Chile’s thriving wine industry has propelled it into the spotlight as a top destination for wine tourism. Its vineyards have gained global recognition for their dedication to sustainability while consistently producing premium wines.
The global wine industry is divided into two regions—Old World and New World. Old-World includes France, Italy, Germany and Spain that have enjoyed a prominent position for the longest time; whereas New World with countries like California, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and many others are quickly becoming favourites among modern vino enthusiasts.
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Chile has a history of winemaking that dates back to the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century; however, the country’s modern wine industry began to take shape in the mid-nineteenth century. It was a time when European grape varieties were introduced by French and Spanish immigrants in this country.
What makes Chile stand out, as a New World wine region, is its unique geographical features and climate. The country is protected by the Andes Mountains to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atacama Desert to the north and the Antarctic ice to the south. This natural isolation shields vineyards from pests and diseases, creating an ideal environment for grape cultivation.
Chile's diverse terroirs, ranging from the cool, coastal regions—perfect for growing Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir—to the warmer inland valleys—suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère—contribute to the rich diversity and quality of its wines.
This year, during my visit to the country, my itinerary was packed with visits to some of the best wineries known for top quality bottle and exceptional tourism experiences. While I have experienced wine tourism in Bordeaux, Champagne, Tuscany, Sicily, Greece, and many other prominent regions, what made Chile truly special was the seamless integration of various aspects of wine production with tourism.
Here’s a list of three Chilean wineries listed on the World’s Top 100 Best Vineyards 2023 that I visited:
Viña Montes: For Blessed Wines
Viña Montes in the Colchagua Valley was established in 1987 by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray. From the beginning, Montes embraced sustainable practices and slowly shifted towards biodynamic farming in the early 2000s. Known for its commitment to biodynamic viticulture, Montes produces exceptional wines such as Montes Folly, the Alpha range and Purple Angel. Montes Folly is a Bordeaux-style, 100% Syrah that exemplifies the distinctive terroir of the Apalta Valley. The Alpha range embodies their dedication to crafting premium wines, including the Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon and Alpha Chardonnay, characteried by their elegance, balance, and expression of the region's diverse microclimates. Purple Angel, a blend of Carménère and Petit Verdot, offers a luscious palate of ripe fruit, spices and velvety tannins, underlining the winery's mastery in producing bold, distinctive wines that marry tradition with innovation. The winery integrates Feng Shui with art and nature. What struck me was the attention to detail: the statue of an angel is placed in the winery and is believed to guard it; the modern cellar, known as La Bodega, comes alive with soothing Gregorian chants (a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song in Latin and occasionally Greek of the Roman Catholic Church) which is played to the liquid ageing in barrels. After all, wine is considered to be a living liquid that evolves with time.
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Dining at the restaurant, Fuegos de Apalta, by Argentine chef Francis Mallmann in a stunning new building is an unmissable experience. The cuisine features meat, fish, and vegetables prepared with different types of cooking mediums (or fire) in a dome located in the centre of the restaurant, where visitors witness how the ingredients are grilled, smoked and baked. Viña Montes ranked seventh on the list of Top 100 World’s Best Vineyards this year.
Viña Viu Manent: For an indulgent pit-stop
Viu Manent is renowned for its top-notch wines, commitment to sustainability and extraordinary wine tourism facilities. Located on the wine road of the Colchagua Valley, i’s famous for producing a wide range of wines, focusing on premium varieties of Carménère, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. An in-house glass restaurant named Rayuela Wine and Grill overlooks the vineyards. Visitors can explore the property on horseback and enjoy sumptuous meals. The restaurant offers a variety of local cuisine with a selection of seafood and meat grills. Steak with bacon and eggs is a favourite here. Viu Manent earned the 43rd rank in the Top 100 World’s Best Vineyards list this year.
Viña Vik: For the perfect sunrise
Nestled in the Millahue Valley of Chile, Viña Vik offers a luxurious experience in the lap of nature. There are artistically designed tasting rooms and the Vik hotel is surrounded by acres of vineyards. The hotel’s modern and unconventional design, with bold angles and large windows, provides breathtaking views of the valley. The building itself is a work of art, combining contemporary aesthetics with functionality. The winery's architectural masterpiece was envisioned and designed by architects Marcelo Daglio, Smiljan Radic and Patrick Dillon. The decision to invest significantly in this avant-garde structure was driven by a desire to create an iconic and immersive experience that transcends wine production. Visitors who stay at the Vik hotel witness stunning sunrises. Wine tastings and blending sessions offer the opportunity to create customized wine blends. Vik's ranked third in the Top 100 World’s Best Vineyards this year.
Their flagship wine ‘VIK’ is a Bordeaux blend that typically consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and sometimes Syrah. VIK wine is known for being complex, rich and flavourful showcasing ripe fruit, elegant tannins and a well-integrated structure. Another popular label of Viña Vik is VIK La Piu Belle, primarily made from a selection of the best quality Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is known for concentrated fruit, and has great ageing potential with rich fruit flavours and a strong structure.
How to plan your wine tour
There are a number of private wine tours by agencies to help visitors explore the wine routes in Chile. You can spend a day touring the Colchagua Valley wine country (which includes a visit to both Vina Montes and Viu Manent) with a tour from Santiago. The tour includes a visit to Montes Vineyard to explore the winery and tastings. For lunch, visit Fuegos de Apalta (the price is not included in the tour package), take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Viu Manent Vineyard, taste wines at the winery before returning to your Santiago accommodation. The price starts from $269 per person.
A wine tasting experience at Vina Vik starts at $60, and a one-night stay at is around $1000.
Rojita Tiwari is a drinks writer, educator and consultant based in Mumbai. She was invited by Brandabout Wine, Chile to explore the wine regions in the country.
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- FIRST PUBLISHED07.12.2023 | 05:39 PM IST