Two generations ago, Chilean wineries were content exporting as much bulk wine as Europe could absorb, the population consumed the remainder.
Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest winery, then decided to export bottled wines at competitive prices and a quality that was far superior to what European countries were exporting. Since quality was high and prices were right exports started to escalate. Soon other large wineries followed Conch y Toro’s lead and today practically all major wineries as well as a few quality-oriented boutiques export significant quantities to the
The U S A, United Kingdom, Japan, China, continental European countries and Canada just to name a few countries.
In recent years, numerous brands have become available. Consumers therefore need to make purchasing decisions, but long-standing Chilean branded wines prove to be reliable all the time.
Now wineries have decided to emphasize terroir (the combination of soil and climate) and valleys known to produce better quality fruit from universally recognized grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Pinot Noir, Syrah, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier just to name a few.
It is becoming increasingly evident that certain regions’ terroir fosters the best of a limited number of grape varieties.
North of Santiago, the country’s capital, the Aconcagua Valley on the foothills of the majestic Andean mountains is best for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Here Errazuriz produces an outstanding, world-class wine line called SENA in addition to always-superb Don Maximiniano Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon.
SENA is produced from the best available fruit, and carefully matured in French oak barrels.
Available only in small quantities to selected wholesalers SENA retails for close to $ 100.00, but sells out as soon as it hits retail shelves in London, and other major cities of the world.
Northeast of Santiago is the Casablanca Valley close to the Pacific Ocean; it enjoys a longer but cooler growing season. Casablanca Valley is known for its fine dry white wines particularly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Some French viticulturists own land here, and manage to make excellent age worthy wines that can compete with any in the world.
The Maipo Valley surrounds Santiago and includes the vineyards of Cousino-Macul winery. Carmen and Portal del Alto are two other well-respected establishments.
Conch y Toro built a winery here in honour of its founder Don Melchor to vinify its flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. Tarapaca winery, used to be in Santiago, and now moved to Santa Inez still producing fine wines.
The Rapel Valley district is composed of two valleys; Cachapoal and Colchagua. The terroir of both seems to be suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Carmenere which is still used in small quantities in Bordeaux to bolster colour and aromatic components of their wines.
In Chile and particularly in the Colchagua Valley Carmenere finds its own varietal expression with regard to colour, texture and taste. Many wineries are now marketing Carmenere wines quite successfully as a varietal product. So impressed was Gabriel Magnotta, the owner and CEO of Magnotta Wines of Ontario (the fourth largest winery in Canada) that he purchased 200 hectares here.
The Rapel district is home to some of the best wineries of Chile: Casa Lapostolle, Vina Bisquertt, Chateau Los Baldos, Los Vascos, Torreon de Paredes and Mont Gras owned and managed by Hernando Gras the former, long-time winemaker of T. G. Bright’s (now part of Vincor) in Niagara Falls.
Curico, some 200 km. southwest of Santiago, enjoys a relatively cool climate due its vicinity to the Pacific Ocean and proximity to the South Pole. Both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive here, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir in certain protected micro-zones do very well. After Miguel Torres, the owner ands chief winemaker of Torres Villafranca del Penedes, Spain decided to buy land and make wine here many other entrepreneurs came to the conclusion that the region had potential. Today, La Fortuna along with Vina Santa Rita, and Undurraga produce millions of cases of fine red and white wines for world markets.
Further south, the Maule district is best known for its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Some sparkling wines are also produced taking advantage of the high acidity of grapes grown here.
Domaine Oriental and Clos Centanaire are two wineries to watch.
The Tutuven appellation further south shows the best potential for dry white wines, particularly because Kendall-Jackson of Sonoma County in California purchased significant acreage here. Kendall-Jackson is one of California’s largest wineries
Chile’s fruit always ripens and thus vintage consistency remains stable.
The wines are competently made using the latest technology and equipment.
Chile’s wines represent not only good but outstanding value as wineries rely on exports. They market a range of wines to satisfy the needs of different market segments.
Here are some of the best Chilean wines available in Ontario:
CALITERRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON
CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CASA LAPOSTOLLE
ANTIGUAS RESERVAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON, COUSINO-MACUL
DON MAXIMINIANO RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON, ERRAZURIZ
CASA LAPOSTOLLE SAUVIGNON BLANC
ERRAZURIZ CHARDONNAY RESERVA
SANTA RITA CHARDONNAY RESERVA
VINA MORANDE ARTIS SEMILLON/CHARDONNAY