The Wines of Chile

By Brian Lemay 22 comments

(whimsical music) (lively music)>>(narrator)
Great wine is being made throughout Chile, with winemakers producing
excellent wines in historic regions and
pushing the boundaries into new
territory. Yet, despite exciting
developments and a rich history, Chile remains best
known for its extremes– price point-driven
consumer labels and expensive
icon wines. (lively music)>>(with Chilean accent)
Chile’s the best country
in the world. (laughing)
We can start with that.>>(with Chilean accent)
A lot of years ago in Chile, we planted in any
place, any grapes. And then, with the years,
we understand that we need to plant
the correct grape in the
correct place.>>(with Chilean accent)
Chile was very
industrial-minded in terms of winemaking, and
we called it the industry. We don’t call it the
industry anymore. Chile, it was focusing
to the exports, and this means that you
need to feed the markets. So the winemakers were making
wine to feed certain markets. (whimsical music) Cabernet Sauvignon,
Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Reserva, Grand Reserva–and
this is what you will find till today in the supermarkets
all around the world. And this is the
perception of Chile– good value,
good wines, but nothing really
interesting.>>(with Chilean accent)
Chile has been playing a very safe game,
I think, for the last, you know,
many years, making wines
who are value, or, as you say,
are very fancy. But where we have lacked,
historically, the middle, where it’s really the
interesting stuff.>>(narrator)
California is a
helpful comparison for understanding Chile. Both share the common
winemaking heritage of the Spanish
missionaries and a remarkably
similar geography. However, winegrowing in Chile
stretches over 1,000 miles along Chile’s
2,600-mile coast, and up to elevations
of 7,000 feet.>>(with Chilean accent)
The history about
the Chilean wine started
500 years ago, when the Spaniards
arrived in Chile.>>(with Chilean accent)
During the colony of Spain, people in Chile, they
came through Spain, through Tenerife,
Tenerife Island, with the
Listán Prieto grape. So they establish the
vineyards in the south of Chile,
basically here.>>(narrator)
After Chilean independence, the elite looked to
European culture as a model. Pre-phylloxera French vines
arrived in the 1830s, and many estates
were established in the decades
that followed, imitating the château
culture of France.>>19th century, a lot of
money in the mining industry, France was in fashion,
Bordeaux came to Chile. That’s when there was the
second phase of renewal.>>(narrator)
Today, there’s a wave of innovation
in Chile. Producers are looking beyond
the influence of Bordeaux, returning to their
historical roots, and experimenting
with new directions. (gentle guitar music)>>First was just making bulk
and sell it to the cooperatives, then was making wines
trying to copy a style, like Cabernet
Sauvignon blend. And now, we make the wine
like it is–like it deserve.>>(narrator)
It’s easy to think of Chile solely from
north to south, but it’s in fact the
complex interaction of the western
coastal influence and eastern
elevation, that defines the country’s
unique climates.>>Chile’s very long, so you
can split from north to south. This is very logical
because the weather is going to change a lot,
but at the same time, you can split the country
in three, basically. So coastal, the middle, and
the Andes Mountain range.>>(with Chilean accent)
We have natural barriers that is unique
in the world. First, you have the
desert in the north, then you have the
mountains to the east, then the Patagonia with the
icy fields in the south, and then, in the west,
you have the ocean. (playful xylophone music)>>(narrator)
There are two major
mountain ranges in Chile: the moderate elevation
Coastal Range and the dramatic
Andes Mountains.>>When you go up to the
Andes Mountain range, it’s completely chaotic
because you get everything in terms of
geology. So we can be
here in schist, volcanic, gneiss,
limestone, whatever you want. But nobody knows
really well because everybody’s
afraid of frost. The weather’s changing, so
people are exploring every year, going higher,
higher.>>We are in
the coastal area. We are only four kilometers
to the ocean, and we have the Humboldt Current
that come from the south, and it has a lot of
coolness in the water that brings a lot of
humidity and coolness into this area.>>(narrator)
Access to water varies between growing
regions. Some areas could face
an existential threat, as climate change
creates variation in the glacial runoff
that feeds key rivers.>>In the Entre Cordillera,
in the mid-valley, you will find more fertile
soils and more water available for bigger
productions. Closer to the Andes or
closer to the ocean, you will find less
water available, poor soils, more personality,
at the end of the day.>>(narrator)
Chile’s regional cuisine is driven by the country’s
extreme geography. Coastal seafood finds
a natural match with cooler-climate wines, while the hearty meat dishes
from inland areas work well with reds
from high elevation.>>Depends where
you are in Chile. Remember that in the north,
we have the desert, in the south, we
have the glaciers, and the food and the
people change a lot… and the wine change
a lot also. (mellow guitar music)>>If you are
close to the coast, the seafood is very common
and it’s very famous. And in this area, it’s
very common to drink with Sauvignon Blanc,
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a little bit
of Riesling. (mellow guitar music) If you move to the south
part of Chile, for example, it’s more traditional,
a lot of lamb with a very rustic
wine like Cariñena, like País,
Cinsault. (whimsical music)>>(narrator)
There are four tiers of appellations
in Chile: region, subregion,
zone, and area. The six regions are
Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Central Valley,
South, and Austral. But the 17 subregions are
typically what is listed on wine labels. A notable exception
is the Rapel Valley, where you’re more
likely to see the zones of Colchagua
and Cachapoal.>>And then, you have
from east to west, the Cordillera is
the Andes Mountain, Entre Cordilleras, what
is between the Pacific and the Andes,
and then the Costa.>>(narrator)
The city of Santiago is the physical and
economic center of Chile, with over a third of the
country’s population.>>In the Central Valley, you
will see the main valleys– Maipo Valley, Cachapoal,
and Colchagua, Curicó,
and Maule. That is the Central
Valley for Chile.>>(narrator)
Most of Chile’s
historic wineries are located in
the Maipo Valley, which surrounds
the capital city. Here, Cabernet Sauvignon
is king, and it’s easy to
draw comparisons to California’s
Napa Valley. Just to the north of Maipo
is the Aconcagua.>>The Aconcagua is a
really big valley, starting in the
Aconcagua Mountain. The Aconcagua Mountain is
the biggest in the Andes. If you are in the
feet of the Aconcagua, it’s very nice
for reds. And then, if you
go to the ocean, it can develop really good
Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay.>>(narrator)
While the Aconcagua Valley itself ranges from high
elevation, to valley floor, to recent
coastal plantings, just to the south,
Casablanca and San Antonio are decidedly
coastal.>>Casablanca is a
cool-climate valley, 18 kilometers
from the coast. For me…
(laughing) the best Sauvignon Blanc
and Pinot Noir come from
Casablanca.>>Casablanca is
in the east side of the coastal
mountain range. It’s a cool area. Maybe
it’s the oldest area in Chile that we started
producing grapes like Sauvignon Blanc,
Chardonnay, or Pinot, in terms of
good quality.>>The main difference
between Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley is the difference
in temperature. In San Antonio Valley,
we specialize in wines that are
cool-climate wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc,
Sauvignon Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer,
and Chardonnay. And in reds, we
have a Pinot Noir, and lately, we are
with the Syrah.>>(narrator)
South of Maipo, the Central Valley continues
with the Rapel Valley.>>(with Chilean accent)
Rapel Valley is one of the most successful valleys
that we have here in Chile, and it’s divided in two
areas–very important. One is the Cachapoal, and
the other one is Colchagua.>>(narrator)
The large Colchagua Valley stretches from the coast to
the Andes, in an arc shape that wraps around the
smaller Cachapoal.>>When we’re thinking
Colchagua Valley, normally and usually,
you’re thinking Carmenère. If we think where
we plant Carmenère, normally, you decide close
to the Andes Mountains. In the flat areas of
the valleys as well. But the most distinguished
Carmenère are producing in the
Andes Mountains’ feet.>>(narrator)
The well-drained soils of the Apalta and
Los Lingues areas produce some of Colchagua’s
most distinguished wines.>>The other part
of the valley is a really important
area named Cachapoal. Cachapoal, specifically, if we
are talking about Carmenère, they have Peumo
and Las Cabras. In Peumo and Las Cabras, they
produce really nice Carmenère.>>(narrator)
Carmenère was brought
to Chile from Bordeaux in 1851, but the grape was
confused with Merlot until 1994. In the years since
this discovery, producers have studied the grape
and finessed their winemaking. Today’s best examples
are a far cry from the green pepper
stereotype of wines from
high-yielding areas.>>For me, a good Carmenère is,
specifically, soft tannins, velvety tannins–it’s really
distinguished of a Carmenère. In the aromatic profile,
nothing green. (chuckling)
There is a mistake with the people who associate
Carmenère and green notes. (carefree guitar music)>>(narrator)
South of Colchagua is the Curico Valley, a
large traditional zone where producers such
as Miguel Torres played a crucial role in the
development of Chilean wine. While still part of
the Central Valley, the wine culture of Maule
is decidedly different.>>For me, Maule is the
beginning of the south.>>Well, Maule
is huge. It is the area where
most liters of wine from Chile
are made.>>Maule is 300 kilometers
south of Santiago, and the place that we
are now is 30 kilometers away from
the Pacific.>>For me, what is important
is that when you go coastal in Maule, you’re going to
reach this kind of mountains, the granite, so it’s very
interesting for wine.>>Well, Maule is where the
Spanish arrived in the colony, so there is a
lot of history. The oldest vines in Chile,
you will find in Maule. País, Sémillon, Carignan,
Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon
and Carmenère is the biggest plantations,
and most wine made come from these
varieties. And then, the soul of the
region is Carignan and País.>>(narrator)
First planted in the mid-1900s to bolster the acid
and structure of País, Carignan was cast aside
in the years of enthusiasm for French grapes. Yet
the old vines remained, and today, they’re the
object of renewed attention.>>Well, VIGNO is a unique
association of Chilean wineries, from all sizes and shapes,
who agreed to make old-vine Carignan from
certain areas of Maule, with certain
standards.>>País, also known as
Mission in California, was brought to Chile
by way of Mexico. Old-vine País is abundant
in the southern regions of Maule, Itata,
and Bio-Bio, where locals have long used
the grape for Pipeño, an everyday wine still
advertised by roadside signs.>>So País Salvaje is a wine
that we make from wild vines, never planted, they just grow
by themselves in the forest.>>(narrator)
A tool called a zaranda was historically used
for crushing País. The time-consuming
process is rare today. (whimsical music) South of Maule, Itata is one of
Chile’s most exciting regions for rediscovering the past
and forging new developments.>>So there’s
the Itata River, and the Bio-Bio River,
and between both, you will find, maybe,
the heart of the history of the Chilean
viticulture. Basically, everybody
was planting here País. That was many, many, many
years ago, 400 years ago. Maybe 60 years ago, they
started to look for grapes that will improve País,
in terms of color, in terms of
acidity. They bring French people
to try to give an idea, and they started
to plant Cinsault. So this is
basically Cinsault. And for whites,
you have Muscat. So there is everywhere, you
will find there are many Muscat.>>(narrator)
South of Itata are the Bio-Bio Valley,
the Malleco Valley, and the
Austral Region.>>In Malleco, people
is growing today Pino Noir, Chardonnay,
and Riesling.>>These southern regions
offer ideal conditions for cool-climate grapes
and sparkling wine, and will likely be a
focus of exploration in the years
to come. The northernmost winemaking
region is the Atacama, at the edge of its
namesake desert. Production here is
quite experimental, and most grapegrowers
remain focused on Pisco.>>Pisco is a spirit,
it’s a distiller of wine, and it’s
a DOC.>>(narrator)
The culture of Pisco is shared
with Peru, as is the popularity
of the Pisco Sour, a shaken cocktail
made with lemon juice, egg white, and
simple syrup. (lively Chilean
pan flute music) South of the Atacama
Region is Coquimbo, home to the Elqui, Limarí,
and Choapa Valleys.>>We are today
in Elqui Valley. It’s 500 kilometers
north to Santiago. It’s a very special valley
because we are in altitude, in the Andes.>>(narrator)
Elqui’s boundaries begin near the
Pacific Ocean and extend to high
elevation in the Andes.>>If you are in Elqui, but
specifically in this place, because we are
in the Andes, one component important
is the radiation– light, blue,
clean sky. But this place is good
only for varieties resistant to
the light. It’s not good for
Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s not good
for Carmenère, it’s not good for Chardonnay
or Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, no.>>(narrator)
Situated near the coast, Limarí offers a cooler climate
and limestone soils. While Pisco grapes have
been grown for decades, the area has only
been appreciated for its winemaking
potential since the 1990s.>>In Limarí, it’s concentrated
more in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir,
Sauvignon Blanc. It’s more
cooler varieties.>>(narrator)
While the quality of
Chile’s northern area is undoubtedly exciting,
questions of water availability could pose future
challenges. Large-scale wineries
were the first to capture worldwide attention
for the wines of Chile. Today, many smaller
wineries are emerging alongside the
larger producers.>>Every industrial winery
is making big wines, but they have top special
artisanal project, that some very good
winemakers today are making
very good wines.>>We need to
come together. So the big help the small,
and the small– I know it’s a
bit “utopia,” but it’s doable
in a way, I think.>>(narrator)
The classic
French-inspired wines that first put Chile
on the map are still being produced,
but others are reconsidering the country’s roots, and
experimenting in new territory.>>I think there’s a
revolution in Chile. There’s a lot of things
going on in terms of wine, but the world
doesn’t know it yet. So this is
the problem. So I think we are
on the right track. The problem is that we need
to show these to the consumer.>>When you’re thinking Chile,
you need to, in the future, to think in
diversity.>>Diversity in Chile,
for me, is climate, soils,
varieties, people. And that mix make
a great expression of the different kind of
wine that we can produce.>>(narrator)
The diversity of Chile is one of its
greatest strengths. Long misunderstood as a
quality winegrowing region, Chile is producing
excellent wines in a broad range
of styles and increasingly demands
renewed attention and exploration. (upbeat jazzy music)


Tom Jones

Jan 1, 2018, 12:22 am Reply

First again! Really look forward to your videos – great general region study aids, even for WSET 4!


Jan 1, 2018, 12:34 am Reply

I like carminere. Cheers!

와미남Wine Crazed

Feb 2, 2018, 3:49 am Reply

Yess!!! More videos from GuildSomm!!! I love ur videos!! Please keep them coming!!!!!!

Kim Bickley

Mar 3, 2018, 12:43 am Reply

An excellent video, really gives you a feel for the region!

Colm FitzGerald

Mar 3, 2018, 7:40 pm Reply

Excellent content. How about a video on Hungary?

Davis vuong

Apr 4, 2018, 3:00 am Reply

Wow really good video! more please


May 5, 2018, 9:13 pm Reply

Fantastic video! Please make more!

Champagne Sylvie

Jun 6, 2018, 8:50 pm Reply


Fabienne Vienna

Jun 6, 2018, 3:58 pm Reply

The global consumption of alcohol goes down every year, so I am not sure if filling the gap inbetween lowcost vine and high price fancy wines will help the industry.
Either people drink wine because of the effect of alcohol, then price is important, or they want to enjoy the wine itself, then price is not an issue. Both ends will always have a market, but inbetween it will be tough.

Rubén Tapia Salazar

Sep 9, 2018, 2:12 pm Reply

Great video, saludos desde Chile.

HN Smith

Sep 9, 2018, 4:08 am Reply

Greattach video.
I Love Chile camernere Reserva especially after 1, 2 hours pouring and aired out… and delicious with chocolate aroma and low bitterness which leads to a well balanced tasty ending on the palate. Thru this video I learn more in depth of Chile camernere. Thanks and hope in a near future will be able to travel to Chile from Alberta, Canada. Cheers. SANTA CAROLINA CAMERNERE RESERVA., Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenère 😆⛱🌍😆😎 KEEP UP THE QUALITY, AND MAKE SURE NO SHORT CUT TECHNOLOGY MARKETING CRAP PLEASE. .

Özgür Kaya

Nov 11, 2018, 9:58 am Reply

It's a great video! I'd be very happy if you make a video about Turkish/Anatolian wines. We have really great grapes and wines but the industry can't progress much and be world-wide known because of the political, religious and economic(taxes) reasons. Love your videos!

Anne Koesen

Dec 12, 2018, 1:35 pm Reply

We are a group of students from the TU Delft and we need to make a
short movie to announce our student association’s yearly studytrip.
On Youtube we saw that you have made some awesome shots of
Would it be okay for us to use this material?
We are looking forward for your permission!
Kind regards,
Anne Koesen

account 308

Dec 12, 2018, 8:02 pm Reply

Thank you very much from Russia! And yes, we, russian people, also like wine 🙂

Sung-Gyu Kim

Dec 12, 2018, 4:22 pm Reply

Great Video

David Abbett

Feb 2, 2019, 1:06 pm Reply

The world is “waking up” to Chilean wines …I love them.

Siroun Meguerditchian

Feb 2, 2019, 10:43 pm Reply

Excellent presentation. 👍👍👍


Apr 4, 2019, 9:15 am Reply

As an Argentinian I have to admit that despite our "wine rivalry" Chile makes really, really good C.Sauvignon and S. Blanc. I have a Domus Aurea in my cellar and it's one of my most prized possessions. Cheers!

Pedro’s Garage

Apr 4, 2019, 6:25 pm Reply

Here because of Jeremy Clarkson’s IG post.

monochanix as

May 5, 2019, 7:50 pm Reply

Greetings from chile, I hope people like our wines, here we drink a lot of wine cause chile has a lot of celebrations trhought the year

Terry Johns

May 5, 2019, 1:07 pm Reply

I am sitting here in england eating mature pilgrims choice cheese and sipping rich and ripe chiliane red wine. Its fuckin fan fucking tastic .

alex chong

Jul 7, 2019, 3:49 pm Reply

I love Chile wines!!

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