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Heritage & Modernity

460 Years of Wine Heritage

Chile may seem like a newcomer to the world of wine, but its viticultural roots reach as far back in time as the arrival of the first Spanish conquerors to this grape-growing paradise. In Chile, Spaniards found the ideal place to plant vines, since the local soil was free of phylloxera and the climate allowed a perfect growing season and ripening of the fruit.
By mid-19th century, the first major change to Chilean wines began to take hold. The economy — strongly based on agriculture and mining — had evolved greatly. Wealthy businessmen started looking at France as a model, and rich families traveled abroad, where they explored the French wines and châteaux. Thrilled by the possibility of replicating them back home, they imported a selection of the finest rootstocks to Chile, just a few decades before the big phylloxera outbreak in the Old World. In Chile, these rootstocks grew own-rooted, which turned out to be a very valuable genetic material. It also allowed Carmenere to thrive hidden amongst Merlot for over a century, even after its near extinction in France.

Last century, at the beginning of the 1980s, well-known Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres arrived in Chile and started making wines in the Curicó Region. With his arrival, a new era of winemaking began in Chile. He was the first to introduce state of the art technologies such as stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels, and to transform the vinification processes. Torres’ example was soon followed by Chilean winemakers, which subsequently led to an increase of new plantations and, from 1990 onward, to a steady growth in wine sales abroad.

These days, oenologists and viticulturists are working together closely, looking at the soil and to the stars in order to obtain the best possible fruit. In doing so, they have also discovered completely new growing areas, far from the more traditional regions. Vines are climbing higher and higher on the mountains of the Andes or on those of the Coastal Range, looking for freshness. More extreme regions, such as Chile’s North or South, where vine growing was once unthinkable, are also being explored, as winemakers continue looking for places that will give our wines a unique sense of origin.