If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, you really should check out the highly-acclaimed wines coming from Chile. And, they're great values too.
Spanish missionaries began planting grapes in Chile in the 1500's to make sacramental wine and, by the 1800's, French varietals began being imported. But it wasn't until the 1980's that Chile began achieving international recognition for its wines. At that time only about 2% of Chile's wines were exported but by 2010 that had grown to 70% with sales of $1.5 billion.
Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines and the ninth largest producer of wine in the world. With six regions, the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley are its two most renowned, but other notables include the Colchagua region, having sub-regions of Los Lingues and Apalta, the Casablanca Valley and Valle de Leyda.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape in Chile but Carménère, a grape indigenous to Bordeaux France, is the country's signature grape. Nearly three-quarters of the world's Carménère is grown in Chile. This medium-bodied red wine has big fruit flavors of plum, blackberry, raspberry and for a bit of a twist, green bell pepper. This grape was originally planted in Chile in the 1800's and thought to be Merlot. It wasn't until 1994 that modern DNA methods reviled its true identity. A bit lucky for the Carménère grape, because it is estimated there are less than 20 acres of these grapes remaining in France.
Look for wines of Chile to be featured in upcoming Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week postings. Until then, Cheers!