Bottle-by-bottle and sipby-sip, Chile is reinventing its image to get the U.S. wine drinker to take notice.
It has been in the past 30 years or so that Americans have become familiar with the South American country’s wines. (Until the 1970s, Chile had strong export restrictions.) And one of the first things American consumers noticed was the exceptional value of Chilean wine.
In addition to making wine that’s a great value, Chile has come a long way with its unique blend of old-world philosophy and new-world innovation. Key to the purity and diversity of its grapes, Chile is considered a viticulture paradise with ample sunshine, a dry climate and one of the few wine regions free of phylloxera (a tiny insect that attacks the roots of grapevines, depleting nutrients and slowly starving the vine).
Chile has adopted some of the most dramatic technology changes in the wine world. Until the latter part of the 20th century, most Chilean winemakers focused on local demand — simple oxidized whites and faded reds. But in the late 1980s, growers and producers made a commitment to secure a successful export market. They invested in their vineyards, overhauling and replacing outdated and tired equipment, adding oak barrels, stainless-steel vats and practicing modern winemaking techniques.
With Chile’s transformation came wines at their best, packed with youthful, vibrant fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, carmenere and the emerging syrah grapes are the most widely planted reds. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc remain the country’s best examples of whites.
- 2011 Conde de Velazquez Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $10 retail)
- 2011 Concha y Toro Xplorador Chardonnay, Chile (about $10 retail)
- 2010 Concho y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $12 retail)
- 2010 La Playa Block Selection Merlot, Chile (about $11 retail)
- 2010 Terra Andina Altos Malbec, Chile (about $20 retail)
- 2010 Baron Philippe Rothschild Los Vascos Reserve, Chile (about $24 retail)
- 2010 Veremonte Primus Red Wine, Chile (about $25 retail)