One of the main reasons why travelers choose Chile is because of its wine, though it is possessed of such spectacular beauty and fascinating cultural quirks. This is the fifth-largest wine exporter in the world, renowned for its excellent reds but beloved for a variety of varietals perfected here in the cool, dry valleys of Central Chile.
A good place to begin your trek in Santiago, where you can start sampling the city’s finest wines over dinner on posh Restaurant Row, is on Avenida Nueva Costanera in Barrio Vitacura. Many offer tasting menus, including wine pairings that cater to the vintage-conscious crowd. While you’re in the capital, you must also stop by Santiago’s most famous wine shop, Tienda Wain, where you can sample a flight of select vintages for a small fee.
Serious oenophiles will plan their trip to Chile around one of its spectacular wine festivals, most of which take place in and around Santiago during the fall harvest season, usually in April. These include Festival of Wine (Fiesta del Vino) de Pirque, held in an agrarian suburb of the capital; Festival of Wines and Cheeses, in Malloco; and the Vineyard Festival of the Maipo Valley (Vendimia del Valle del Maipo), held in several towns around the valley (check online for the most recent information).
Of course, the best way to experience a wine tasting is to see one of this slender, sophisticated nation’s many spectacular vineyards. Two of the easiest to visit from Santiago are Cousino Macul and Concha y Toro, both historic spots with an excellent record for producing wonderful wines.
But that’s just the beginning. Adventurous connoisseurs willing to explore the scenic Chilean countryside in search of just the right bottle have their “work” cut out for them. Keep in mind that unlike the wine regions of Europe or Northern California, you don’t usually just stop by and simply sample a few bottles. Instead, you’ll be expected to take a tour, which is best arranged in advance; call ahead.
If you don’t have time to escape the greater Santiago area, busy travelers will at least have the chance to enjoy William Fevre’s fantastic chardonnays and Vina Aquitania’s beautiful views, as well as fine flights from Perez Cruz and Haras de Pirque, both within an hour of the city center.
Perhaps more tempting are the vineyards of famed Aconcagua Valley, where Chile’s signature varietal, Carmenere, is grown. You’ll find lovely B&Bs geared to the wine-tasting crowd (some of them set into the vineyards themselves) to spend the night, so why not rent a car and make a trip of it? You’ll have plenty of wineries to choose from, such as 140-year-old Errazuriz Winery and Vina Von Siebenthal, famous for its mellow reds.
Or head west of Santiago to the cooler, crisper Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys, known for not only excellent vintages, but also several organic wines, produced by ecologically oriented estates, such as Emiliana Vineyards and Vina Matetic. In Curico, San Pedro and Miguel Torres both offer a solid wine list.
Perhaps the most famous wine-producing region in Chile is the Cochagua Valley, known for its carmenere blends and award-winning vineyards, including Clos Apalta and Casa Silva.
One thing is for certain: Your palate will not go dry on your trip to Chile.