sauvignon, which accounts for over 50% of the countries dark-skinned varietals. While Carmenere has been marketed as the country’s signature grape, it only accounts for just 12% of all red grapes. Areas in the far north, as well as the two coastal regions of Casablanca and San Antonio, are carving out their niche for cool, climate varieties, including syrah and pinot noir.
Winemaking in Chile began about 450 years ago. By the later part of the 18th century, the introduction of traditional European varietals — such as cabernet sauvignon, petite verdot and merlot — resulted in a dramatic increase of wine exports from Chile.
I have to admit, when I think Chile, I rarely think about pinot noir, but the 2018 San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir is not only an exceptionally well-crafted version of this variety, but it is darn near impossible to find a wine of this quality at this price point. The fragrant nose features a bouquet of red fruit and forest floor, while the palate exhibits flavors of dark cherries, raspberries and orange peel. There is just a hint of mineral on the plush finish that really brings the wine into focus. $15
Chilean winemakers have set their sights on the north, northern Rhone that is. The Colchagua Valley is home to the 2015 Viña Montes Alpha Syrah. This deep, rich red Rhone Ranger is bursting with flavors of dark plum, blackberry, blueberry cobbler and black pepper. Subtle notes of tobacco and more pepper bring up the rear on the well-rounded finish. $19
If you’re a regular listener or reader of this segment, then you have heard me sing the praises of Cousiño-Macul over the years as one of the best values in ageable red wines. And the 2013 Cousiño-Macul Finis Terrae from the Maipo Valley is no exception. A blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon and 25% merlot, it was created to go head-to-head with some of the finest wines in Bordeaux. It has a remarkable nose, with scents of dark plum, accented by notes of saddle leather and earthiness. Flavors of rich black cherry, blackberry fruit and mocha coffee are supple and amazingly sophisticated on the palate. While it is definitely enjoyable now, this wine has the structure and balance to age gracefully for an additional 10 to 20 years. Decant an hour before serving. $20
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