Did you know that Chile is the world’s 5th largest wine exporter, with 100 wineries?! The country is known to be a “world class wine destination” – and it is also the 9th largest producer of wine.
Since the first plantation of vines in the beginning of the 16th century by the conquistador Francisco de Aguirre Copiapó, Chile has had significant growth in the number of variety of grapes presented in its territory. Under the colonial period leaded by the Spanish Empire, various types of grapes coming from Spain were introduced to the country with the main purpose of producing Catholic rituals wines in mass. Originating from the north, the vineyards were expanded to Santiago and then moved to the south during the following century, reaching the Bio Bio River.
During the 1780s, Chile began to significantly increase their number of wine exports and eventually started to compete with European wines. By 1831, there was nearly 19 million vines planted all over the country. Then, with the independence of Chile, and the partnering with farmers from Europe, new varieties of grapes coming from European countries such as France began to appeared – and were cultivated.
Today, almost 20 types of grapes are cultivated in Chile. Most of them are results of a mix between French and Spanish varieties. Within this species we can find the following famous and internationally known grapes.
In the red wine variety, we can find Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc. For white wine, there are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert, Muscat of Alexandria and Sémillon.
If you’re looking to try some of Chile’s superb wines, check out these vineyard tours here.
But in the past few years, with the important expansion of Chilean wine presence in international market, many wine connoisseurs and tasters started to question the legitimacy of certain wines labeled as Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. These doubts were based on the absence of some characteristics that were differing from the original varieties presented in European countries. For example, Sauvignon Blanc was originally known to be a white wine grape descending from the French Loire, and Merlot was to be the “little sister” of Cabernet grapes from French Bordeaux.
These new questionings represented a real issue for the Chilean Wine market as these two types of grapes were known for being highly ranked, and were appreciated by consumers from all around the world. After some studies, it appeared that indeed, there were some “Merlot” vines that were actually the Carménère variety – which was assumed to have been extinct. The Sauvignon Blanc Grapes were also found to be Sauvignon Vert or a mutation of a crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (also known as Sauvignasse).
Thus, in order to overcome the situation, some Chilean wineries decided to import “real” Merlot and Sauvignon blanc wines to keep their share of the market.
If you are traveling in Chile and want to learn more about Chilean Wine, download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in Latin America.