Feature Story: The Value And Virtues Of Chilean Wine

Chile is blessed with a wealth of unique features beautifully suited to first-class winemaking.

From meteorological and topographical standpoints, Chile is virtually without peer when it comes to providing perfect conditions for crafting fine wine. Value has long been a defining characteristic of Chilean wine (most of the wines in this collection are under $20), but sustainable winemaking initiatives, varietal and regional diversity, and the relentless pursuit of ever more evocative terroirs and expressions are what make Chile the gift that keeps on giving.

Chile’s Incredible Diversity

“Diverse” is almost too limited a word to describe Chilean wine.

Yes, the country produces a vast range of wines including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Carmenère, Cabernet, Carignan, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot to name just the heavy hitters, but a better word to describe Chile’s viticultural landscape would perhaps be “distinctive.” Chile’s wine regions are defined by the unique transverse configuration of its valleys, which are themselves divided into three principal growing zones, each with varied nuance-inducing soil types and mesoclimates. From the cool Humboldt Current-influenced Pacific coast to the sunny, warm central regions to the high-altitude Andean vineyards where grapes ripen in intense sunshine, these zones allow for the creation of expressive wines unlike any made elsewhere. Winemakers can choose to craft distinct coastal, central or mountain wines, or bring to life enchanting and unique blends from a combination of all three.

The Standout Value Proposition Of Chilean Wine

Precious few regions in the world can achieve the quality Chile does in wines under $20.

The country produces a wealth of significant wines, covering a variety of styles, in the $15-$17 price bracket. The secret lies largely in Chile’s geographical uniqueness. The Atacama Desert to the north, the Patagonian icefield to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes to the east have effectively sealed the country’s vines off from disease and pests such as the phylloxera louse, which is so devastating in other parts of the world. Ample sunshine, perfect conditions, ideal soils, ungrafted vines and old vines combine to raise the quality floor for Chilean wines by reducing many of the stresses on production, freeing Chile’s innovative, skilled winemakers to focus virtually entirely on the quality of the wine.

Chilean Winemakers’ Burgeoning Adoption Of Sustainable Winemaking

Consumers have become more concerned and knowledgeable about where their food and wine comes from and how it’s made.

Purity of expression and crafting wines of the highest possible quality is a universal goal for winemakers, and so organic farming, which provides the perfect marriage for the concerns of both consumers and winemakers, has become an increasingly significant force in viticulture. Led by the likes of Miguel Torres and Cono Sur, Chile has long been a proponent of the practice. Chilean winemakers have also engaged in an extensive adoption of sustainable winemaking. The Wines of Chile association developed and introduced their sustainability code nearly 10 years ago. The code covers all aspects of winemaking, from the environmental impact of practices in the vineyard and the winery to the ethical treatment of employees. The iconic Concha y Toro has committed to achieving absolute zero emissions by 2050, and many wineries have become involved in forward-thinking measures such as the International Wineries for Climate Action initiative, which raises awareness and support for the protection of the Patagonian glaciers.

Chilean Winemakers Continue To Plumb The Depths Of Their Land

Driven by a spirit of discovery, Chile’s winemakers have always pushed the envelope.

Producers here have never taken their natural advantages for granted. “Eager to explore every last nook of the country, winemakers have been venturing to Chile’s extremes, from the star-speckled skies of the Atacama Desert to the wind-whipped valleys down south, where ripening is pushed to its limits.” (Lucy Shaw, thedrinksbusiness.com, September 22, 2020). This exploration includes the refinement of single-vineyard expressions from new and well-known areas and applying techniques such as dry farming, which forces vines to work harder and dig deeper, resulting in wines of even greater character and distinction.

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