Chile’s long viticultural history dates back to the 16th century
when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they
colonized the region. In the mid-18th
century, French wine varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were
introduced. In the early 1980s, a
renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks
and the use of oak barrels for aging.
Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production
increased. The most common grapes are
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère.
Chile is a long, narrow country that is geographically
and climatically dominated by the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to
the west. Chile's vineyards are found
along an 800 mile stretch of land from Atacama Region to the Bio-Bio Region in
the south. The climate is varied with
the northern regions being very hot and dry compared to the cooler, wetter
regions in the south. The close
proximately to the Andes help create a wide diurnal temperature variation
between day and nighttime temperatures.
This cool drop in temperature is vital in maintaining the grapes'
acidity levels. There is not much
vintage variation due to the reliability of favorable weather with little risk
of spring time frost or harvest time rains.
So far, Chile has remained free of phylloxera disease, which means that
the country’s grapevines do not need to be grafted. Harvest typically begins at the end of
February for varieties like Chardonnay with some red wine varieties like
Cabernet Sauvignon being picked in April and Carmenère sometimes staying on the
vine into May.