Chile has a long viticultural history for a New World wine region dating to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. Chile is a long, slender country. From tip to tip, Chile is about 2,700 miles – the same distance from the US’s east coast to west coast! Chile is a land with many different climates, from volcanos to glaciers, from deserts to ocean. This gives the Chileans ample climates to grow grapes in.
In the mid-18th century, French wine varieties 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 number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmen’re. So far Chile has remained free of phylloxera louse which means that the country’s grapevines do not need to be grafted.
Chile’s Unique Geography
The cool sea air is partially blocked by the Coastal Mountains, although it finds its way inland by following the course of the transversal river valleys. During the day, sea breezes carried by the cold Humboldt Current penetrate inland, and each night, cold air descends from the snow- covered peaks of the Andes.