6 best wine tourism experiences in Chile
From rodeo horses and pampered barrels to haunted houses, we’ve rounded up the best Chilean wineries to visit in 2022 and beyond.
Following a recent visit by the drinks business to Chile, it seems clear that wineries in the country are split between those that fiercely assert they are “not Napa” and “never will be”, and those who believe Chile has the potential to become the next wine-tourism hotspot.
According to Guillermo Calderon, export director, Casas de Bosque, some Chilean producers see the likes of Napa Valley as “a Disneyland for wine”, and are not rushing to pursue such a commercial approach when it comes to tourism.
With the country’s winemakers wanting to override the ‘high volume, low value’ perception that formed when Chilean wine flooded export markets in the 1980s and 1990s, some are worried that an overtly tourist offering could underline the very reputation they are trying to squash.
The challenge, therefore, is to take the learnings of successful wine tourism regions around the globe, and give these a distinctly Chilean flavour, tapping into what makes this beautiful country so unique. Here’s our pick of the best wine tourism experiences in Chile:
BEST FOR…. horse lovers
Casa Silva: Based in Colchagua, known as “the heartland of the cowboys” for its equestrian prowess, this estate pairs wine with horses for an unforgettable experience. Guests can watch Chile’s elite polo teams practise the sport on its full-sized playing field from the comfort of the winery’s chic Clubhouse restaurant, glass of Carmenère in hand. The winery’s stables include around 60 polo horses and 20 shorter, stockier Chilean horses which compete in rodeo tournaments. Casa Silva’s historic boutique guesthouse boasts seven comfortable rooms (US$150-US$300 per night), kitted out with four-poster beds and walls lined with equestrian artwork.
BEST FOR… dining
Viu Manent: This one-stop shop, also in Colchagua, has two restaurants and a café, offering one of the most relaxed and welcoming dining experiences we found in Chile. “We had record numbers of diners in our restaurants as soon as the Covid ban lifted,” says owner José Miguel Viu, whose obsession with oysters led to him building an on-site saltwater pool to keep the molluscs fresh ahead of service. The Rayuela Wine & Grill restaurant serves exsquisite seafood and steaks alongside freshly made empanadas, while the Food & Wine Studio is helmed by renowned Cordon-Bleu-trained chef Pilar Rodriguez, who also offers cooking classes. Construction is under way at the winery for a handful of guest lodges (US$200 per night) set among the vineyard, with outdoor baths, hot tubs, and a swimming pool. A stable with 30 horses offers horseback tours, and guests can book in for riding lessons. Don’t miss the well-stocked shop, selling excellent handicrafts from local artisans.
BEST FOR… families
Casas de Bosque: With two restaurants, an outdoor lounge area with recliners for post-lunch siestas, alongside picnics, bike tours, and an organic vegetable garden where guests can pick their own produce, export director Guillermo Calderon says of this Casablanca estate: “We want families to come and spend the day, so we aim for a relaxed approach. We are much more about the experience than the wine score.” Bike tours are unguided so guests have free rein to explore the property. A private-dining spot with panoramic views of the vineyard is the ideal place to drink in the scenery with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, in which the producer specialises, and a cheese and charcuterie board.
BEST FOR…. culture
Montes: Visitors to this Acolchagua Valley winery can experience the surreal sounds of its impressive barrel room, where Gregorian chants are played to the wine around-the-clock. The owner believes in the energy from the vibrations of the music and has previously welcomed Berlin’s Philharmonic Orchestra to play to the barrels. The winery buildings have also been designed according to feng shui, with flowing water features throughout to keep a zen feel. More of an outdoors type? Join a three-hour guided trek, learning about native trees and wildlife surrounding the vineyards as you go. Steakhouse, Fuegos de Apalta, is ideal for wiling away an afternoon by the roaring fire, watching the resident llamas go about their business through floor-to-ceiling windows.
BEST FOR… a blast from the past
Santa Rita: Based in Maipo, the 19th century Casa Real hotel and its surrounding Centenario Park are like a history lesson brought to life. Horsedrawn carriage rides through the grounds are a treat, trotting past orange trees, stone statuettes and a lake occupied by black-faced Chilean swans. The fresco-adorned chapel is the perfect place to take a quiet moment, while a museum dedicated to Andino culture and a restaurant serving stellar local fare add to the magical experience. Those staying at the hotel might like to keep an eye out for the resident ghost, discovered when a visitor took a mirror selfie, in which a woman in Victorian dress can be spotted in the background. One can understand the house’s former residents not wanting to move on, given its grand decor, with original period furniture, oil paintings and textiles. Though the pool table may prove more of a challenge for spectred sorts.
BEST FOR… design geeks
Vik: The ultra-modern design hotel at this winery is breathtaking for its striking art, Instagram-worthy infinity pool and astonishing views out over the Millahue Valley, which appears almost prehistoric with its mist-shrouded hills. The winery itself looks like the Starship Enterprise’s younger sibling; a surreal water feature leads into the sleek, silver enclave, where automatic sliding doors reveal a hidden tasting room. Listen out for the sound of crackling fire, as the winery team toasts its own bespoke barrels over fires built using Chilean oak. The wine bottles themselves at Vik add to the design aesthetic with its quirky Piu Belle range featuring some of the most gallery-calibre labels in the world.