Discover Chile’s Wine Route… Because Life’s WAY Too Short to Drink a Bad Chardonnay

Flickr  credit -ORlin Zebest

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The Magic and Bouquet of Chile’s “Wine Route”

Sometimes called the “elixir of the gods,” throughout the centuries wine and wine culture has spread and perfected itself in many places across the globe. In fact, wine was the favorite drink of the early Romans.

Today, South America too is becoming a coveted destination for lovers of fine wine and wine culture. There are now several areas on the continent that boast some of the greatest brands, and out of this, Latin enotourism (“wine tourism”) has emerged.

If there’s one place on the continent especially known for the high quality grapes that flourish in its expansive vineyards, it’s Chile – where wine has a tradition that dates back to the 19th nineteenth century.

In addition to being one of the most spectacular countries on the continent, Chile is one of the major wines powers. Its Mediterranean climate, distinct seasons, significant day-night temperature variations, and its hot summers all influence the production of wine there. These conditions have allowed this South American nation to become the twelfth largest wine producer worldwide, while it holds the #1 position as a wine exporter in the southern hemisphere.

Chile’s extensive valleys — situated in the country’s central region, between the Andes and the coastal mountain range — are bathed in rivers and tributaries that are the ideal for the production of varieties such  as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Pino and Syrah (red wines), and Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier (white wines).

 

Flickr  credit -Vina Caliterra 006

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Chile’s Colchagua Region: Synonymous with Fine Wine

If one wants to highlight just one particular wine route in Chile, they will certainly have to consider the Colchagua Valley.

Located in central Chile, this valley is the country’s largest producer of wines, and a place of charm and aromatic landscapes that appeal to visitors.

Its first settlers on record were the Mapuches, an original indigenous people whose name means “people of the earth”; in fact, they still inhabit Chile and Argentina. Later would come the Incas, who are credited with having introduced the first forms of irrigation in the valley, thereby take full advantage of the fertility of these lands.

In the 17th century, European colonialists chose this valley to establish dozens of haciendas dedicated to farming and ranching. After Chile’s independence from Spain, the cultivation of the vineyards expanded decade after decade.

For all these reasons, Colchagua Valley is not only an area for excellent wine tastings and varied strains, it’s also possible to tour the area to find captivating haciendas of the 18th and 19th century, ones that still retain the charm they possessed back then.

The tour of the wine route includes visits to several of these haciendas, allowing you to enjoy the sight of thousands of acres of vineyards as well as the facilities of timeworn and modern wineries alike. In these, visitors learn about producing various types of wine; and with the guidance of knowledgeable experts, you can even better discern the subtle differences.

sip   credit jenny downing Flickr

      It’s more than “sip, swirl and swallow.” Knowledgeable wine experts at local haciendas

will acquaint you with the special characteristics of Chilean wine and wine culture.

Photo: Orlin Zebest

To all this,  the inhabitants and producers Colchagua Valley have added technology on top of their existing knowledge, which is why Chile provides for one of the most magical and fascinating wine tours in the world.

The valleys of Aconcagua, Casablanca, San Antonio, Maipo, Cachopoal, Curicó and Maule also demonstrate these qualities, complementing one of the most complete wine routes today. 

The Wine Train

To fully enjoy your tour in the greatest comfort possible, you can cover the Chilean wine route by train. Passing through seas of vineyards and farms, you can realize this journey completely relaxed, stopping along the route to enjoy the best wine tasting in each area.

The Wine Train heads out from the station in the town of San Fernando, about 87 miles (140 km) south of the capital city of Santiago. There, a convoy four cars pulled by an old-fashioned steam locomotive, await for travelers to begin this dream trip. This dated train has been completely restored, respecting every detail to offer the highest in comfort and safety.

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Photo: Rafeal

The route extends for about 25 miles (40 km), and thanks to the continuous information provided by the train’s expert guides, you will feel like a wine expert by the trip’s end. You will be familiar with the region’s wineries and the history of the vineyards, as well as with the intricacies of the locomotive itself.

But Good Wine Isn’t Only Made in Chile…

But Chile isn’t the region’s only place for enjoying fine wine. A long wine tradition has also been cultivated in Argentina. What we can see how it has penetrated deep in the Andes, specifically in the foothills of the city of Mendoza, where melting ice is the best water source for Malbec grapes. Also in Mendoza, the sun seems to shine more intensely, offering unique landscapes in this dream world for discovering the most renowned Argentine wines. Wine tourism in Mendoza is wide-ranging. You can meet the producers and learn about ancient traditions related to viniculture, which have survived to this day. As if it were an oasis, Mendoza was created through the construction of endless miles of canals, which enliven the beautiful green trees and vegetation of the area.

If it’s true that Ecuador isn’t yet known for producing wines, especially since it doesn’t have the marked climatic seasons necessary for growing wine, there nonetheless exist vineyards that produce excellent wines. These have even won several awards international. In the town of San Miguel del Morro, you can find a wine producer who is clearly the path, with perseverance and excellence, and competing with the best brands worldwide. We can also enjoy innovative wines in the northeast of the city of Quito.

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In any case — whether you travel to Chile, Argentina or Ecuador — following wine routes is always a fascinating and even heady experience. If it’s true that “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, and every day more civilized,” then it also makes exploring Latin America that much more intriguing.

 

 

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