The Wine Insider: ChileEach month in The Wine Insider we will highlight one of our destination wine regions and share some interesting tidbits of information about it's wines. Make sure to check out our Tips, Parings and Facts on the right hand side of the page.
ChileProbably the most politically stable and traveler-friendly country in South America, Chile is about the same distance away as Europe, for most North American travelers. The time zone does a bit of a flip-flop with summer time since it's in the southern hemisphere, but Chile operates either on the same time as America's East Coast, or 2 hours ahead, so there's very little jet-lag. Further, since Chile operates on a "Spanish" time-scale, where lunch begins no earlier than 1:30 and dinner not before 9, for most Americans mealtimes hardly change at all!
It's true that fifteen years ago, when Peter Smith started visiting South America's wine regions, it was tough to find decent accommodation in the wine country. That's all changed however, and now there's a choice of lovely hotels everywhere you need them. Chilean food has evolved as tourism and wine has grown, and there's everything from gourmet French to Italian to Sushi available - and of course delicious traditional Chilean dishes. Chile also has some of the most unique and exciting seafood in the world - as you'll see at Santiago's Central Market if you stop in there for lunch with Don Augusto, as we do on every tour.
And the wine... Chile still supplies some of the most affordable wines in the world, but definitely can no longer be called just "cheap and cheerful". Since the early 90's, Chilean winemakers have steadily built on the fabulous terroir that blesses this country, modernizing their wineries and improving their cultivation techniques. Vineyards now carpet the slopes of the valleys to produce refined, elegant and complex wines that compete with top cuvees from around the world - and often command prices to match, albeit more reasonable than most other regions.
From the now famous Colchagua Valley, which contains the Apalta Valley that was put on the wine map by Lapostolle's launch of their ultra-premium Clos Apalta and its state-of-the-art winery, to exciting new boutique wineries producing top-notch Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the foggy, cool, coastal climate of Casablanca, San Antonio and Leyda, to the hillsides of Aconcagua, there are countless excellent wineries in beautiful valleys to be discovered. For the more adventurous, there are the southern regions of Maule and Bio Bio or even the desert mountains of Limari way to the north of Santiago, and of course plenty of add-on opportunities before or after your wine tour to Patagonia, Easter Island, Chile's lake region or even Antarctica.
5 Days In ChileChile... cheap and cheerful wines? Scary South America? Rustic accommodations and dodgy food? Agonizingly distant to reach, with horrible jet-lag? Of course, the answer is no to each of these... Chile is a truly amazing country, and one of the most fascinating places in the world for wine.
Rest assured that a trip to Chile will be an eye-opener, and a talking point with your friends for a long time to come - at least until they decide to follow your lead and explore this most dynamic of wine countries themselves!