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Friday, August 5, 2016

Chile’s Napa Valley

           The majestic snow-capped Andes provide a stunning backdrop for show-stopping wines

The central valley of Chile, located <100 miles south of the country’s capital city of Santiago, is one of South America’s most promising wine regions.  Called the Colchagua Valley, it is home to many of Chile’s finest red wines.  Some of these red wines have even beat out some of the world’s most impressive reds in blind tastings.  It’s no wonder why winemaking families like the Rothschilds from Bordeaux have flocked to this area to open wineries.

The Colchagua Valley boasts a textbook grape-growing climate for world-class red wines:  major heat to ripen fruit, but cool evenings which allows the vines to rest.  This extreme difference in day and night temperatures is called the “diurnal shift.”  In winemaking, the variance between day and night temperatures is what separates a table wine from a premier wine.  The cool nighttime from the nearby Pacific Ocean is exactly why Napa makes much better wine than the interior parts of California where the influence of the sea is absent at night, and there is little diurnal shift.

The hillsides of the Andes provide even more of a diurnal shift, thus it’s no wonder that some of the best spots for reds is on the lower slopes of the Andes.  Also adding to the quality of the wines in the Andes are the free-draining granite soils, and the more intense sunlight due to the higher elevation.  That being said, there are also some killer producers on the valley floor in favorable terroirs.  For example, vineyards near the valley’s main river are often prime due to the river’s moderating influence on the tremendous summer heat.  The valley’s floor also benefits from the soil washed down from the Andes.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah thrive in the Colchagua Valley.  So does the Carmenere grape.  While many of not heard of Carmenere, it was once one of the main grapes of Bordeaux.  While Carmenere is related by DNA to the Cabernet family, it is often confused with Merlot.  Carmenere is used in Chile as both a blending grape and is vinified as a 100% varietal.

Here’s a list of my favorite producers in the Colchauga Valley.  Wine-Knows will be visiting them all during our 2017 harvest tour in March:

  • Altair
  • Casa de Silva
  • Lapostolle
  • Los Macquis
  • Montes

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