The wines of Chile rate among the slender nation’s most popular exports and attractions. Though you can sample some of the finest bottles in Santiago proper, connoisseurs will want to head into the Andean foothills and rolling coastal plains to see where these vintages are made.
It’s possible to take Santiago wine tours, or even go on your own: The most popular (and convenient) is Concha y Toro winery, located just south of Santiago since 1883 and accessible on the city’s public transport. While it’s relatively easy to visit on your own, of course we recommend taking a tour to other vineyards in the celebrated Maipo Valley—perhaps including atmospheric 1856 Cousino Macul, Chile’s oldest winery still owned by the founding family.
Other area vineyards are newer but offer no less festive tastings: William Fevre, with its wonderful chardonnays; Perez Cruz, voted “Chile’s most consistent winery”; and Haras de Pirque, known for its fine thoroughbred horses, are just a few. No matter where you alight, a flight of fine wine overlooking the lovely countryside is sure to be one of your most memorable moments in Chile.
Those eager to indulge in longer day trips and overnights can enjoy their reds and whites amidst even more exquisite surroundings. Iconic wine-growing regions surround the capital, replete with picturesque vineyards and ecotourism opportunities; you could combine your tastings with whitewater rafting, bicycle tours, zip-lines and other outdoor diversions. Gorgeous guesthouses catering to the relaxed wine tourist have opened around the region, inviting you to enjoy rural Chile overnight.
The strikingly beautiful of Aconcagua Valley, presided over by the highest mountain in the Americas, 6,956m (22,828ft) Mount Aconcagua, is less famed these days for its snowcapped majesty and quaint Spanish colonial towns, as the handful of picturesque vineyards growing Carmenere, Chile’s signature varietal. The “Lost Grape of Bordeaux” was thought extinct until rediscovered right here (having been mistaken for merlot) in 1994. Award-winning 1870 Errazuriz Winery, a fifth-generation, family-owned estate as pleasing to the eye as the tastebuds, and much newer Vina Von Siebenthal offer several outstanding blended reds.
West of Santiago, the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys enjoy brisk Pacific coastal weather perfect for fine whites and full-bodied reds, and is home to some of Chile’s youngest vineyards. Loma Larga, famed for its “cool climate red wines,” offers traditional tours, as well as horseback and helicopter rides around the estate. At least two wineries in the region offer organic wines: Emiliana Vineyards, designed with a healthy ecosystem in mind; and Vina Matetic with a lovely country hotel. Both offer tours and tastings.
Finally, for those willing to delve deep into wine country, the Colchagua Valley—voted the 2005 Best Wine Region in the World by the Wine Enthusiast—has some of the country’s most celebrated vineyards. As famed for its cowboys, crafts, and Chilean horses as its rich carmenere blends, this is a better bet for a two-day Colchagua Valley excursion. The most famous vineyard is probably Clos Apalta, which has won awards for both its bordeaux and boutique hotel, but others—from the 1892 Casa Silva, the region’s oldest vineyard and home to its own polo field, to 2002 Neyen de Apalta Colchagua’s newest, with its own private nature reserve—are well worth the wine-soaked adventurer’s time.