When most people think of South American wine, they think Argentinian malbec. Equally, when people think of Chilean wine, they cite chardonnay. However, if you’re a red wine lover that’s looking for something a bit different, then biking Colchagua Valley is a fabulous choice. Nestled between the Andes and the Chilean coastal mountains, the valley’s rich volcanic soil and arid climate is perfect for red wine grapes. Particularly famous for inky, full-bodied carménère, this lesser-trodden wine route is a paradise for discerning red wine drinkers.
The Colchagua Valley is fairly compact, making it easy to do a pretty comprehensive wine tour in a day or two. Therefore, when visiting the Colchagua Valley, it’s certainly best to travel by bike. Not only does it allow you to really enjoy the tastings on offer (responsibly, of course) but it means you can enjoy the sunshine and stunning views. Here, we run through three of our favourite wineries to visit when you’re biking Colchagua Valley and share some tips for planning your visit.
Neyen winery was founded in 2002, at the site of one the valley’s first wineries. The winery’s selection includes grapes that are directly related to the first carménère vines imported from Bordeaux. The winery’s rich history means that they favor traditional cultivation over mechanical irrigation. At Neyen, the grapes grow naturally until they’re ripened to perfection. When visiting the winery, you have to try their carménère, which features complex notes of honey and chocolate. For those who like something a little more unusual, try their unique carménère and cabernet blend. With aromas of cola and herbal berries this complex wine finishes with woody, exotic flavors.
Our second biking Colchagua Valley recommendation is Viu Manent. Presided over by three generations of the Viu family, Viu Manent has been producing world-class wines since 1935. However, the winery offers so much more than wine; with a fabulous new restaurant, horseback riding and cookery classes, there’s something for everyone. The winery is open daily, offering four hour-long tours of the cellars and vineyards. We’d suggest visiting just before lunch, so you can take a tour then enjoy the views from the Rayuela Grill.
Laura Bisquertt and Alejandro Hartwig moved to Chile from Canada in 1966, after Laura inherited the winery from her father. After arriving back in the Colchagua Valley, they decided to name their new boutique winery after their daughter. The winery has been in their ownership ever since and continues to produce award-winning wines. Furthermore, Laura Hartwig is an exceptionally picturesque location, with polo fields flanking the vineyards. Whilst at the winery, be sure to try a glass of their signature blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot from 2010.
The logistics of biking Colchagua Valley
There are several small settlements in the Colchagua Valley, but the largest is Santa Cruz. Approximately 45 minutes by bus from San Fernando, the town is fairly easily accessible. If you’re looking to stay somewhere special, there is a generous helping of luxury hotels near Santa Cruz. For example, a boutique property operated by Relais and Chateaux has hosts only four rooms, making it the perfect intimate hideaway. However, those traveling on a tighter budget needn’t worry – Santa Cruz also has a good smattering of budget hotels. Once you’re checked in, you can book onto organized cycling tours or hire bikes for a self-guided tour. The terrain is fairly gentle, so most routes shouldn’t be a challenge even if you’re not a seasoned cyclist.