Buddhists say that life is suffering. The capitalists say that
life is a struggle. The communists say that life is a team-effort.
But the Chileans say that life is beautiful. Why? Because sometimes
you are just born with a full deck of cards. Chile is perhaps
the only wine making country on Earth that seems to have everything
exactly where it wants it.
a formidable length of 2,700 miles, Chile
is the poster child for geographic isolation. With the frigid
Antarctic ice off its southern border, a desert off the northern
one, and its heart squeezed between the Pacific Ocean on the
western border and the epic Andes on the eastern border, it
is quite literally a cradle for the choicest wine growing conditions
on the planet.
the isolation has fostered a wine growing environment in which
little or no pesticides need be used to ward off grape eating
predators, an achievement that speaks most notably when Chile
can claim along with Argentina to be one of only two countries
in the world to not have been afflicted by the lethal phylloxera
pest (this insect destroyed European vineyards in the late 19th
century and reeked havoc on California vineyards in the 20th).
To add insult
to injury, the grape-growing environment is so favorable, and
the land and labor so cheap, that Chilean wine has developed
a reputation for having the best value to price ratios on the
wine history runs deep the first vines were allegedly
planted by Cortez in the early 16th century - it ran up against
the same wall that colonized wine regions of high potential
did like Argentina
Africa. In all cases, poor political climate combined with
restrictive taxes and local populations that favored cheap,
unexceptional wines to force wine makers to keep their creativity
relatively tame. And like these countries, Chile was ready to
rise to the challenge when conditions finally shifted
in its case during the late 1980's.
the most precocious growth spurt in wine making history, Chile
went from wines that were nothing of note to wines that were
first class in less than ten years. Vineyard establishments
in Spain, Italy and the United States were ready to invest heavily
when conditions were ripe, resulting in an amazing number of
Chilean vineyards having the most up-to-date facilities around.
As if the perfect wine growing climate wasn't enough.
in the best equipment as well as select French and American
oak barrels helped give a boost to wine makers that were already
chopping at the bit to take advantage of the wine growing climate
and make some truly notable wines.
are just born to be great, but the beauty of it in this case
is that the rest of us can enjoy it at a great value!
perhaps best known for its world-class interpretation of the
Cabernet Sauvignon grape. A few bold souls have even claimed
that there are certain Chilean vineyards that are more Bordeaux
part of Chile's fascination with the big four grapes
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc
revolves around its targeting of the American market. During
the late 80's and early 90's when the Chilean wine boom really
came into full swing, the American market was devouring wines
that were not only made from recognizable grapes like Cabernet
and Chardonnay, but also were sold at a reasonable price. To
this day, the United States remains the premier importer of
One of the
more important ingredients in the recent Chilean wine exploration
was that while major vineyards upgraded their facilities, smaller,
family owned vineyards decided to take the leap and market their
The result was that more definitively unique wines
emerged from the area, though at higher prices. This suggests
that while a reasonably priced $10 Chilean Chardonnay will be
pretty good, a more expensive $40 or $50 bottle will be great.
with Chilean wines will not be surprised to hear the reference
to Carmenere, a medium bodied grape that is the source of many
smoky and bold reds. In fact, a Chilean Merlot might actually
be crafted from the Carmenere grape. As more mature Chilean
vineyards are able to distinguish between vines using DNA testing,
consistency in labeling practices will become more dependable.
also an important labeling note to keep heed of regarding Chilean
wines. Because of Chile's proximity to the Andes, there is often
too much water introduced into the irrigation process. As a result, some higher
quality vineyards have shifted to a drip irrigation system that
controls the amount of water introduced throughout the growing
season. If you note anything related to drip irrigation on the
back of a bottle of Chilean wine, there is a good bet it will
be a keeper.
Tynan Szvetecz is an editor for http://www.savoreachglass.com,
an international wine directory that is helping explore the spirit
of wine for a new generation.