The Chileans Are Coming – What You Need to Know to DRINK



What do you think of when I say “Chile”? Probably South America, long, thin country, Andes mountains, llamas?

Can’t help with the llamas. Ok – what about when I say “Chilean wines”? Hm – Carmenère…

Good start. Here is some more Chilean wine for thought:


Location – Long and thin – absolutely. If you dragged Chile up to the northern hemisphere, it would stretch all the way from Alaska to Mexico. Think about all the incredible diversity of climate, soil and topography in that distance – from polar bears to prickly pears. The country is dominated by the mighty Andes Mountain range, approximately as far away from the Pacific coast as Hope, BC. In Chile, vines are mainly grown along 1300km in the centre of the country, with the greatest concentration south of the capital city of Santiago. Four major rivers drain from the Andes to the Pacific, with numerous inlets branching out. In Chile, these valleys are key to premium wines.

Climate – As you would expect with such a great range in latitude, highly variable conditions prevail, ranging from arid and extremely hot in the north to very wet in the south. The main wine area (32-38 degrees S) around Santiago is dry, with 40cm of rain per year, no spring frosts and clear, sunny skies. The vines enjoy 300+ days of sunshine and a steady, slow ripening season. The proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains is important. Both are sources of cool air for the vineyards, especially at night, creating ideal diurnal temperature shifts for growing grapes, helping to preserve the fresh, crisp acidity. The chilly Humboldt Current ushers in fog and mists in the morning, which blow off in the sunshine of the afternoon. The nightly descent of cool air from the Andes begins the cycle once more.

Viti/Vini – Over the past 30 years, the wine industry has undergone numerous and major transformations. The country has benefitted greatly from an influx of foreign investment and winemaking talent that began in the late 20th century, and a more recent devotion to education, technology and sustainability that is propelling the country to the fore of the modern wine world. Chilean-born winemakers have travelled the world to hone their skills, and many internationally trained winemakers now reside in Chile, bringing with them expertise from places like Australia, California, France and New Zealand. Chile is currently the world’s 8th largest wine producer, and the 5th largest exporter. With little climatic challenges (even the devastating phylloxera louse could never penetrate Chile’s naturally protected boundaries), Chile is almost uniquely suited to organic or biodynamic viticulture. The industry’s vision is to become the number one producer of sustainable and diverse premium wines by 2020.

While the country produces a large variety of wines and styles, it is Carmenère that has set Chile apart. Chile’s own signature red grape, Carmenère disappeared from European vineyards in the mid-19th century and reappeared among Chile’s Merlot vines a hundred years later. This deep, dark and inky purple grape needs a long growing season (which Chile has) to reach its fullest potential.

You can enjoy Carmenère – and much, much more, from February 27 to March 4, 2012. Next year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, one of North America’s largest celebrations of wine, is focusing on Chile and all of its wonderful vinous diversity. To date, 35 visiting Chilean wineries and 500 Chilean wines have been confirmed. Always one of the main draws of Playhouse has been that the principals and winemakers are in attendance, and next year will be no different. Chilean wine icons including Adolfo Hurtado, Aurelio Montes, Eduardo Chadwick, Alvaro Espinoza  and Miguel Torres Jr. will showcase their knowledge at Festival events.


Limited advance tickets are on sale now (brilliant Christmas gifts for the oenophile on your list). Full tickets to all consumer events go on sale Tuesday, January 10 at 9:30am. Tickets to Trade Days events go on sale Tuesday, January 17 at 9:30am. Most tickets are available online at and through the Playhouse Box Office at 604-873-3311 or at toll free 1-877-321-3121. Complete information about Chile’s Wine Industry can be yours at

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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