29th May, 2013 by Lucy Shaw - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon may steal the headlines, but Chile’s wealth of diverse terroirs is helping to raise the profile of other styles, from old bush vine Carignan to cool climate whites.
Chile’s allure as a wine producing country lies in its dizzying diversity. Shaped like a long, thin brushstroke stretching along the southwestern coast of South America, Chile is a land of extremes. Home to both the driest desert in the world, the Atacama, and the Patagonian ice fields, a wide variety of grapes grow up and down Chile’s strip against a backdrop of the Andes mountains – Chile’s backbone.
Home to a mosaic of unique terroirs, Chile offers a vast array of climatic conditions for an eclectic mix of grape varieties, many of which benefit from free air conditioning in the form of the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean. But which grapes are thriving where, and which are leading the charge in terms of producing terroir- driven wines that sing of Chile’s soils and the salty air from its wind-whipped lands soothed by the Pacific?
Chile has around 125,000 hectares under vine, though with grape growers expanding eastward up the Andean hillsides and westward to the very edges of the country, plantings are on the rise. Despite its bounty of pre-phylloxera vines, a number of forward thinking producers are bringing new clones into Chile and are choosing to work with selected rootstocks.
Red varieties rule the roost, accounting for 71% of the country’s vineyard land, with Cabernet Sauvignon the most widely planted red grape at 40,728 hectares under vine. Merlot comes in second with 10,041ha across the country, while Chile’s flagship grape, Carmenère, is third, with 8,827ha. As for the whites, Chardonnay leads the pack with 13,082ha under vine, followed closely by Sauvignon Blanc on 12,159ha, though progress is also being made with Riesling in Bío Bío, Viognier and Gewurztraminer in Casablanca and even Sauvignon Gris in San Antonio.