Food & Beverage
Dec 31, 2015
Along the Grapevines
And so we arrive in Chile. The long, thin Chile, but ever so beautiful. This country, measuring an astonishing 4300 km "from tip to toe", but only 175 km wide, features both the driest desert on Earth at its top and icy glacier fields at the bottom. And of course the mesmerizing landscapes spanning along the territory. Nature is very alive here, and many beautiful places perform a show of natural lines: mankind has yet to invade all of these endless tangles of Nature. Chile holds some of the most untouched parts of this planet, and they shouldn't be secret. Neither should their wines. Chilean wines were said to flourish on fertile plains and the steep hillsides of the majestic Andes Mountains.
In order to use the indication Costa, at least 85% of the grapes must come from the communities included in this zone. The Chilean coastline is significant, but its role in the wine world is also dependent upon the cooling effects of the Humboldt Current that moves northward from southern Chile and makes the sea particularly cold. When it hits the coastline in northern Chile it causes fog, and therefore prevents the abundant rays of sun that shine over much of the country from reaching the vines and this helps them ripen properly. Today the maritime influence not only defines the country's climate, but the soils on which the vines grow as well. This results in the mineral and even salty characteristics that come from soils with large calcareous components, and that have given the wine country a new dimension. The wines from Chile's Costa sector are examples of wines with lively fruit, deliciously fresh acidity, and delightful balance and elegance… and extend a definitive invitation to drink them. It is not hard to imagine new wines from the Costa, and Chile is a vibrant and fascinating example of a wine story that is being constantly updated.
Entre Cordilleras Areas
This prolific zone, which separates the Costa from the Andes sectors and produces more than 60% of the nation's wines, extends across Chile from north to south through valleys that are emblematic in the country's history. As its name states, the geographic indication "Entre Cordilleras" is the strip of land that runs between the Andes and the Coastal Mountains, the two ranges that provide natural borders to the east and west respectively. Much of this geographic indication covers the generous plains that were the first to provide a home to the vines brought by the Spanish conquistadors. Its benign Mediterranean climate and sedimentary soils make it the country's major agricultural area par excellence, and therefore the most developed cradle of national identity. Transversal mountain ranges and riverbeds cross it from east to west, forming micro-reliefs that constitute a rich and fascinating mosaic of terroirs. It is precisely there that some of Chile's more renowned wines originate— mostly from red varieties. Most of the wine-producing municipalities in Chile's Southern Region belong to the Entre Cordilleras sector, and all of them show an interesting viticultural vocation that is deeply rooted in the country.
Few countries have mountains rooted as deeply in their culture as Chile does. The Andes are Chile, and all it takes is a look at a map to confirm that. It affects everything, especially in an activity as dependent upon the land as wine is. In addition to affecting the climate, the tremendous size and altitude of the Andes, which lessen as we travel southward, also creates a major factor in preventing disease and pests such as phylloxera that have destroyed vineyards in other parts of the world. The fact that Chile is phylloxera free has enabled it to develop carmenere, a unique grape that has become the country's signature variety. The Andes Mountains are important to Chilean wine production for a number of reasons. The proximity to the mountains, due to the height of the Andes, regulates the number of hours the morning sun reaches the vines and concentrates the light during certain hours of the day, especially in north facing vineyards, and these soils have a significant influence on the wine. They are essentially of alluvial and colluvial origin, sometimes with very high concentrations of stones, which offer good drainage, little organic matter, and have a direct connection with the waterways that begin high in the Andes.
As we learned, Chile's natural geographic barriers - the Atacama Desert to the north, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west – make Chile a veritable agricultural island. The combination of beneficial natural barriers and a benevolent Mediterranean climate make sustainability and organics a logical choice in Chilean winegrowing. This wine will make the most exquisite palate melt to Chile's wonders.