The Wine Valleys
A trip to the Chilean wine valleys is a must for any gourmet.
Heading out to the east, west and south of Santiago takes you through the stunning and fertile wine valleys of Chile. This gently rolling countryside, now covered in ancient vines, represents the heart of Chilean wine production and is often a must see for many that visit the country. From the Maipo valley to the Colchagua Valley further south, the standard of accommodation and the level of the restaurants has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last few years and this is a region that is definitely worth a few nights.
For most, when you think of Chilean wine it is often the carmenere varietal that springs to mind...but today, Chilean wine, with plenty of knowledge and funding from European vineyards, has become a bigger player on the world stage and is somewhere that is well respected for its chardonnays, pinot noir, merlot, cab sauvignon and syrah amongst others.
Loosely speaking, there are 3 main areas that are easy to access and that offer a good to exceptional standard of wines. Along the Casablanca Valley, running between Santiago and Valparaiso, you will find the best of Chilean white wine varietals. To the south, the famous town of Santa Cruz, and the Colchagua valleys, and finally, resting against the backdrop of the Andes, the Maipo Valley and some of Chile's most famous vineyards. Please have a look at a few of them below:
Located approximately halfway between Santiago and the coast, the Casablanca Valley (named after the town of the same name), due to its range of temperatures between night and day, is one of the best areas of Chile to head to for light chardonnays, sauvignon blanc and the ever popular pinot noir grape varietals. Many of the vineyards along the valley can be visited simply enough as a day trip out of Santiago or, alternatively, on the way through to Valparaiso.
A short car ride out of Santiago, the Maipo valley consistently produces some of the country's best and biggest red wines and is, today, home to many of the globally better-known vineyards such as Viña Concha y Toro and Viña Santa Rita. Maipo is where to come to if you are a fan of grapes such as merlot, carmenere, cabernet sauvignon amongst others. As it is such a short trip out of the city, it is usually visited as a day trip and can easily finish off a nice day of exploring the city and tasting in the afternoon!
Santa Cruz, the Maule Valley and the famous Colchagua Valleys are the largest collective area for wine production in Chile and produce the finest quality reds that are currently in production. An area that is usually visited for anything up to a week, there is plenty to see and do here with a few vineyards of real note such as the family Viña of Apalta.
In recent years the region has seen a large influx of capital development by the infamous arms dealer, Carlos Cardoen who, unable to invest in the Napa Valley due to an American bounty on him for dealing with Saddam's Iraq, has decided to try and create Napa in Chile! This is an interesting area and well worth a few nights for those that are keen.