With at least fourteen distinct wine regions, the country of Chile is an oenophile’s dream come true. This fascinating South American country happens to have a climate and topography that are naturally conducive to growing a wide variety of grapes. Interestingly enough, wine cultivation has been happening in this country almost since the time when the Spanish conquistadors first arrived. As a result, Chile has one of the longest and proudest wine producing traditions in this part of the world. While you can find great wine regions throughout the country, the Maipo Valley is definitely the place to go if you want the very best.
The Maipo Valley: Where Chile’s Wine Tradition was Born
As the birthplace of Chile’s proud wine tradition, the Maipo Valley is a natural place to visit if you’re looking for the crème de la crème of Chile’s wine production. There are many great reasons to focus your explorations on this part of the country. For one thing, it’s situated within a reasonable proximity to Santiago, the country’s capital and largest city. For another, the Maipo Valley is home to some of Chile’s most notable wineries. For yet another, the wine-producing history of this region stretches all the way back to the 1500s.
A Long, Rich History
Around the year 1554, Spanish missionaries and conquistadors planted the first Vitis vinifera vines in the Maipo Valley. The earliest vineyards in the region were tended to by Jesuit priests; during Spanish rule, though, strict restrictions were placed on the production of Chilean wine. After all, the Spaniards wanted the citizenry to buy wines that were produced in Spain. Despite these restrictions, though, the Chilean wine industry continued to flourish. In the Maipo Valley, that tradition has lived on to this very day.
Thousands of Acres of Wine-Producing Land
If you’re unsure about whether or not the Maipo Valley is the beating heart of Chile’s wine producing industry, consider this fact: Approximately 25,000 acres in this valley, which lies between the country’s coastal cordillera and the Andes Mountains, are used to produce incredible red and white wines. Of that total, nearly 20,000 acres is set aside for the production of reds like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlor, Malbec and Syrah. The other 5,000 or so acres are used to produce crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Indeed, Chile may have been conquered by Spain - but it has embraced French wines with gusto.
A Fertile, Beautiful Land
Chile’s Maipo Valley isn’t just worth visiting for its exquisite wines - it’s also an alluringly beautiful region. It is divided up into three main areas - Maipo Alto, Maipo Medio and Maipo Costal. As their names imply, each area includes various elevations or coastal lands. Two rivers glide through the Maipo Valley region - the Maipo and Mapocho rivers - adding to its impeccable scenery. A series of irrigation systems helps the land produce its exceptional grapes year-in and year-out; they rely on snow melt from the Andes Mountains.
While brand-new wineries and vineyards are always fun to visit, there’s something to be said for visiting an establishment that has been around for years. The Maipo Valley is bursting at its seams with such venerable wineries; Concha y Toro boasts the largest wine cellar in all of Chile, for instance, and has been around for a very long time. If you meander over to Santiago, you can taste a huge range of Maipo Valley-produced wines in the city’s many wine pubs. Indeed, the Chilean people are justifiably proud of their country’s wines - once you’ve experienced them, you’ll understand why that is.
Chile: An Oenophile’s Dream Come True
The Maipo Valley is a natural starting place for anyone who’d like to experience the best wines that Chile has to offer. Once you’ve done that, though, the fun is hardly over; in fact, there are many other prime wine-producing regions to explore around the country. From the Elqui and Limari valleys of the north, all the way down to the Bio Bio Valley in the south, Chile is studded with first-rate wineries and vineyards. Whether you plan your trip around them - or if you simply include them during a regular visit - you are sure to be impressed.