Virtually every wine region in Chile benefits from proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the cooling Humboldt Current that flows up from the South Pole. Although Chile extends more than 2,000 miles from north to south, its grape-growing regions are clustered in the center of the country, where rainfall is concentrated during the winter months, and where an absence of fungal diseases makes for relatively carefree grape-farming. The towering Andes Mountains that run down Chile's eastern border block wind and rain from the east, but, more important, trap cool air from the Pacific, with the result that nighttime temperatures even in most of Chile's warmest vineyards typically descend into the 50s. This diurnal variation enables Chile's vineyards to produce grapes with healthy acidity, strong aromatic character and intense varietal flavors.
For decades, Chile has been an excellent source of user-friendly, fruit-driven wines, often at bargain-basement prices. Due to a stable political environment, Chile's wine growing regions have steadily attracted foreign interest and investment since the 1970s; and, at the same time, Chile has benefited from association with large and established trading companies with powerful networks that have helped to raise the profile and expand distribution of Chilean wines in major export markets.
Varietals Grown in the Chile
Chile is a solid source of wonderful-if largely commercial-grade-wines made from familiar varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Recently, Chile has faced growing competition in the under-$15 range from Argentina, as well as from Spain, Portugal, Australia, and South Africa. At the same time, a growing number of producers are attempting to capitalize on the country's idyllic growing conditions by cutting vine yields and attempting to make more serious and concentrated Chilean wines that can bear comparison to the best of the New World.