South America‚Äôs most successful wine producing country with impressive consistency and quality across the board. The ‚Äúclassic‚ÄĚ varieties (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc) are the most commonly seen and Chile does a great job of producing easy-drinking, fruit-driven versions of these.
Chile is the fifth largest wine exporter in the world: A balmy climate, rich soil and five centuries worth of wine making experience make wines from Chile flavourful and highly sought after. The most popular grapes grown in Chile are the ones used for deep red wines from Chile like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmen√®re. The grape phylloxera, scourge of so many vineyards elsewhere in the world, has not yet reared its ugly head in Chile which means Chile's more delicate grapevines don't need to be grafted on to hardier stock.
Missionaries travelling with the Spanish conquistadors were the first to bring wine grapes to Chile. Wine exports started early: in 1568, the English pirate Sir Francis Drake captured a large quantity of wines from Chile bound for Peru. Spain's reaction when she heard of the loss? Uproot the Chilean vineyards! The order was largely ignored.
The Chilean wine industry today is characterised by collaborations between European and American winemakers and homegrown wineries. among the changes introduced by foreign winemakers is oak barrel aging: Before the 20th century, Chilean must was aged in barrels made from a native beechwood, imparting a flavour note that many international connoisseurs found bitter and unpleasant. Over 20 varieties of grapes are grown in Chile. White grapes like Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon vert and S√©millon are grown in addition to the red grape varieties mentioned above.
The most highly regarded Chilean wines are the Cabernet Savignons which are known for delicate flavour notes of mint, smoke and olives. In the late 20th century, a controversy arose over Chilean wines made with what were described as Merlot and Sauvignon blanc grapes. Wine DNA experts found that the alleged Merlot grape was actually a Bordeaux wine grape hitherto thought to be extinct while the Sauvignon blanc grape was actually a Sauvignon/S√©millon cross. The wines have subsequently been relabelled.