I recently got back from a trip to Argentina. My love for Mendoza Malbec has definitely grown deeper, but I have to say… I have a new found love for Chilean wine as well. During a jam packed day in Santiago, Chile, I was able to get a glimpse into what Chile is all about… and the wine they are producing that the rest of the world needs to try.
Since I have gotten back, I have found myself drawn to Chilean wine, so I thought I would give it its due diligence and write a post about it. I also included some photos from my day trip to Santiago at the end of this post if you are looking to visit. I absolutely want to go back. It is a very eclectic and artsy city, and there is so much more that I want to see.
First, a little on Chile wine country.
Chile wine country is actually very similar to California wine country. The climate is essentially the same, but their winters and summers are flipped. Take a look at the map, they are mirror images of each other from across the equator. They both produce wines up and down the coast and have a diverse varietal profile. Seafood is huge in Chile, so go ahead and try out one of their well known whites like Chardonnay and pair it with any sort of fin fish or shellfish.
Chile has an interesting layout because there is not a lot of space between the coast and the Andes Mountains (relatively speaking to let’s say, Argentina). So they need to make use of different climates up and down the coast. However, all of the different regions along the coast can produce vastly different wines depending on if they are more coastal or more inland. Coastal Chile is cooler, producing less ripe wines, perfect for Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. As you go inland towards the Andes, the climate is warmer and more suitable for the red Bordeaux and robust grapes like Petit Verdot, Carménère and Cabernet Suavignon.
One interesting thing to note about Chilean wines is the characteristic ‘green’ flavor profiles that they all seem to share. People describe their wines as ‘green wines’ because they all carry a lot of fresh green bell pepper or other herb-y flavors. This is due to the terroir, or soil/climate that is specific to Chile.
First, you absolutely have to try a Chilean Carménère. This grape originated in France, but now it is almost exclusively produced in Chile. It is medium-bodied wine with a lot of jammy characteristics. A lot of people compare it to Merlot, but with more green flavors, as described above.
My favorite Carménère right now is the 2012 Kidia Gran Reserva Carménère. On the nose, you can almost SMELL the tannins. I also got a lot of red pepper, blackberry, nutmeg, and jalapeño (my mouth is watering just typing those words from my wine journal). I would consider this one more of a full bodied (rather than medium) Carménère with medium to high alcohol and tannins. It had a lot of earthy and mushroom characteristics followed by dark fruit on the palate.
Other Varietals to Try
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux Blends, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay all grow really well in Chile.
The 2013 Cuaco Cabernet Sauvignon is also a great and affordable wine to try. It definitely has those green bell pepper characteristics and almost smells of veggie pizza. On the palate it has a lot of red fruit and pomegranate flavors. I was surprised by the high alcohol and medium body for being a Cabernet Sauvignon, but I have to say that it was very balanced and delicious.
If you are looking to try a Chilean white wine, I would recommend the 2017 Kidia Sauvignon Blanc. It had a delicious honeysuckle aroma, but was actually pretty dry for how sweet it smelled. It tasted like honeysuckle, rose petals and grapefruit.