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. The Chilean viticultural industry is often associated in export markets with consistent, good-value wines, but some world-class reds are also made, commanding high prices. For red wines the initial export mainstays have been Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chile’s golden age was the end of the 19th century, when the rest of the wine world had been crippled by downy mildew and phylloxera but this isolated wine producer could supply almost limitless quantities of healthy, deep-coloured wine, made from familiar vinifera vines that had been imported into Chile earlier in the century.

Chile’s most important red wine variety by far is Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for more than a third of all vines planted. País (Criolla Chica in Argentina), grown mainly in the unirrigated south, ends up in cheap cartons sold on the local market. Merlot still has a very strong presence but less so than before the formal identification in 1994 of the old Bordeaux variety Carmenère. For many years no distinction was made between the two varieties and many vineyards had mixed plantings. A growing pride in what many refer to as Chile’s signature variety has resulted in many more high-quality wines labelled Carmenère or comprising Carmenère blends. But Chile's fine wines now include Syrahs, Malbecs, old vine Carignan from Maule and, increasingly, red blends.

Grape Types


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