When asked to name quality red wines, people often think of French varieties like Bordeaux. Equally, Spanish grapes like Rioja might spring to mind, or Chianti from Italy. However, contrary to popular belief, many of the world’s finest red wines come from New World producers. Some of the best hail from South America, such as rich Argentinian Malbec or, of course, the wealth of fine wines produced in Chile. When it comes to New World reds, it’s difficult to beat Chilean red wine. This is thanks to the country’s ideal climate, where the Humboldt Current cools the warm air, creating perfectly balanced conditions for vines.
Chile’s wine-making history stretches all the way back to the middle of the 16th century – which perhaps makes the nation’s New World label seem a little far-fetched. Although it’s true that Chile has always made great wine, it’s really come into its own in the past decade. What’s more, thanks to its New World categorization, Chilean wine is also great value. In this article, we run a crash course in Chilean red wine, helping you familiarize yourself with the nation’s key grape varieties before exploring everything this excellent wine-making nation has to offer.
Carménère grapes are originally fromBordeaux. The variety came to Chile in the 1800s and Chilean winemakers have been refining their style ever since. Interestingly, for many years the wine-growers that imported the grapes thought they were Merlot. However, in the 1990s, DNA testing revealed that they were Carménère all along. Now, Carménère is almost extinct in the Old World, which makes Chilean Carménère a precious variety. This is especially the case as this distinctive variety produces ‘green’ flavors, including herbs, bell peppers, and tomato. As a result, Chilean Carménère is a great variety for those who like to try something a little bit different.
When looking for a Chilean Syrah, it’s important to remember that Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape variety. However, the subtlety lies in the style. Shiraz will be full and smokey, whereas Syrah has lean, peppery flavors. Chilean Syrah is particularly spicy, with notes of pepper, cherry, chocolate, raspberry, and even graphite. As with many other Chilean red wine varieties, you can find exceptionally elegant Chilean Syrah for a very reasonable price.
Tasting Chilean red wine: Visiting wine country
A wine-tasting vacation in Chile will be an unforgettable trip for any oenophile. With beautiful weather, delicious wine, and some truly luxurious places to stay, a tour around Chile’s wine country is nothing short of fabulous. What’s more, most of the best Chilean red wine is right on the doorstep of the capital. Therefore, Chile’s vineyards are remarkably accessible, with a few wineries just a taxi ride away from the city center. So – if you’re planning a trip to try some of Chile’s exceptional reds, check out our rough guide to wine country here.