Wines of Chile
14th September 2006

Chile’s winemaking history goes back some 450 years and the arrival of Spanish settlers, who found their new lands well suited to viticulture.  Chile has some 112,000 hectares of vineyards stretching from the warmth of the Elqui and Limari Valleys in the north between the 30th and 31st parallels down to the cool climate Bío Bío (pronounced with short vowels, that is with the i as in bit and the o and hot) and Malleco Valleys in the south either side of the 38th parallel.  The climate varies from the Atacma Desert to Antarctica, with the extremes of the Andes on the east and the calming influence of the Pacific in the west.

The cooler climate areas of the south and higher up the Andes are growing in importance, but the heartland of Chilean winemaking remains the large expanse of fertile flat land in the centre of the country, known collectively as the “Central Valley”, comprising (from north to south) the Maipo, Casablanca, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curico and Maule Valleys.

The climate in the Maule Valley is temperate, with rainfall mainly in the winter months and early spring.  It has a wide temperature range, with diurnal variations of up to 18ºC, and even greater in the area close to the mountains.  The soils vary from alluvial, loamy and volcanic to degraded granite.

The Colchagua Valley is dominated by the river Tinguiririca running from the Andes into the Pacific Ocean.  The climate is tempered by the moderating maritime influence, and annual rainfall is lower than Maule, while the average temperature is around 14ºC.

The Casablanca Valley delivers some good white wines thanks in part to its microclimates.  Even at the height of summer, a sea breeze often blows in lowering the temperature to around 9-10ºC.  Nights are cool and there are frequent morning fogs, all of which combine to give the Casablanca valley a growing season that is often a month longer than in other areas.

Limari has a surprisingly moderate climate for its very northerly location thanks again to the influence of the Pacific.

Prices shown are indicative retail prices.




Based in Requinoia in the Rapel Valley, Anakena is a modern winery established by Jorge Gutierrez and Chilean entrepeneur Felipe Ibanez.  The name Anakena apparently comes from that of a beach on Easter Island.
The Anakena winery is a modern state of the art facility capable of producing around 200,000 cases of wine a year from 250 hectares of vineyards owned by Anakena in the Cachapoal, Colchagua and Casablanca Valleys.


Arboleda is a new project, based in the Aconcagua Valley and overseen by Eduardo Chadwick, the President of Errazuriz, producing wines which aim to highlight varietal character and Chilean terroir.  Eduardo Chadwick oversees all aspects of Arboleda, with viticulturist Ricardo Rodriguez and winemaker Francisco Baettig.


Seña was founded in the early 1990s, the first release being the 1995 vintage.  Again overseen by Eduardo Chadwick, who is working towards biodynamic principles and bringing out the terroir in the Seña Hillside Vineyard in the Aconcagua Valley.


Viña Garcés Silva: Amayna
Leyda is a new appellation on the western (seaward) side of the Coastal Mountain Range in the San Antonio province: the climate here is cooler, with light sea breezes and later harvests.  2006 is the third vintage for Viña Garcés Silva’s Amayna label.


Viña Estampa

The Estampa winery is located in the Colchagua Valley and owned by the González Ortiz family.  The Estampa philosophy is based around blended wines: they make no single varietal wines at all.  The wines are made with their own grapes, with the exception of the VC5 Sauvignon Blanc, though from 2005 that will be made from their own grapes too.  There are three elements to the Estampa range: an entry-level range of wines made from two varieties; a range of reserve wines from three varieties; and a Gold Assemblage range, which will be made from four varieties from the 2004 vintage (a mere three varieties until 2003).


Viña Calina (Jackson Wine Estates)
Viña Calina was established by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke in 1994 with a state of the art winery in the 95 hectares of the El Maiten estate in the Maule Valley, near the town of Talca.  The name Calina apparently comes from the name of the early morning mist that descends from the mountains.  Fruit is also bought in from the Maule, Colchagua, Casablanca and Limari Valleys.  The red wines are fermented in high maceration tanks followed by malolactic fermentation and ageing in French and American oak.  75% of the Chardonnay is fermented and matured in oak, the remainder in stainless steel.

The Alcance range are all made entirely with their own, estate-grown fruit.


Viña Leyda

The Leyda Valley is a new appellation in the San Antonio province.  It lies on the seaward side of the Coastal Mountain Range, only 14 km from the Pacific Ocean, 25 km south-west of Casablanca and 95km from Santiago.  Traditionally, Leyda was an area of pasture and arable farming, dominated by wheat and barley.  In 1997 an 8km pipeline was constructed to bring water from the Maipo River. 

The Leyda Valley’s proximity to the sea gives very cool, but frost-free conditions, assisted by the Humboldt Current.  It has a moderate, rainy winter with an annual rainfall of 250mm and a dry summer.  Maximum temperatures are in the region of 24-25ºC with a diurnal range of 15ºC in summer.  The ripening period is long and slow and particularly suits sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir.

Viña Leyda was founded in 1997 by the Fernandez family and currently has 80 hectares of vines in the Leyda Valley.  The vineyards in the Leyda Valley were planted in 1998/99 and the winery (state-of-the-art naturally) was completed in 2000, ready for the first vintage in 2001.  Other varieties are grown in other prime regions: those vineyards are not their own, but managed under long-term contracts, so the grapes are not simply bought in.


Viña Mar

Viña Mar was established in 2002 as a fine wine brand of the Southern Sun Wine Group.  It is situated in the Casablanca Valley, 80 km west of Santiago and 18km from the Pacific Ocean.
The 2006 wines were all tank samples.


Casas del Toqui
Viña Casas del Toqui is a joint venture between the Granella family, an old and respected Chilean family and the Bordeaux Château Larose Trintaudon.  The wines are not currently available in the UK.

The Reservas have 20% new American oak and 80% used French and American oak.  The Prestige range see 70% new French oak and 30% second use French oak.


Viña Requingua

Viña Requingua is a family owned winery located in the heart of Chile’s Curico Valley.  The current owner, Santiago Achurra, took over in 1961.  The estate covers over 1000 hectares, 450 hectares of which are under vines.
The wines on show were all straight off the plane, and the 2006s, moreover, were freshly bottled.  The wines are not yet available in the UK.


Santa Carolina

Santa Carolina’s origin lies back in 1875 when the Chilean mining magnate Don Luis Pereira planted a vineyard outside Santiago.  He commissioned a French oenologist to source vines from Bordeaux and a French architect to design the cellar.  The original cellar is now a Chilean national monument and still in use.  I tasted the budget Antares range, which all retail for under £5, although the main market appears to be the on-trade.


Geo Wines
Geo Wines work with a number of estates, consulting on both the winemaking and commercial distribution of the wines.  Through their winemaking team of Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faundez, they have developed a number of new wines under the Chono and Quinta de Viluco brands.




Botalcura is a modern winery that grows its own fruit and buys in from the most suitable region for each variety.  Botalcura produces two ranges of premium wines: El Desirio and Porfia.  The El Desirio Reserve wines are blends, including a chardonnay/viognier and a syrah/malbec, that aim at purity.  The Porfia Grand Reserve wines are also blendsl, but aim to be bigger, more powerful wines.


Viña La Ronciere

La Ronciere is a family owned estate that has been producing wine from 200 hectares of vineyards in the Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys since 1949.  In addition to the entry level Los Espinos wines, they produce two ranges of wines: the Classic range and the Reserva range.  The Classic wines are intended to highlight varietal character with fruity wines.  The Reserva wines are more structure and fuller flavoured with greater use of oak: the chardonnay is fermented and matures on its lees in French oak, while the sauvignon blanc is aged in oak for six months.  Apparently, the reds are micro-oxygenated.


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Last updated: 21 September 2006