- Primary White Varieties
Chile’s own signature grape, this red varietal disappeared from European vineyards in the mid-19th century and reappeared among Chile’s Merlot vines a hundred years later. The deepest, darkest, purplest of all red grapes needs a long growing season to reach its fullest potential. Rich in berry fruits and spice (think blackberries and black pepper), with smooth, well-rounded tannins, making this a very pleasing and easy to drink varietal. Enjoy it with red meats and corn-based dishes, such as Chile’s favorite pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie), or take advantage of its natural fruity spiciness and serve it up with Indian curry or a Mexican mole.
Hectares in Chile: 8,827
International Carmenere Competition
Chile’s star grape, the king of all reds, Cabernet Sauvignon made its way from France in the mid-19th century. It quickly settled in and began enticing local—and later international—consumers with its flexible attributes that range from easy-going charmer to debonair courtier.
Although it grows in all but the coldest of Chilean climates, this late-ripening grape truly flourishes in vineyards in Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal, and Colchagua, where the warm, dry climate allows it to ripen thoroughly and develop rich red fruit, berry, black currant, and fig aromas and flavors. Some areas, such as Alto Maipo, have a distinctive eucalyptus edge that lends freshness. More complex versions often feature notes of tobacco, chocolate, black tea, black olive, licorice, tar, coffee, pencil lead, incense, and leather.
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon ranges in style from simple, fruity, friendly wines that are great for informal occasions such as picnics, casual get-togethers, or Wednesday night dinner, to big, bold blockbusters full of luscious concentrated fruit and plenty of “wow factor.” And then there are those prized bottlings of elegantly reserved sophisticates that strike awe with poetic charm and perfect poise that will continue to impress for years to come.
Hectares in Chile: 40,728
Still a favorite worldwide, this soft-textured, fruity red is extremely easy to drink, food friendly, and versatile, which means it will be around for a long time—despite any movie-inspired tantrums.
This major Bordeaux red grape made its way to Chile in the mid-19th century, but didn’t become truly popular here until the early 1990s. “Chilean Merlot” as it was known, had a unique spicy, green-peppery characteristic that was later discovered to be due to a stowaway in the vineyard. Carmenere, a fellow Bordeaux grape that had long been forgotten in France, was found among the Merlot in 1994.
The vineyards have since been separated and true Merlot appears in nearly every one of Chile’s wine valleys and results in wines that range from fruity and friendly to vibrant and exciting, depending upon where it is planted.
Hectares in Chile: 10,041
Syrah is a relative late-comer to Chilean vineyards, but it quickly set down roots and has become a shining star on the country’s viticultural horizon.
This richly pigmented red grape yields inky purplish-red wines that vary greatly in style, depending on where it is grown. In warmer climates, such as Colchagua, the wines are often big, lusty, juicy delights that take center stage wherever they appear. In cooler climates, such as San Antonio or Elqui, they turn sublimely spicy and complex and often appear on the top the lists of international tasting panels. Syrah is also called Shiraz.
Hectares planted in Chile: 6,027
Also known as Cot, this variety is originally from southern France. After the phylloxera epidemic in Bordeaux, it was grafted onto vigorous rootstocks. These Malbec grapes had difficulties reaching ripeness, however, and were simply replaced by Merlot in blends.
Malbec arrived in South America around 1850, adapting easily to different wine producing areas, and thriving at high altitudes. Chile has produced some amazing wines with Malbec grapes that come from vines that were planted in cooler areas of our traditional valleys.
At its best, Malbec is of a deep, dense and dark purple color.On the nose, it shows aromas of violets and plums with touches of leather and tobacco that can also feature vanilla and cinnamon, depending on its aging in wood. With lots of juicy fruit on the palate, its tannins are usually gentle and sweet. It has great body and a lush texture, and can be vinified on its own or used in blends.It is the ideal wine to go with grilled or stewed meats.
A relatively new discovery in the Chilean line-up, the growing number of cool climate vineyards provide just the right conditions for this finicky darling to develop and delight the growing number of Pinot fans around the world.
Cool climate areas such as Casablanca, San Antonio and Bío Bío are turning out exciting bottlings that range from simply charming to hauntingly seductive wines.
Hectares in Chile: 2,884
This French varietal is used primarily used to lend acidity and finesse to fine Bordeaux-style blends.
Hectares in Chile: 1,226
Zesty is the key word for this varietal, and nothing makes a better aperitif than a glass of young Sauvignon Blanc from a cool-climate area such as Casablanca, San Antonio, Coastal Aconcagua, or Limarí. Highly aromatic and recalling citrus fruits, green apple, crisp pear, and/or zingy pineapple with a refreshing green-grassy aroma and perhaps a stony, steely mineral edge, this is a wine to be sipped nicely chilled all summer long or paired with shrimp, white fish, salads, or blue cheese any time of year.
Hectares planted 12,159
A world favorite among white wines, this grape has proven its mettle in the cool climate areas such as Casablanca, San Antonio, and most recently Limarí, where it takes on a very attractive mineral edge. Smooth and well-rounded with moderate acidity and reminiscent of tropical fruits by nature, it takes kindly to a bit of oak aging and even barrel fermenting for additional complexity. Perfect for full-bodied fish and white meats, as well as corn-based dishes.
Hectares in Chile: 13,082
As new cool-climate zones are opened, Chilean growers are taking a renewed interest in this German-born grape. Here it produces wines with fuller body and more alcohol than its European forbears, but it keeps its fresh and fruity-spicy character that makes it so appealing for a number of spicy cuisines.
Hectares in Chile: 333
This lush white from the French Rhone Valley is Syrah’s sister grape and one of the few white grapes that grows well in warmer climates. Its wines are rich and aromatic with pronounced notes of apricot and peach, often coupled with floral notes of orange blossom and honey. It is still fairly new to Chile, but the results to date have proven promising.
Viognier also has a unique property that makes it useful in setting color when fermented in conjunction with Syrah, an age-old technique that is now used in some Chilean wineries.
These medium- to full-bodied wines pair well with dishes that have some richness, such as lobster, crab, smoked fish, sea bass, chicken, duck, and pork. Add a touch of cream or cream cheese to bump up the body and a bit of dried apricot or peach to pull the dish and wine into a tight match.